Scuba diving information for beginners: Discover scuba diving

Posted by | Articles, Scuba diving Courses, Training | No Comments

Scuba diving information for beginners


6 Important Tips for first time Discover Scuba Diving (DSD/ Try Dive) participants.

So you are going to the Andamans (or any other diving destination) and you want to have a great experience for your first dive (aka, a Discover Scuba Dive or Try Dive)  – how do you ensure that?
In theory, diving courses all follow more or less the same procedural standards.   However, in practice, there are enormous differences between the same program, conducted to the same standards (hopefully!), just as 2 different schools, both following the same curriculum, can have very different teaching outcomes.     While the program is standardized with international standards, how it conducted and the experience/attitude of the instructor conducting the program makes a big difference in the quality of your dive program.      And how the program is conducted also matters – does it follow a “one size fits all” approach or is the program tailored to account for each person’s comfort level?
So here are a few tips that you can follow, to ensure that you have a great experience for your first dive – one that you will rave about to your friends for a long time, or even hook you to the sport for life!
1/  Set your expectations
What do you want to get out of the program?   Do you just want to check it off a list, and perhaps get a few photos for social media but nothing beyond that? If so, pretty much any dive shop will do.   However, doing that is selling yourself short, in my opinion.
A good diving  experience is *magical* – you are weightless in the water, a sensation similar to flying, and are surrounded by lots of fish and marine life, seeing more action in an hour than you would in a week on safari.      If you are going through the program, why not try to have a richer experience, where you are an active participant in the program, as opposed to just passively being dragged around for 15 min?      The sad part is, because beginners don’t have any basis for comparison, they typically don’t realize how much they are missing out when they do such a bare-bones passive program – its the difference between seeing animals in the zoo vs being on safari.
2/  Dive with a reputable school and with qualified dive professionals
Sounds obvious, right?   But be careful if you are on a package trip with diving included – a mainland-based Andamans holiday operator does not know much about diving, and only cares about signing with an operator who provides the lowest possible rates (and some of those trade rates go very low indeed, with agents using competition among diving operators to their benefit).      So while you may be paying the regular price for the diving, but there can be a big difference in how much a dive center actually earns from the dive.
A reputable dive shop sets its program standards first, and then sets a price for it, knowing that dropping the price too low will mean a reduction in quality.    However, as diving grows in popularity, there are enough operators chasing the money, who are willing to offer diving at cut-rate prices:  and guess what that means you get?  A sub-standard diving experience.    In many parts of the country, this means dives are led by people who are barely qualified as divers, let alone being certified dive professionals (a requirement to conduct any scuba program with beginners).     They have minimal knowledge of safety procedures, or even how to make the experience more fun and enriching.   And if something goes wrong, it is your safety that is at risk.
So always ask if the dive center itself is accredited with an agency and check to see the qualification card of the person conducting your program – it should read Instructor or Divemaster, depending on the program.   Anything less, and you dont have a qualified person leading your dive.
3/  Don’t rely on local agents and taxi drivers
What we wrote above about mainland-based travel agents holds doubly so for local agents or taxi drivers.
Atleast the mainland agent has taken your money and perhaps wants to build a longer-term relationship with you as his client.   The local agents or taxi drivers will be motivated entirely by the commission they get from the dive center with zero interest in making sure you have the best dive experience possible.    We have heard some amazing yarns being told by taxi drivers about other dive centers in an effort to convince their clients to go to the dive center of their choice.
Do your research online instead.
4/ Check how the program is conducted
If you have seen a safari jeep crammed with 8 people and being driven around by disinterested guides, vs had a private jeep with an experienced naturalist, you know how different a safari experience can be, even when conducted in the same area and seeing the same things.       Similarly, even when a dive center is reputable and follows program standards and has qualified dive professionals, there can be a big difference in your experience.
The first thing to check for is – does the program follow a cookie-cutter formula (5 min to put on gear, 10 min to do skills, 10 min out, 10 min back, done) or is it customized to take into account each diver’s comfort level?    If you are comfy in the water, the former may work for you.   But if you are nervous, or more interested in specific marine life, a more customized program may be a better option.    Now obviously, there are limits to how much customization you can get before the price increases significantly, but at the very least, the dive shop should be prepared to spend more time and tweak the program a little for nervous divers, for example.
Some other questions to ask:
– Is the program being conducted by agency standards (PADI or SSI)?
– Is your program registered with the agency (this has some benefits to you, not the least being that it makes your program auditable for adherence to training standards)?
– Does the dive shop maintain a compressor log and change the filters regularly?
– Do you complete a full set of paperwork, do you get a detailed briefing (video or verbal) explaining the program, the basic theory behind diving and also the risks (so that you can make an informed choice)?
– Do you complete a medical form (big red flag about safety standards if you don’t)
– Will you get enough time to practice the skills yourself and get comfortable?
Also, trust the vibe you get from the dive center!    You are doing this for fun, and the dive center’s vibe should match your own expectations for how you want to spend your day.    If you want a relaxed program, and the dive center is very strict about timings, process, etc., then even if they conduct a very thorough program, you won’t enjoy it as much.   Or vice versa.
 
