Skills vs comfort

By Training

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

One of the most interesting things about the scuba training agencies is that they actually have 2 fairly contradictory drivers. On one hand, their goal is to set standards that let instructors produce trained, safe divers. On the other hand, since virtually all agencies these days are for-profit, they also want to make money [and that isnt a bad thing for the industry], which means making the training as accessible and modular as possible.
And as I have said for the most part, it works. Think about what actually goes on: every time someone wants to become a diver, a for-profit company somewhere has to sign off on it and gets paid for doing so; it also gets paid by both the dive center & the instructor for the privilege of getting paid to do so. Occam’s Razor says that for this state of affairs to continue, the agencies must provide some value. And that they do. For all the chest-beating that goes on in various forums, statistics show that diving is becoming safer.
At the same time, what is happening is that standards are actually getting reduced and pared to the bare minimum needed in order to dive safely and with some modicum of competency. This also makes sense in the context that it is coming from – the goal of the agencies is to make diving as accessible as possible, and if a particular skill has no real practical value or safety benefit, why keep it in there? And remember what I said about diving becoming safer… these cuts truly do pare out the fat, not the meat.
Beginner instructors typically follow the guidelines prescribed to them by their agency of choice, which lets them teach a competent course, provided they follow the standards both in letter and spirit (which, to their credit, most new instructors do). However, as instructors gain experience, they start to develop their own training philosophies and approach, and their courses take on a unique flavor. Every experienced instructor, consciously or not, ends up with a target “end goal” for his students, and a preferred teaching progression which lets him get the student there [more on this in a later post].
And this is where sometimes, instructors face an external limitation: market dynamics. I might decide that the best way to teach someone to dive would be to take 3 full classroom days, 3 full days of shallow water training and 5 days / 10 dives. This would cost about Rs 35,000-40,000. How many customers do you think I’d get this way? Not enough to stay in business!
And this isnt a bad thing either – most people really DONT need 8-10 days of training in order to acquire enough skills to meet the industry’s training benchmark: be able to dive safely. As I said earlier, diving is getting a lot safer, even though a bunch of skills from 20 years ago are no longer taught. Some will argue that this is b/c the gear is safer and I say, so what? Safer is safer, doesn’t matter why.
So what instructors end up doing is prioritising and focusing more on the critical skills that they feel get the student to their preferred end goals. For example, when I teach Open Water, my main end goals for the students are:
– They should be comfortable without a mask
– They should be able to hold their depth (it is ok for them to flap their hands occasionally if they need to, for balance, as long as they know how to keep working on improving their buoyancy and how to handle any buoyancy issues quickly and decisively)
– They should be conservative with air/depth/NDLs, and about staying with a buddy
I humbly submit to you that if you stay with your buddy, watch your air/NDLs and are able to maintain your buoyancy, you are going to be diving safely (to head off the obvious: this is not to say that these are the only things you learn; merely that these are most important). I actually think virtually all of my students could go diving with a buddy the very next dive, without a DM, and execute the dive safely. They may not be able to make it back exactly to the starting point, but from the diving point of view, they have the skills to dive safely.
Now, the question is – do divers feel that degree of confidence? I have long felt that there are about 3 “evolutions” in a diver’s abilities:
– Jump 1 happens at around 9-12 dives (not coincidentally, when you finish the Advanced course, if doing the OW + AOW combo) – this is where your average diver starts gaining some confidence in his or her own abilities
– Jump 2 happens at around the 20-25 dive mark, which is when buoyancy starts to become automatic and the diver is able to handle a greater level of task-loading without any problems (again not coincidentally, that is why 25 dives is the requirement to go to some of our deeper sites)
-Jump 3 happens somewhere in the 60-100 dive mark, when the slow and efficient movements become a second nature (this I have seen with Divemaster Candidates, when they start to look like dive pros).
Of course, improvement is a continual thing and there is a big improvement from, say, 100 to 1000 dives: but those are evolutionary in nature. The three marks above are points at which I personally have seen a relatively big and observable jump in abilities and comfort levels. And I am, of course, making a gross generalization. If you do 20 dives in a row vs doing 4 a year for 5 years, there will be a big difference in when the jump happens. Innate ability also matters – if you are, say, a competitive swimmer, your body adapts to the water very easily as it has a much greater K-Factor. But for the most part, I think these marks are fairly accurate.
I ran a poll on our Facebook page asking people at what point they felt confident about diving with a buddy, and without professional supervision. 25% of the divers felt it was at To be honest, the expected number of dives to gain the confidence were higher than I expected. I was expecting more answers to be clustered around the Jump 1 point, but instead, almost 50% of the respondents picked a number around the Jump 2 point.
This tells me something – that while we, as an industry, may do a good job of teaching the actual skills to divers, we do not develop a commensurate level of confidence in those abilities.
To a large extent, that is understandable: confidence should properly come only after the skills have been tested – ie, once people have done a bunch of dives after certification, possibly in a couple of locations, and realised that that what they were taught in such a relatively short amount of time was indeed sufficient to dive safely. Anything else would just be false, untested assumptions.
And again, the goal of the self-policing scuba training industry is not to set the entry-level bar at a very high level, producing perfect divers: I still remember the old club days when it used to take almost a month before a diver got into the water – talk about overkill for the vast majority of people who want to go out, dive a few times and see some nice fish. No, the goal of the scuba industry is to draw more people into the world of diving by giving them the skills to dive safely and competently, and making the sport as accessible as possible to people (and speaking as someone who has certified a bunch of kids and a 71-year old, that is a Good Thing) – anything beyond that is, and should be, the responsibility of the diver. And of course, the agencies do provide all the additional tools needed for continuing to build their skills?
But at the same time, a part of me wonders – what if this lack of confidence leads to additional stress if something goes wrong? In other words, instead of (in my best Obi Wan voice), trusting their instincts and their training, divers hit the panic button if something goes wrong simply because they lack the confidence in their skills?
I dont know the answer to that. I do know genuine confidence comes from in-water time. We’ve taken some steps to boost that, by maximising the amount of time divers get in the water (long open water dives, trying to fit in a 5th dive or even a 6th dive sometimes if time allows, adding another day of diving past the course to the Learn to Dive package, discounting the Advanced course to the point that we make less money on it than on 5 dives, and that is before factoring instructor time and certification costs).
But really, if people are saying 20-25 dives, then despite these measures, there is still a gap: one that cannot realistically be filled within the price/time constraints of an Open Water course. This is where additional training comes in – more courses (Advanced or Specialties, for example) always help accelerate learning. However, even just getting out there and diving is a good way to keep testing and improving your skills.
So the main message to all new divers should be: congrats, you have learned to dive and acquired the skills. But you still need to test these skills out, continue to refine them and convince yourself of your mastery of these skills. That part of the journey is yours, and yours alone to make: as a certified diver, you are now in charge of honestly assessing and improving your skills.
And on a side note, I will say this – trust what you’ve learned in the Open Water. A few days may not seem like a lot, but when you drill down to it, diving is not that complicated either. You’d be surprised at what you are capable of doing after a well-taught Open Water course.

