Great dives in the ‘invisible islands’

by | Sep 14, 2016

Divers world over are constantly in search of remote islands with crystal clear waters and quality services.

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Divers world over are constantly in search of remote islands with crystal clear waters and quality services. The Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean is emerging as a ‘must visit’ destination not just by veteran divers but also beginners. With luxury liners like the Infiniti Liveaboard setting up operations in the archipelago two years ago, foreign tourists are making a dive for this destination, exploring its many islands, shipwrecks, exquisite water life and personalised services that make the Andaman experience a must.

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are an archipelago of 572 islands in the Indian Ocean, territorially belonging to India though geographically closer to Thailand and Myanmar. In the past, these islands were in the spotlight because they were closed and inaccessible for decades. It is only in recent years that they have been opened to visitors. Jacques Cousteau, regarded as the father of scuba diving was the first to dive in these waters, christening them “the invisible islands“.

Exquisite flora and fauna

In the absence of heavy commercial fishing and tourism traffic, quiet serenity prevails on the beaches and the waters are teeming with marine life. The area is a global hotspot of biodiversity with dense tropical rain forests that support a wide range of plant and animal life. Owing to the isolation of the islands, the plants and animals have evolved over thousands of years in a unique way with 10% or more species endemic to the region. Coral reefs stretch over 11,000 sqkm with fringing reefs around the east coast and a long barrier reef on the west. Exotic marine animals such as dugongs and giant clams have made their home here.

A popular dive destination for Asians

The geographic location of the Andaman Islands, in the Andaman Sea, close to Myanmar & Thailand positions it ideally for Asians to access these specs of land a lot more easily. While divers and travellers from all across the globe plan trips during the season, increasingly more traffic is being seen by those from Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East.

Since diving in Thailand & Maldives is becoming excessively commercial, Andaman Islands along with Myanmar are being seen as the next big destination since they assure you of a peaceful and exclusive diving experience. Most dive destinations feature a single major attraction but Andaman Islands is a place that has them all – there is unique volcanic diving at Barren (an active volcano) and Narcondam (an extinct volcano); plus the Mahatma Gandhi Marine Park, along with caves, canyons, cliffs, walls and wrecks.

The “Live-Aboard” experience

This is a first-ever live-aboard super yacht for exclusive holidays and special charter in the Andaman Islands. As India’s first live-aboard super yacht, the Infiniti opens up the Andaman Islands to discerning, high-end travellers looking for exclusive holidays in the ocean. The Infiniti is a brand new, top quality construction yacht fully equipped for a safe and comfortable on-board stay and cruising. It is staffed with a highly qualified crew specialising in cruising, hospitality, scuba diving and exclusive activities.

Live-aboard is popular worldwide, especially among diving enthusiasts. These vessels offer modern conveniences, along with the opportunity to explore glorious underwater vistas or just unwind and take in the fresh air and sunshine. Founded by Mumbai based entrepreneur Sunil Bakshi, Infiniti is part of the Karina Tourism & Adventures group. At nearly 130 feet in length with four decks, it is huge, spacious, classy and comfortable. At the same time it is selective, in that it does not accommodate more than 12 guests at one time. This ensures personalised service, privacy and enough space for those who wish to keep the experience exclusive and intimate.

Infiniti was built in Thailand under the watchful eye of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) from Italy. It boasts world-class systems and equipment, luxuriously appointed interiors, including guest rooms with en-suite bathrooms, a kitchen, a diving platform, an indoor dining room and multiple relaxation areas, including a large sun deck, an indoor lounge & an outdoor lounge.

The Infiniti is a PADI authorised dive boat with a PADI dive team on-board that teaches scuba diving to international standards and issues certifications that are accepted worldwide. Also on offer are a wide range of activities including scuba diving, snorkelling, island excursions, barbecue under the stars, on-board spa and yoga. Delicious and healthy meals are freshly prepared in an on-board kitchen by a dedicated chef and served in the dining area with snacks & beverages being served all day. Little wonder that scuba diving enthusiasts find their time aboard the Infiniti to be an once-in-a-lifetime experience, as it takes them to exotic underwater kingdoms resplendent with beauty and life.

Variety of unique itineraries

Carefully designed itineraries are planned that are mostly to dive sites that are out-of-reach of day boats. The team takes the guests to the doorstep of the best dive sites. Some of Infiniti’s favourite itineraries are:

Southern Andaman Islands & MG Marine Park: The protected marine park is a group of uninhabited islands, with pristine beaches and stunning dive sites in the surrounding waters. Divers can chance upon a stunning shipwreck from World War 1. The 70 meter ship is broken into three parts with most of the parts preserved and intact. The wreck lies at 30 meter depth, offering excellent visibility up to 35 meters with corals and an active marine. The wreck acts as an artificial reef, offering marine life shelter from currents protection from larger predators. It has become a haven and habitat for plentiful marine life such as giant trevally, yellow-tail snappers, blue-striped snappers, jacks, napoleon wrasse, barracuda, lionfish, batfish and many more. It also serves as an important breeding ground and nursery for juvenile fish families and has become an integral part of the marine eco system.

Fish Rock: This five-star dive site, near Passage Island attracts divers from around the world. On the surface there are rocky outcroppings and below are, multi-coloured fluorescent corals that cover the rock boulders, making home for the fish. Giant barracudas schools, groupers, tuna, snappers and trevallies, shoals of snappers, sweetlips, fusiliers, jacks, giant groupers, turtles, morays, white-tip reef sharks, parrotfish, puffers and scores of reef fish can be encountered in abundance here.

Night dives with crustaceans &bio luminescence: Underwater bio luminscenceis one of nature’s most impressive artificial light shows in absolute darkness. Some sea creatures use chemicals within their bodies to produce light. Bioluminescence is mainly a marine phenomenon and is seen in the oceans where this unique ability achieves its highest form. There are also the crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs wandering about freely at night here.

Barren Island: This is one of the most easterly of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. They are today viewed as a major new revelation for incredible scuba diving. It has the only active volcano in South Asia and is estimated to be 1.8 million years old. The smoking volcano in the middle of the ocean is an imposing sight and the surrounding waters make for some of the best diving in the world with crystal clear visibility. Numerous dive sites with lava formations, lush coral gardens, huge underwater wall, soft purple coral, manta rays, chiselled rock formations, gas bubbles rising from the earth’s floor and many more unique attractions make Barren Island a top dive destination of the world.

Narcondam Island:
This is the most easterly of the Andaman Islands and even more remote than Barren Island. It is said to be among “Asia’s best kept secrets”. This ancient, prehistoric island has endemic birds that can be seen rising above the cliffs to generate their own clouds. Diving highlights include distinctive topography with underwater mountains, huge pinnacles, canyons, soft corals, manta rays and abundant fish life, mass of white sponges, large sea fans, barrel sponges and steeply sloping coral ridges.

Fast Facts

Getting there: Several good flights land daily at Port Blair airport from Chennai or Kolkata.
Logistics: The Infiniti team will meet you at Port Blair airport & bring you to the vessel.
Best time: Infiniti operated dive trips in Andaman Islands are between October to May; to the remote volcanoes of Barren & Narcondam Islands between February to May; trips can be customised for groups up to 12; individual travellers are welcome too.
Costs: The diving holiday packages start at USD$ 1,749 per person for five nights and go up to $3,699 for 8 nights to Barren & Narcondam Islands.

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