5/  Be wary of huge discounts
Yes, it may be a little self-serving for us to be writing this, but honestly, we’ve all been (and still are) on the other end of this equation:  we all go on diving holidays as well, and one thing none of us do – despite being professionals with thousands of dives under our belts – is pick a dive center based on the lowest cost.    Do you pick schools or hospitals purely based on price?     If you are going to spend tens of thousands of rupees – or more – to fly all the way to the Andamans, then trying to save a few hundred rupees and picking the cheapest operator (see point #1 above) is false economy.
Focus on finding a dive center which is professional, has qualified dive leaders and which has a vibe you enjoy.     It is better to spend a little more and have a great time, vs saving a little and not really enjoying yourself.
Diving is a sport where the costs are fairly standard worldwide (dive professional salaries are similar across the world, dive gear costs the same and so on), so prices are fairly standardized in similar destinations (eg, popular high-volume destinations tend to be similarly priced,  remote locations tend to be similarly priced, and so on).    If you are getting a price that is significantly lower than average for the destination, then be suspicious.
6/  Review medical requirements before leaving on your trip
Diving is a safe sport and for Discover Scuba Diving / Try Dive programs, the medical requirements are quite minimal.   But there are still a few medical conditions which, in some cases, can increase your risk in diving – only your doctor is in a position to determine if those risks are applicable or not.   Not the dive center.    So if you answer “yes” to any of the listed medical conditions, reputable dive shops will not take you diving without a doctor’s clearance.
Please don’t argue this decision – if a company which earns money from taking you diving is refusing to do so, on the grounds of safety, they have good reason to for this.    And it involves YOUR safety.   In a lot of these cases, a doctor’s clearance solves the issue.    So if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, contact a dive center before your trip for a medical form, show it to your doctor and get a clearance before coming to the Andamans.
SUMMARY
Diving is not rocket science.    All it takes is a desire on your part to experience the underwater world, and a commitment on the part of the dive professional to ensure that you have the best possible time.    Sadly, that is not the case and too many people leave the Andamans having gotten an experience that is only a fraction of what could have been.   Which is a shame – a properly conducted program should wow you, and leave you raring to dive more.
Here at Diveindia, our programs are conducted by dive professionals, who have spent several months assisting after getting their pro certification before they take divers out independently.    We are owned and operated by divers, not businessmen sitting in a remote office, and we want to make sure you have such a great time that you continue your diving journey after this by doing a certification course and becoming a trained scuba diver.    Our programs are conducted one-on-one, based on PADI Discover Scuba Diving standards, and yes, you are registered with PADI at the end of the program.
Whether you dive with us or someone else, we encourage you to do your homework and support a professional, competent dive center.    You will have a better experience as a result.

9 Best Places (Dive Sites) to Scuba Dive in 2018

Posted by | Articles, Dive Sites | No Comments

9 Best Places (Dive Sites) to Scuba Dive in 2018

  • Maldives
  • Raja Ampat
  • Komodo
  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa
  • Egypt
  • Maldives
  • Andamans

Maldives: A destination that is on every divers bucket list and with good reason. Pretty much THE place to go to for sightings of enigmatic pelagic fish. The mantas of the Maldives are rightly famous, with their playful curiosity making dives with them highly memorable. It doesn’t end there. Visit during the high season for a good chance to spot whale sharks too. Famous dive sites like Maya Thila, Hafsa Thila, Miyaru Kandu cover a range of underwater terrian, from beautiful reefscape, to narrow channels through which currents rush bringing in large predators like grey reef sharks, nurse sharks, devil and eagle rays and other predatory animals.

Accessible to all levels of experience, year round, the experienced diver who wants something different should consider an itinerary that takes in the islands of the Southern atolls.