Because of the ridiculous amount of spams blogs attract, comments have been disabled, but please post your thoughts on our Facebook group, if you would like to discuss. Also edited to avoid confusion.

Coral bleaching

By General

Posted by Rahul Demello |

Coral reefs are the richest ecosystems on the planet. Giant formations built by some of the world’s tiniest creatures, these hidden worlds form tropical marvels that one has to see to believe. The biodiversity supported by coral reefs is greater than anywhere on earth, including the tropical rainforests. They form the largest structures built by any living thing, including man and no other realm can boast of as many species found in such concentrations.

Corals, the animals that build these reefs, typically live in colonies with many individual “polyps” that secrete exoskeletons made of calcium carbonate, the foremost building material for coral reefs. Being exclusively tropical, corals naturally thrive in conditions of warm water and strong sunlight. Recently, however, the limits of their endurance are being pushed further and further. As a result, coral bleaching is occurring on local, regional and global scales with alarmingly increased frequency and severity on reefs across the globe.

Bleaching of a coral is actually the reaction of coral to unfavorable conditions. The coral begins to expel the symbiotic algae (living within the coral’s tissue) which are responsible for producing up to 90 percent of its food. These algae are also what give the corals their amazing varieties of colour. By their elimination, the corals are effectively going on hunger strike.

While coral bleaching can be caused by high levels of UV radiation, changes in salinity as well as bacterial and viral infection, the most universal cause of coral bleaching is increased Sea Surface Temperature (SST). Thermal stress is considered to be responsible for most large scale bleaching events around the world. Coral has a very narrow range of temperature in which it can survive, and changes of just a few degrees can cause bleaching.

Several large-scale bleaching events have been documented at reefs around the world over the last two decades. This is important because significant declines in coral populations will ultimately lead to reef decay. This affects not only the corals themselves, but all associated flora and fauna which depend on the reef for food and shelter.

Ritchie’s Archipelago in the Andaman Sea (a part of what we know of as the Andaman Islands) experienced a period of extreme thermal stress in 1998, 2004 and again in early 2010 with Sea Surface Temperatures exceeding 32oC, which is a coral’s upper temperature threshold. As a result, mass bleaching followed and vast areas of the reefs turned white, died and were subsequently overgrown by algae. Storms later destroyed dead reefs that were once resilient to the action of the waves – South Button was one of the most badly-affected reefs.

Response to bleaching varies, but considering that corals grow only an inch or two a year, complete recovery will take decades. Despite extensive research into coral bleaching, there are very few usable data with which to predict the capacity of reefs to respond to changing environmental conditions.

This is why a Reef Monitoring Program on the reefs in the Andamans is essential to the future of the region. Concern needs to be shown about the future of our coral reefs, in the face of predicted global warming and climate change. Current predictions suggest that bleaching events will become more frequent and severe with phenomena like El Nino exacerbating the effects of global climate change. Preservation of the remaining coral is critical to maintaining the species richness and diversity in the waters of the Andaman Sea, one of the few places in this country where we can experience firsthand what most people only see on television.

The ultimate fate of corals in the region will depend on the capacity of corals to acclimatise or adapt to elevated temperatures. Recovery has proved to have been successful in North-West Australia and the southern United States and Caribbean. There are some documented species of coral in the Western US that can live in waters that are as warm as 38oC.

No one has more exposure to tiny changes than people who dive the reefs every day. Divers see the change that most people don’t and for us, it’s especially personal, as these are reefs that we’ve discovered and which we consider “ours”.

We have initiated a pilot project on a few reefs around Havelock Island to gauge the current state, recovery potential and speed of regeneration of the reefs in the area. Our work is designed to detect change in species richness and condition of the coral reef system. Of particular interest are changes in percent cover of live coral on the reef and at what rate recovery is progressing. With the data we gather, it will be a step toward determining the fate of our reefs more accurately. This allows us to learn from and influence the course of events rather than just being a spectator to the decline. We hope that we can collect some interesting scientific information which will improve our understanding of the dynamics of the coral reef and give us cause to be optimistic.

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Online Learning – the way ahead

By Training

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

One of the downsides of being an instructor for a very long time is the tendency to get set in your ways and become resistant to change. To an extent, that is understandable: I’ve been teaching for 12 years now, and have, through continuous refinement, developed a method that works for me. While this refinement is an always-ongoing process, radical change can often be more disruptive than not. I do try to keep an open mind, but generally speaking, implementing a big change in my teaching process/philosophy only happens if there is an equally big impetus for this change: either I come across a new situation with a student (very rare, these days), or something changes in diving sciences (also not that common), etc.
One area where I have decided to embrace change is Online Learning – where you complete your dive theory online, via the website of dive agencies like PADI and SSI.
Online Learning has been around for a few years now, and I have to admit, I have been a little less-than-enthusiastic in how we’ve embraced this new technology. My rationale has been that the more contact time I have with a student – be it in the water or in the “classroom” (if our beachside tables can be called that!) – the more time I have to get to know them (how they think, are they nervous, what sort of instruction method will be best for them, etc). And the more customised I can make my course for my students, the more effective and efficient their training.
With that in mind, I have always felt that online learning removes an element of this instructor-student contact. In addition, there may also be a greater cost to the students (in terms of registration fees). So while we certainly have pointed people out to the Online Learning sections of the PADI and SSI websites when they inquire, we haven’t been actively pushing it.
However, recently we’ve had a stream of students who’ve completed their dive theory online and it has been a bit of a revelation for us.
When the student comes to the dive center having already completed Online Learning, we – as instructors – do not have to spend as much time with them covering the basics (and let’s face it – the basics of scuba, at least at the Open Water are indeed very simple and do not require extended training to master). What has happened is that suddenly, freed from the time demands of teaching the basics, we have a lot more time to build upon the basics. This allows us to use the instructor-student contact time to expand upon the minimum knowledge requirements and get into more detail on refining buoyancy concepts, teaching about marine life, decompression theory, etc.
So as it turns out, online learning has not resulted in reduced student contact – the student contact time remains the same, but we are able to use it to add more concepts to the student’s learning.
Consider us converts!
Online learning can be done here:
PADI: http://www.padi.com/elearning-scuba-registration/
SSI: http://www.divessi.com/online_training
NAUI: http://www.naui.org/elearningdemo.aspx