 

Raja Ampat: The epicentre of biodiveristy for tropical waters, the numbers for this destination speak for themselves. Called a ‘species factory’, the archipelago boast 1300 species of fish, 600 species of hard coral, 700 species of mollusc, 13 marine mammal species and more. Above water, the varied topography of the islands around MIsool make for extremely photogenic memories. With new species being discovered constantly, Raja Ampat offers plenty of surprises for divers who make the long journery to this part of western Papua.

Consider: If you have the time, try and explore the area around Triton Bay which is slowly getting more and more attention for it’s endless fields of soft coral, and resident pilot whales.

 

 

Komodo : Like Raja Ampat, but with the volume turned up to 11. It may not have the same number of species as Raja Ampat, but Komodo makes sure you never forget your dives there by making sure to throw everything possible at you on any given dive. Max currents? Check. Big stuff? Check. Little stuff? Check. All on one dive. Check! Encompassed within one of the largest marine protected areas in the World, there is no end to the number of dive sites that one can explore here.

Consider: Most land based operators and liveaboards operating out of Labuan Bajo are an economical way to explore the Northern side of the park, but spending a little more can get you on a liveboard that will explore the North and Southern side of the park that has extremely different diving and a different range of species.

 

 

Sipadan : One of the most famed coral reef drops off in SE Asia, and probably one of the best destinations to observe turtles. Dive along sheer vertical walls that drop to 600 metres while marvelling at the massive schools of barelling baracuda, and trevalli. Keep an eye out for grey reef, and hammerhead sharks at depth, and then on your ascent try and keep a track of the number of turtles you see. Finish your dives by listening out for the huge school of bumphead parrot fish crunching through acres and acres of gorgeous coral coral reef.

It’s isn’t all just about Sipadan though, the surrounding islands of Mabul, Kapalai, Mantabuan and Sibuan offer avid divers the choice of relaxed dives where they can check off their macro species sightings, as well as some speedy drift dives over gentle sloping reef.

 

 

Sri Lanka : A dive destination that typically isn’t on most people’s radar, the best diving is on the west coast, and solely focused on wrecks. Dive amongst the wrecks of modern cargo carriers, peep through the port holes of historic World War 1 & 2 wrecks, swim through the skeletal remains of ships that haven’t even been identified. It’s isn’t all just lumps of old metal though. The richness of the Arabian Sea means that these dive sites have healthy resident fish populations, as well as beautiful soft coral colonies. In recent years, there has also been an increase in whale shark sightings too, all of which make the short hop over to this gorgeous island worthwhile.

 

 

 

South Africa : Possibly, THE destination to go to for sightings of enigmatic large predators. The diving around Aliwaal Shoal is famous for massive schooling fish populations, resident Ragged Tooth sharks, and the chance to dive with hammerheads, tiger sharks and bull sharks. Come June and July, and the season for the Sardine Run begins. Dubbed the largest show on Earth, this is an incredible natural event that allows divers and snorkellers witness penguins, gannets, sharks, dolphins and whales hunt a bait ball of millions and millions of sardines.

Consider : Exploring the vast coastline of Mozambique, famed for it’s whale shark and manta ray encounters.

 

 

Egypt : Reefs, wrecks and pelagics. Three things that Egypt has a lot of. With the choice of land based or liveaboard diving, all to dive sites that boast crystal clear water, this stretch of the Red Sea is a great way to add to your dive count without breaking the bank. Descend the deep walls of Brothers, Daedulus and Elphinstone for a chance to spot hammerhead and oceanic white tip sharks. Sail the northern waters on a wreck specific tour and dive the wrecks of SS Thistlegorm, Roalie Moller, Salem Express, and more. With inumerable dive sites to choose from, the liveaboards here are a great way to get up to 20 odd dives on a trip and give your dive count a huge boost.

Consider : The more adventurous can try a liveaboard in Sudan, the less explored part of the Red Sea.

 

 

Bali : It may not have the bucket destination cachet like Komodo or Raja Ampat, but what Bali does have going for it is easy access from India, a seemingly endless amount of choice of accommodation and dining options to suit all budgets, and by our reckoning the prize for the most varied diving you can do in a week. The waters of Padang Bai are great for courses, and fun divers looking to sight macro and wide angle classics. A short van drive to Amed lets you walk into the famous USS Liberty wreck dive and glimpse a piece of World War 2 history. Boat across to Nusa Penida and you may get lucky with sightings of Mola Mola and Manta rays. Drift along the coralline walls of Nusa Lembongan in strong oceanic currents. ONce done, return to your luxurious resort and while away time doing as you please. Preferably with a cold Bintang beer. 😉

 

 

 

Andamans: We’ll be up front: When it comes to any particular type of diving, there are better places in the world. Macro? Go to Lembeh. Big fish? Go to South Africa. Sharks and turtles? Go to Sipadan (and we do – join our Outbound trips to these destinations!).  However, when it comes to having everything in one place, the Andamans are  very hard to beat. You get a lot of macro, including exotics like mimic octopus and ambon scorpionfish; large schools of pelagics (tuna, trevally and more) as well as regular sightings of sharks and mantas. In addition, the reefs are home to a very high variety of marine life – despite being physically close to Thailand, the marine life here is more similar to that of Indonesia, which isn’t surprising, as the Andamans are geographically an extension of those islands.

 

And because there is no large-scale commercial fishing here, not only do you get variety, you get quantity as well. You won’t see a few barracudas – you’ll see a school of hundred. Thirty or forty trevally are a regular sight swooping through the reefs in attack formation. And the biomass on the reefs is amazing as well – rivers of snapper and fusiliers flowing around divers on many of the sites. It is the sort of diving where there is stuff to see the entire dive. And because the reefs are always changing, the sites are very repeatable. You can go to the same site for 5 days in a row and have a different dive each day!

PADI IDC Course India

Posted by | Andaman scuba diving course, Scuba Diving Andamans, Scuba diving Courses, Training | No Comments

PADI IDC Course India

Interested in taking your dive career to the next level & becoming a PADI Instructor?
DIVEIndia, India’s oldest instructor training center, will be conducting a PADI IDC on Neil Island, Andamans, from March 19-April 9th. In keeping with our philosophy, the goal of the program is not to just get you certified as a dive instructor, but to also develop real world skill that you will need. Conducted by veteran PADI Course Director Mark Soworka and DIVEIndia’s founder, Vinnie, the course is split into four parts: a Prep course to review prior theory and skills, the core IDC itself, the Instructor Exam conducted by examiners from PADI, and upon successful completion of the program, an optional weeklong internship for candidates interested in getting their Master Scuba Diver Trainer rating, during which time we will also cover advanced techniques on control and teaching based on our 15 years of experience as India’s leading diver training center

DATES:

IDC Prep:   March 19 – 23, 2018

IDC:  March 24 – Apr 5, 2018

IE: April 6 – 7, 2018

MSDT & Internship after the IE

PRE-REQUISITES:
  • DM or equivalent with PADI, SSI or other recognized dive agency
  • 100 logged dives
  • Have been diving for 6 months
  • Completed medical form, signed by a doctor, within the last 12 months
  • Valid CPR/First Aid within the last 24 months
If you do not have a valid CPR/First Aid, we can retrain you during the Prep period.
PROGRAM DETAILS:
IDC Prep: This is a four day review program, covering dive theory, demonstration quality skills, as well as any other topics candidates feel like brushing up before the start of the IDC. This will be conducted by Vinnie.
IDC: Conducted by Mark Soworka, one of the leading Course Directors, and assisted by Vinnie, the core IDC program will cover all the elements needed to be a successful PADI instructor:   diver control, teaching the various diver training programs, risk management, the business side of diving and more.   As part of the IDC, candidates will also be getting their Emergency First Responder Instructor rating (EFRI).
IE:  The two day Instructor Exam will be conducted by independent examiners from PADI, and will cover dive theory, standards, confined water teaching, open water teaching and rescue assessment.   At the successful completion of this program, candidates will become PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors
MSDT/Internship: For candidates looking to get a jump on their career, we offer the option of getting your Master Scuba Diver Trainer rating and also the opportunity to intern at Diveindia for 7-10 days, and get some practical experience teaching, under the tutelage of our team of instructors.
For more information & to book: Please email vkalia@diveindia.com.

Our Journey: 1st Dive Shop in the Andamans

Posted by | Articles, Dive Sites, Press, Scuba Diving Andamans | No Comments

DISCOVERING HAVELOCK:  THE EARLY DAYS

It was a small island, about 2 hours by boat from Havelock, with high, rocky crags, occupied only by a pair of nesting eagles and some egrets, all of whom watched with mild curiosity as our boat got closer.   None of the islanders knew much about it or what to expect around it – diving and snorkeling were absolute novelties back then – and all I had to go on was a sea chart, whose topography hinted that the reefs around this island, called South Button, would be different.   Despite my best efforts to stay calm and focused on the exploration, I could feel my excitement mounting.

The water itself was a bright azure, with gold flecks of sunlight reflecting off it, inviting me in while remaining mysterious – even so close, I still couldnt tell what lay on the bottom, about 80 feet below the boat.   What fascinating corals were underneath?   What reef fish would I see? Would there by any sharks swimming by?   Would there be any turtles or manta rays passing by?    