Teaching kinesthetic awareness to students

By General

Posted by Dive India |

I know, it has been ages since we had a blog up here. I know some of you will snicker disbelievingly when I say I have every intention of being more regular.
But until then, here is a change of pace. This article was inspired by a couple of recent Instructor Training Courses I have done, and some of the struggles faced by the new instructors in terms of adapting their teaching when faced with situations that the regular instructor training curriculum doesn’t cover.
This article is geared mainly towards instructors and focused on how to teach water awareness, or kinesthetic awareness in the water, to students:
http://www.diveindia.com/articles/k-factor.html
Hopefully, the structured approach to solving student difficulties and the tips contained therein, will be useful.
Due to spam, I have disabled comments to blogs, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Diveindia Facebook group.

Goodbye, Ev!

By News

Posted by Dive India |

It is a cliche and a truism that all good things come to an end – but that doesn’t make Ev’s departure from the DiveIndia nest any easier.

ev2

Ev aka “McNamanta” first came to our resort when she was just a wee bonnie lass and we had just opened our resort. That season and the next few, she became a repeat customer and did a bunch of dives with us. Then one day, she was leading dives and before we knew what had happened, she adroitly went from customer to employee and had all of us wrapped around her finger. Not that we were complaining, mind you.

ev3

Those of you who have dived with her know her as a very patient and empathetic instructor, always cheerful and smiling, and always excited to see her students develop into qualified divers. Those of us who have worked with her know her a genuinely nice, warm and caring person – the sort of person we were – and are – privileged to have as a friend.

ev4

After almost half a decade of good times, drunk times, hungover times, “Wtf was THAT?” times, occasionally grumpy times and epic times (ending the year with a staff sunset dive at Johnny’s Gorge, for one) she’s now off, starting a new chapter in her life back in Ireland.
We are very happy for her and wish her all the best, but we will also miss her here (plus, neither Vikas nor Sayeed can carry off a dress with as much panache as her!).
Hope to see you back here sooner rather than later, Evie – else we will have to consider kidnapping you and bringing you back here. Consider yourself warned!

ev1

Finally, some sun!

By News

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

It’s been a wet December and early Feb. Hell, it’s been wet and windy since September, come to think of it. The usual lull in rainfall and wind between Sep-Nov did not happen.
That was good for Frodo and Sam, who enjoyed the cooler weather. Personally, I enjoyed this weather as well. Those of you who live in North European climes, or even northern US, may find this hard to believe, but there really can be such a thing as “too much sun.”
Still, we exist to keep you, dear diver, happy and this weather was not conducive to the best diving. Rough seas meant that many days, we were limited to nearer sites. When the seas calmed down, the rains persisted – and this meant bedraggled and cold divers coming back from the dive. Afternoon booze sales were through the roof, though.
Well, it has been dry for a while now and the sun is out, and looks like it is here to stay. And so is the manta that has been hanging around Broken Ledge the past few days.
And the metaphorical sun has started to shine as well: our spares and new gear for the season has finally arrived – only 2.5 months late due to a collection of screw-ups that even I have a hard time believing. And I was informed that our new boat, custom made for us in Dubai, has arrived in Chennai and the process of clearing customs has started.
Tuesday, we go looking for a new site whose existence we have suspected for some time. Let’s see if the sun continues to shine

Cut the line, David!