A short while later, I jumped in the water, did my safety checks and gave the “all ok” sign to the boat crew before starting my descent to the bottom: in a few seconds, I would see what secrets the ocean bottom held here!

People with a desire for exploration and discovery live in the wrong era these days.   With virtually the entire world viewable with your finger-tips, thanks to Google Maps, the days of Dr Livingstone and Lewis and Clark are well and truly behind us.

However, to an extent, the oceans present the one remaining frontier where discovery is still possible; but even here, exploration usually involves either a substantial bank account or wealthy backers: boats, crew & equipment are not cheap.   Moreover, the diving industry is reasonably mature and in most places, the days of exploration and discovery are in the past, as most of the dive spots have already been found.   However, the dream remains alive: every scuba diver – an explorer in his/her own way – has visions of going out diving and discovering a new reef or a new dive site, and seeing something that no other human has seen before.

Thus, when a chance trip to the Andamans in 2000, and a few trips out on local hired fishing boats showed me the undiscovered, untapped potential of the place, I was hooked. I took a year off work and spent 6 months here, diving and exploring the blue waters.

Havelock was, in a word, magical – truly pristine in every sense of the word, with only a handful of hardy backpackers making their way over. Life went on, and the fact that a visitor or two had been deposited on the island was of no consequence. There were a handful of rooms available for rent, most of them right on the beach, and unless you brought your own fish, meals were whatever the owner’s wife had cooked (or been persuaded to cook) that day.

Those were truly frontier days – there was no mobile or internet connectivity on the islands, I’d go out on small fishing boats and explore based on intuition derived from looking at sea charts and speaking to fishermen.     On the way back, we’d string a line in the water and catch a trevally or a barracuda, which would be grilled for dinner that night.   Rise with the sun, go out exploring, come back and sleep shortly after sunset.

And in those 6 months, the urge for discovery fueled me to dive like a man possessed, going out daily.   That made for some interesting and some scary times.   I remember going out early one morning to see if we could track whales, which should have been moving up the coast at that time of the year.   We went out into the open sea in a small fishing canoe and started searching – and soon found not a whale but a monster of a storm that came upon us suddenly.   The foaming waves were welling at over 2 meters, dwarfing our tiny canoe as we turned tail and fled before the storm’s wrath.   We made it back ok, but all our gear had been washed off the boat.   And I got a talking-to from both the fisherman and his wife, for my hare-brained obsession with diving, and was advised to give up all this madness, get married and settle down with a respectable job instead.

Sadly, that advice rolled off my back and I kept the exploration going.   And thus it was that a fine sunny summer day found me getting in the water not far from South Button island.

The anticipation didn’t last long – the moment my head went into the water, the first thing I was a large sea snake, gliding by me in crystal clear waters.   I watched it for a while and slowly started descending to the bottom.   Before I could get there, a school of barracuda came swimming by me, slowly and elegantly, their curious eyes watching me as they passed by.   And then, I saw the bottom and my jaw almost dropped: below me, was one of the biggest and varied coral garden I had seen anywhere in the world.   It extended out for about 300m ahead and about 30m wide, with corals growing so thick that I couldn’t see the ocean floor.   And swimming around in this were hundreds upon hundreds of the most colorful and varied fish I had ever seen – far more than in the Caribbean and Egypt, two of the world’s most popular dive destinations, and orders of magnitude better than anything in Thailand.   And best of all – I was the first person to actually see this nature’s wonder.   I still get goose-bumps at the thought.

Fast forward some years.   My sabbatical from work became a career change to start DIVEIndia, and thus, Havelock had its first professional dive center.     We searched for, and discovered more world-class sites which we named after our dive professionals at the time – and as word of Johnny’s Gorge, Dixon’s Pinnacle and Jackson’s Bar started to spread, the diving in the Andamans started to grow as well.

Interesting anecdote about Dixon’s Pinnacle – we discovered it on what was the 8th or 9th drop on that day.   And we managed to save the wrong coordinates in the GPS.   The next day, I took a couple of divers out there, who were all excited by the prospect of this amazing site… and ended up diving a rock that was about 2 feet high and 3 feet across. Hmmm, this sure looked a lot bigger yesterday, I thought to myself while my bemused divers gave each other looks as if to say “ok, this really is not THAT interesting”.  So on the surface interval that day, I had to go “discover” Dixon’s Pinnacle all over again.

And not long afterwards, the frontier days started to come to an end.   More dive centers set up shop, and diving has now become an industry, with an ever-increasing number of visitors coming to experience the underwater world: and with good reason.  Right here in our background, we have some of the best diving in the world – no need to leave India!

There are places elsewhere in the world which may be better in any given area: more big stuff (sharks, mantas, etc), a great variety of soft corals, or more macro life (the amazing array of incredibly colored and shaped critters).   But very few places combine the same range of species – everything from tiny to giant – in one place, and especially in such high densities.   The absence of excessive fishing (long-lines, large nets) has meant that the fish density in the Andamans is higher than most places in the world.   A dive could turn up a couple of sharks, a large turtle, a few hundred barracudas, a few giant groupers, a school of twenty trevally hunting on the reefs, a few tuna in the background and of course, all the usual denizens of a reef: fusiliers, octopii, butterflyfish and angelfish, wrasses, parrofish and the ever-popular clownfish.   And this would constitute a typical dive!

And the best thing is, this underwater world is accessible to virtually anyone over the age of 10 who is in good physical health – starting from a half-day introductory dive with an instructor for those who just want to have a taste of this world, to 2-4 days certification/training courses for those who want to learn to dive and do it on a regular basis, to 6-month instructor courses for those who have found their nirvana underwater!

However, Havelock still represents only a fraction of the underwater world in the Andamans.   Neil Island, just to the south of islands, has escaped the notice of most visitors, and still retains the same untouched look and feel of Havelock from a decade ago.     And then there are the entire uncharted north Andamans, especially the atolls on the western coast of the islands, where my research indicates the presence of a few shipwrecks, and where the whale migration comes very close to the islands.     So while the frontier may have moved, it isn’t gone – and I for one am already planning our next exploratory expedition to the north, where a Japanese ship was sunk by Allied bombers during World War 2, and should be resting in 45m of water, a snapshot of the past awaiting re-discovery!

 

[Vinnie is a NAUI Course Director, SSI Instructor Trainer and PADI Staff Instructor, and has been awarded the Platinum Pro rating, given by an independent committee to only a handful of the most experienced instructors in the world.   He is the founder of DIVEIndia, the oldest and largest dive center in the Andamans, and has been diving in Havelock since 2000]

How to clear Scuba Mask

How to clear a Scuba Mask? Steps, Variants, Problems and Prevention

Posted by | Scuba diving Courses, Training | No Comments

How to clear a Scuba Mask?

One of the most essential skills in diving is learning to how to clear your mask. Water entering the mask is a fairly common occurrence and learning to  clear this efficiently can make the difference between continuing to have an enjoyable diving versus one where you get stressed, with potentially dangerous consequences. If you are nervous about clearing your mask, practice till that nervousness goes away. You only need a couple of things to click – and once they do, they’ll remain with you forever. Spend the time needed to nail this skill, because it really is fundamental to diving safety. Read the complete article on How to Clear your Mask: Steps, Variant, Problems and Prevention

Scuba Diving Articles

We’re a PADI 5 STAR DIVE CENTRE!

Posted by | Articles | No Comments
Hello everyone!
We are pleased to announce that effective immediately, we have become a PADI 5-STAR DIVE CENTER, and are going to be offering exclusively PADI training for recreational diving (although if you have already booked an SSI course with us, don’t worry – we will complete that course with you).
As many of you know, we have been a SSI Platinum Instructor Training Facility since 2009 and a SSI Dive Center since 2005 – back then, we were a small dive center struggling to establish ourselves and the Andamans on the diving map, and the flexibility and support SSI Thailand, led by their head, Gary Hawkes, showed us was an immense help as we grew to where we are.    And we’d like to think that we have since then contributed in our own way to helping SSI develop a presence in the country.   So this was a decision that took us a long time to reach.
In the end, the decision to go PADI was driven by the question that drives every aspect of our operations:   how can we offer the best training to our divers?
Over the past decade, the training curriculum of the two agencies have converged fairly significantly, both in terms of training and also costs.  It no longer made any sense for us to offer 2 agencies, and deal with the complications of 2 separate sets of paperwork, processes and instructor rosters.     Streamlining to one agency helps us standardise and improve the efficiency our own course processes, in terms of structuring water sessions, classroom time and skills development.    Also when all instructors are working from the same baseline in terms of course structure, we are better able to disseminate our institutionalised best practices for each of those courses.      Lastly, it also helps us to manage the complexity of conducting training across 5 different locations (2 in the Andamans, 3 in mainland India).
Ultimately, we felt that the structure of the most recent version of the PADI courses allowed us to cater to the needs of our student divers more effectively, and also matched our own internal philosophy of what it takes to train someone as a qualified diver (and not just a certified diver), and we decided the time had come to make the switch.
One other benefit of this is that we will now be offering PADI Instructor Development Courses as well, for those of you who want to become instructors.   As the largest diver training agency in the world, the PADI instructor rating is probably the most coveted and professionally useful of recreational instructor ratings, and we look forward to providing this training to our divers.   More details on this coming soon as well.
PADI has made a tremendous commitment to developing the scuba diving industry in India by focusing on improving quality standards and creating more environmentally AWARE divers, and we are very excited to work with them and help shape the future of the industry into one where more and more people adopt it as a lifestyle (and not just a one-and-done program served as part of a package tour) and also become ambassadors for the ocean and its marine life.
5 star PADI resort India