By Rants

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

Recently, I cut the mooring line we had installed at Johnny’s Gorge.  We are going back to dropping anchor on that site.
Ironic, really, if you know the background:  3-4 years ago, a diver roasted us on the Interwebz for not following sound environmental practices because we once dropped anchor on Minerva.  Never mind that the anchor line – which *we* had installed on that site, and all the other sites, for that matter) – had been cut by fishermen, never mind that the fact that we’ve been pestering and badgering the various local officials to take action against shark finning and bottom trawling, never mind the fact that we’ve trained various members of the Zoology and Forest departments in diving and marine conservation and that we are even now conducting studies on the recovery after the El Nino effect of May 2010.
Fair’s fair to a point – the new crewman on the boat should not have dropped anchor but should have dived down and hooked it (and had we been told of this immediately instead of reading about it a lot later, we could have done remedial training a lot earlier).
Still, the roasting did rankle a bit, especially when someone who dived with us recently brought it up out of the blue.
Since then, some things have changed.  Fishermen have gotten used to the idea of bottles floating in the water (and there are enough waste plastic bottles on the island now that they no longer feel the need to liberate our floats.  How’s that for a silver lining?).   So our lines are getting cut less often.   And with a few more dive centers around who have the coordinates to our sites, maintaining the lines is getting easier.
However, we’ve always debated whether or not to put up an anchor line at sites like Johnny’s Gorge.  I’ve seen some anchor lines (ours as well as that of other dive boats) rubbing against barrel sponges and it was gut-wrenching.  We have always had a bit of a proprietary/maternal instinct about Johnny’s Gorge, given that Johnny, our senior dive guide, discovered it a few years ago and it is pretty much THE top dive site of the Andamans.  So naturally, we want to preserve it the best we can.   But we also wanted to make sure that the fishermen didn’t discover the site and start fishing there.  Johnny’s Gorge is one of the few sites which still has regular shark sightings and if the shark fishermen get wind of it, we run the risk of losing the  sharks that still remain around Havelock.
After much discussion with other dive centers, we decided to put up a mooring line – although I still had my misgivings.
So it was with a mix of alarm and anger that I came up from a second dive on Minerva Ledge a few weeks ago to see a fishing boat not just fishing on Johnny’s Gorge, but actually tied to our anchor line!  We went up to them and gave them grief for fishing on our dive sites (mostly bluffs, which thankfully they bought) and in the end, decided to cut the anchor line while they were still tied to it.
And we have a new edict at Diveindia – we are not only going to not set up a mooring line at JG, but we are actively going to cut any other lines that are put up there.
This will probably not win us friends with other dive centers, as Johnny’s Gorge requires experienced boat crew to actually hook into the site and a mooring line makes it a lot easier for DMs and boat crew alike.   This also means that I will probably have a few more gut-wrenching incidents of seeing anchors and mooring lines where they don’t belong (although we are taking steps to reduce that risk by choosing GPS coordinates which put us a little bit off the reef).   And it likely means a few more incidents of us being roasted on the internet forums by well-meaning divers with a very simple view on how conservation should happen.
So be it.    These are all risks and costs that I consider justified.
I remember what happened to Junction after we put up a line there – the fishermen from Neil wiped out the reef in about 2 months.  It has been 2+ years and there are still very few fish left on that site.   And I have also seen about an 80% reduction in shark population in the Andamans in the past 10 years.
And I have made a promise to myself to NEVER let that happen to Johnny’s Gorge – not under my watch.
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Update on Neil

By News

Posted by Dive India |

It took a recent visit to the website and a look at the Neil section to realize how amazingly behind schedule we are.
The page still read “we expect to launch in October 2009.” I sure hope none of my former clients are reading this – in a past life, I used to make a living as a consultant managing large projects (eg mobile start-ups) and was not completely incompetent at it either. So how did we go so badly wrong?
The answer to that last question is a sordid tale of unexpected capital expenses caused by new local regulations, various delays (including my favorite – a 2 month delay caused by shortage of sand. Really. I couldn’t make this stuff up, even I want to do so) and the usual cash flow management issues that independent SMEs like us – without a big, fat-cat list of investors – face as part of their growth.
But I think we are close to exhausting pretty much every excuse and potential cause of delay (and oh lord, I think i just jinxed myself into 2012 with this statement).
What is left is to complete the wiring (as soon as the contractor sends me a plan), the plumbing (all our commodes, loving hand-picked by yours truly based on long-term seating comfort for those days when you really can’t put down the book or magazine, had arrived broken and so we had to order new ones) and the dive equipment (which should arrive in a couple of weeks time).
Hmmm. Now that I think of it, 2012 may yet be a possibility. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and provided it doesn’t turn out to be the incoming train, we should be… (excuse me if you’ve heard this before) OPENING SOON. Believe me, we are just as eager to get it started as anyone else.
They say something about the best laid plans of men and mice. All I can do is quote the unmatchable Pinky, from Pinky and The Brain: Narf!
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New Site Discovered