Underwater Naturalist Specialty Course

Posted by | Andaman scuba diving course, Scuba diving Courses | No Comments

Have you had a desire to learn more about marine life than just names and signs of the top 10 most popular fish? While there are training programs out there, these tend to be fairly general and not in-depth enough.
We’re super happy and excited to announce that we’ve developed our own naturalist program, designed and refined over the course of 8 months by our in-house marine biologist, Chetana Purushotham.

The objective of the program is to teach you more about the underwater world – how it works, what the various inter-dependencies are, how to identify various fish families and how to critically evaluate a reef ecosystem.  In short – to take you from being a passive spectator to a trained observer, and you can apply this anywhere in the world you go diving.

More details here. DIVEIndia Underwater Naturalist Program

6 Adventure Sports you cant miss in the Andamans

Posted by | Articles | No Comments
6 Adventure sports you can’t miss in the Andmans
I may be biased, but in my opinion, the 2 best things to do in the Andamans are dive and then relax on the beach with a nice book.   That sums up the island experience that makes these islands so magical – the easy-paced lifestyle, the greenery and the lack of nightclubs, bars and other bastions of “modern civilization”.
That said, we are willing to accept the possibility that some people – strange as it may seem – will not be satisfied by this, and are actually looking for things to do which keep them busy and also let them explore the islands in more detail.  Fair point – i am congenitally incapable of sitting still when i am on holiday, and the idea of spending my entire vacation loafing by the beach or poolside doesnt work for me either.    So here are some suggestions on a few things for the intrepid island explorer to do in the Andamans.
1.   Scuba diving: 
Ok, we are kinda belaboring the obvious here, but for good reason.    There are very few places in the world which have a similar amount of bio-mass on the reefs, thanks to the fact that there isnt a lot of large-scale trawling here.   Enjoy it while it lasts, because there aren’t many places in the world which offer this.   And diving is an activity which has many levels – ranging from easy guided intro dives for beginners, to more immersive programs for people more interested in the underwater world (and willing to commit the time to the sport).    So really, if you are coming all this way, do take advantage of this and dive.     Do keep in mind that diving is not a commodity activity – just as 2 colleges arent the same and the quality of professors has a great effect on a student’s experience there, not all dive centers are created equally.   Do your research (and this is true not just for the Andamans but everywhere in the world).       Diving can be done in Havelock (the best established dive destination in the region), Neil or Port Blair.
2.  Snorkel:
Snorkeling is often considered the “lesser” cousin of diving, mainly because it isnt as immersive – you are on the surface, looking down at fish, where on scuba, you are down there surrounded by the fish.  That’s a fair point.  On the other hand, diving is equipment intensive and somewhat limiting in terms of schedule, whereas snorkeling is something you can do almost anywhere there is a beach and at any time that is convenient.   You don’t need a lot of gear either – just mask, snorkel and fins (these can be had for very cheap, but we recommend getting slightly nicer gear from established manufacturers like Aqualung and Mares – they will last longer and be of better quality).     Snorkeling can be done in Havelock, Neil or Port Blair.
3.  Kayaking:
This activity is still in its infancy, but Tanaz Noble, of Andaman Kayak Tours, runs very high quality kayaking trips in Havelock.  A national-level kayaker, who has done 100km solo kayaking trips, this is a labor of love for her, much as diving is for us, and it shows!    Kayaking provides a very peaceful way to explore the coast of Havelock, without the noise of a boat engine marring the experience.  And obviously, it is good exercise as well (although you do not need to be super-fit to do this – reasonable fitness is more than sufficient).     The kayaking trips combine the kayaking activity with either snorkelling or exploring the mangroves:  the latter is a great way to see some of bird and reptile species of the islands.
4.  Skindiving:

This is the hottest new underwater sport in the world and lets you explore the underwater realm without any specialized equipment.   As the name implies, it is breath-hold diving:  going down and exploring the underwater world in one breathe, surfacing, recovering and repeating.    Participants of the sport call it the most zen-like experience they have had, truly close to flying and with the added bonus of utter silence, without any intrusive bubbles.   It does require a little more fitness, swimming skills and commitment than scuba – but then, nothing good is ever really easy, right?     Diveindia offers skin diving classes in season in Havelock, the first center in India to do so.

Video Credit: Andrey Sokolov

5.  Jungle Hikes:
At this point, we start to point you to the fact that there is a LOT more to the Andamans than Havelock and Neil.    The entire North Andamans awaits – Rangat, Mayabunder, Diglipur.   The last is home to Saddle Peak, the tallest peak in the Andamans and an excellent hiking destination (and very good birding as well).   And as an added bonus – you won’t see a single package tourist being driven around from beach to beach in a car, either.     There are shorter jungle walks available in Havelock and Port Blair (Mount Harriet and Chidiya Tapu) as well.   One thing all these walks have in common:   the amazing, prime-growth rainforest that you will be walking in, with birds and reptiles to be spotted.
6.  Cycling:
If you are in Havelock, consider doing your daily traveling on the island by bicycle.   From Village #3, the roads go 9km towards Radhanagar Beach, 9km towards Kalapathar and 3km towards the jetty.   So all easy cycling distances, and all of them are flat, except for the last 5km stretch towards Radhanagar, which has a few short climbs (you can always push your bike up the steep sections – they arent that long).   Get some exercise, soak in the fresh air, and explore the island in a more leisurely manner, rather than whizzing by on car:   where’s the downside, again?   Bicycles are easily available for rent in Havelock.
A Buyer’s Guide

BCD Buyers Guide: How to buy the right BCD

Posted by | Gear, Reviews | No Comments
Buying or selecting dive gear can be difficult, with an overwhelming choice of brands and models out there.  And the industry is also not averse to using the safety aspect to try to create a false sense of urgency sometimes. We are starting a series of articles that aims to cut through the noise, buzzwords and marketing-speak, and provide divers with a way to evaluate gear themselves, based on their own preferences.
There is obviously an element of subjectivity in all these things, and we encourage you to ask more questions and do more research.  Ultimately, as certified divers, your goal should be to gain enough information that you are able to make a decision yourself, as opposed to relying on pre-packaged answers.
Anyway, here is post 1 of the series – Selecting a BCD:  A Buyer’s Guide.
Back to School dive package

Back To School Dive Package: Underwater Naturalist

Posted by | Scuba diving Courses, Underwater Naturaliast Course | No Comments

Introducing the Back to School dive package!

If the ocean were your classroom, would you like to go back to school?

If you have been looking to know more about the marine environment and how life works underwater or if you would like to learn how to identify fish and other reef organisms, this two day package is for you! Learn more about some of the conservation challenges our oceans are facing and help us come up with solutions to protect these magical places.

We also offer this package as an Underwater Naturalist specialty through PADI and SSI open to any diver with at least an Open Water certification.

This program runs over two days and includes short theory classes and discussions along with four open water dives. You can also choose to do a night dive as one of the four dives.

During this course we introduce you to some of the numerous ocean ecosystems (yes, there is more than one!). We take you through how environmental factors shape these coral reefs as well as our experiences when we dive these sites. Reefs are extremely diverse spaces, where survival is based on cut-throat competition but also to an equal measure on cooperation and forging partnerships. Learn about some of these interactions as they unfold like a show around you on every dive! You also get to try your hand at identifying fish and other reef organisms and be a part of REEF LOG, the first diver-led reef monitoring program here in the Andamans!

Image courtesy: Gunnhild

Marilia and Jugal were the first two students on this course package.  Here is what Marilia had to say, Diving became much more interesting after a short Underwater Naturalist course, that basically introduced micro life, which I couldn’t identify before, and explained the relationships between the animals down there.” Jugal feels that understanding more about the underwater environment is rewarding on various levels. Knowledge of fish identification, understanding of interactions between organisms, relation between organisms and their environment are few aspects this course develops, which make every dive more interesting, fun and fulfilling. It also makes you aware of the importance of conservation through individual and collective efforts. Learning through discussions and reading along with practical demonstration (during dives) of everything in live action makes for a beautiful experience while developing a special tool to take away and make use of in all future dives!”

Diving with a naturalist’s perspective can also be fun.

To get more information on the same, please email us.