By News

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

I just realized it has been a really long time since I blogged anything…. well, that’s the off-season for you.
But this is the sort of blog post that is a lot of fun to write about, as we discovered yet another great site a few days ago. The site is as-yet un-named, but runs from 17-25m. It has the same type of craggy gorge-like features as Johnny’s Gorge (the top dive site of the Andamans, discovered by Johnny, our senior DM a few years ago) and is also packed with fish.
Today was our first dive there, and we found 2 turtles, large schools of reef fish, a massive giant grouper, jacks, etc. etc. The works. No sharks and surprisingly, no barracudas either, but given the location, we expect it to be fairly productive when it comes to teeth-per-fin ratio of the resident fish.
This site should compare to Johnny’s Gorge, Jackson’s Bar and Dixon’s Pinnacle in terms of topography and fishlife.
Discovered by Vikas and Dixon.

The arrival of leopard sharks in the Andamans

By Dive Sites, General

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

Back when I first came and dived the Andamans in 2000-2001, there were a lot more sharks here. For example, Minerva Ledge used to be full of sharks – the question wasn’t whether you see any, but how many and how many species.
Compared to back then, the number of sharks have decreased significantly. In fact, finding Johnny’s Gorge and Jackson’s Bar was a big morale booster for our team, as it showed that there still were some sharks left.

However, some positive shark news – this season, we have started seeing a lot more leopard sharks. I dont think I saw *any* leopard sharks in my first 4-5 years in the Andamans… and for the next few years, I think it was only a few sightings every season.
But this season, they are regulars – we’ve been spotting them at Parr Ridge a lot, and also on Pilot Reef and South Pilot Reef. These are all sites that are accessible to divers of all certification levels and experience, as an added bonus!

An old “friend” returns?

By General

Posted by Dive India |

Back in 2002, I was teaching a class at Minerva Ledge with 3 Open Water students.
Back then, there used to be a lot more sharks on this reef and the question wasnt whether we’d see any sharks, but how many and which species. As with most beginners, my students had some concerns about being in the water with sharks, and I gave them my usual spiel: sharks arent dangerous, we are not normal prey, we are too big for most sharks, etc. etc.
We get in the water, and sure enough, we see a white tip cruise by. And then a black tip some time later. By now, my students are converted – they are very excited about the sharks and no longer scared. Towards the end of the dive, yet another white tip goes by – and a few seconds later, one of my students points to the right into the blue and signals “shark.”
I look, expecting to see a white tip and sure enough, there is one swimming towards us. I nod and return to scanning the front, as I am hoping to get a manta today.
Then a small voice pipes in my head, saying “wait a minute – wrong proportions…” I look again, and the shark is coming toward us. Directly towards us. Fins down. Which is an aggressive territorial display.
“Wait a minute,” I remember thinking, “where does a white tip get off being aggressive to three divers”?
Then the initial voice in my head pipes up again “hey… WRONG proportions. Hellooo!”
Right – when looked more closely, this shark just seemed to be a lot bulkier. And not only that, it was a lot bigger. And at that moment, it turned and showed us its size – it was a 4m+ bullshark! Yes, I know bullsharks don’t get bigger than 3m or so – but this was 4m+ and I will stake my diving reputation on it (heck, most people who’ve seen it put it at 5m+, but that is a bit exaggerated). And my divers and I had just been told off in no uncertain terms by Big Guy that we were in his territory. Rather than upset him, we turned around and head back in towards the reef, and that was all we saw of him on this dive.
Over the next few years, Bob the Bullshark would make a reappearance a couple of times each season. Each time, it was at the same site and the same deal: comes straight in, fins down, in a territorial display, turning away a good 10m or so away. We always appreciated the polite warning and would make sure we didn’t hang around for a second pass (and certainly not the third pass, which might involve a “smile”).
And each sighting was absolutely, gloriously epic – there are few things in this world as graceful as an enormous, powerful shark with rippling muscles and gliding by faster than anyone can swim with the merest flick of its tail. It was humbling and it was moving – we were witnessing one of nature’s 2 perfect creations in its element (the other being the crocodile) – and I mean “perfect creation” literally: the shark has not changed or evolved over 350 million years. It is perfect and cannot be improved upon.
The last 3+ seasons, Bob has been AWOL. We put it down to him falling a victim to the local shark fishermen (thanks to the demand for turning this amazingly beautiful animal into soup).
However, a couple of days ago, two of our divers and one of our DMs saw a big shark at a site that is about 250m away from Bob’s old stomping grounds. Initially, we were not sure whether it was a grey reef shark (which has been sighted here occasionally) or a bullshark (which has never been sighted here). Speaking to the divers and comparing notes on size, shape, etc., I am pretty confident it was a big bullshark.
Could Bob be back? I for one certainly hope so – if there ever was a Christmas present that would thrill me beyond belief, this would be it. And at the risk of anthropomorphizing too much, I do wonder if somewhere in that predator mind of his, Bob remembers us?
Welcome back, Bob – we missed you!

Update on the North Andamans safaris

By News

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

We’ve done a few of the safaris to the North now – and a pattern is emerging:  excellent coral, superlative diving, big fish and a true sense of exploration.   While we are still a ways away from being experts when it comes to knowing what we’ll find (give us the off-season to achieve that expertise!), we’ve can talk about some of the highlights so far.
We’ve been seeing a lot of sharks – grey reefies, leopard sharks, white and black tips as well as an occasional silvertip or two.  We’ve also seen mantas and devils rays, and Sayeed lived up to his Tamil Heart-throb moniker by causing a HUGE leatherback turtle to fall in love with him.
We send Vikas over recently with a video camera and as soon as he is able to process the clips, we will put them online here and on Youtube.
Happy diving!
Vinnie

DIVEIndia is now affiliated with NAUI

By Training

While all agencies do a very competent job of training divers, some agencies stand out for taking a slightly different approach. NAUI, which has been a non-profit agency for most of its existence and which even today follows those standards, is one such agency.
With the highest standards for virtually all levels of recreational diver training, NAUI has always been associated with excellence in diver training.
And so it is with great pride that we announce that as of February 2009, DIVEIndia is now offering NAUI certification courses, all the way from basic Open Water (the NAUI Scuba Diver course) up to Instructor.
We are very excited about the added flexibility this gives us in meeting the needs of our customers. Whether you are a beginner who want the best entry level training, a certified divers who want to improve his/her diving skills or an experienced divers who want to master the theoretical and practical aspects of diving, we now have a program that will meet your needs.
Please contact us for more information on our NAUI courses!
Vinnie

5 years of scuba diving in the Andamans – a look back and ahead

By General

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

Well, we are now officially starting our 5th season in the Andamans.   The first five years have been absolutely amazing – we’ve met some great people who have now become close friends, we have explored the uncharted reefs of this region and we have become India’s largest dive center without losing the personal touch that has been central to our operating philosophy.
It has not all been easy, either.  I have been diving for quite a while, but running a dive center is a completely different thing altogether.  We have made mistakes along the way, but I take great pride in saying that we have learned from those mistakes and gone to great lengths to avoid repeating those mistakes.    Every year, we are a better dive center than we were the year before, in terms of services offered to customers, safety procedures implemented and internal processes.   If I had to pick one thing I am most proud of achieving, that would be it.
I’d like to thank all our customers and friends who have chosen to dive with us.  This year, we have a bunch of exciting new initiatives on tap – new destinations, speed boats, new resort, and more –  and I will be posting regular updates on this over time.  We thank you for making us the #1 dive center in India, and promise you that we will continue to innovate and offer ever-improving facilities to our customers.
Vinnie

Diving in the North Andamans

By News

Posted by Vandit Kalia |

8 years ago, when I first came to the Andamans, there were 4-5 dive sites in Havelock. When we started operations in the first year, we found a few new sites (South Button, the wreck of the Inchkett and more). Now, after 5 years of operation, a lot of the sites that were being dived in the first year are no longer visited, simply because we have found a lot of newer, better sites: Johnny’s Gorge, Dixon Pinnacle, Jackson’s Bar and more.
Finding these sites was the first big step forwards for diving in the Andamans, because these are truly world-quality sites, and since then, we have continually pushed this frontier forwards, adding a few new sites every year.
Now, we are pleased to announce fully-catered diving safaris to the North Andamans. Through the new locations, we will get access to a host of new sites that were previously the domain of liveaboards only. Personally, I am VERY excited about this development: to me, it signals the second big step forward for diving in the Andamans.
These diving safaris will start from January 2009. Please check the following page for more details:
DIVEIndia – Dive Safaris to the North Andamans.