Coral Reefs in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Diving in Andamans is a unique lifetime experience, for the warm waters of the Andaman Sea are home to one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world. Many of the islands are surrounded by fringing reefs, often several hundred meters wide and separated from the shore by a lagoon of similar width. There are also more steeply undulating hills of raven volcanic lava, which makes for some unusual diving. There are plenty of steeply sloping and shallow reefs suitable for snorkelling. Large pelagic are plentiful in these waters, as are a variety of sharks. Large schools of hammerhead often patrol the waters away from the reefs and Grey, Whitetip, Nurse and leopard sharks are found closer inshore. Silvertip and Ocean Whitetips also sometimes appear out of the deep blue beyond. Enormous manta Rays are also often seen.
The marine ecosystem off the shores of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have made them one of the global hotspots and focus of World Wildlife Fund India’s Biodiversity Hotspots Conservation Programme (BHCP). The marine ecosystem of the islands are also designated as one of the global eco-regions identified by WWF in the realm of coral reef and associated marine ecosystems in the northern Indian Ocean.
Best Time To Go
The best season for diving in the Andaman Islands is from December to April.
The Andaman Islands (10º30'-14ºN; 92-93ºE) are the emerged part of a mountain chain and lie on a ridge, which extends southward from the Irrawaddy delta area of Burma. The Nicobar Islands (6º30'-9º30'N; 93-94ºE)are high islands forming the southward extension of this mountain chain. There are about 321 islands in the Andaman and Nicobar group, with a total land area of 8293 sq. km. 38 of these islands are populated.
Coral reefs found here are of the fringing type, often several hundred meters wide and separated from the shore by a lagoon of similar width. A barrier reef to the west has also been reported but its precise coordinates are yet unknown. The coral diversity until a few years back was among the highest in Indian reefs, with 133 species under 57 genera. So far,39 genera with 179 species have been officially recorded.
Responsible tourism in Andamans
Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to many threatened and endangered species, some of which play a very valuable role in the food chain. It is important to practice ecotourism and responsible travel to save the tropical forest and the varied species that live here.
Some smaller islands where there is no water supply, have dry composting toilets for their day long visitors. Apart from not needing water, these toilets are eco-firendly. These places have no hotels, provision for night stay or eateries. It is best to carry your own food here.
Coral Reef Species in the Andamans
Zoologists estimate that the coral species in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago are comparable in richness and biodiversity to the coral triangle between thee Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
The Best Dive Sites in the Andamans
- Cinque Island near Port Blair has clear emerald water with a visibility of upto 80 feet. The deep dive offers a terrific variety of marine life, including black coral, sightings of sharks and is ideal for the experienced diver.
Southeast Reef at Cinque Island is a good site for novices.
- Fish Rock near Passage Island has rocky slopes, boulders and drop-offs, featuring large fan of corals and plenty of sponges, Below 25 meters, the rocks are covered in small bushy soft corals in numerous hues. Hard corals are not so evident. Grey and Whitetip Reef and Reef Sharks are almost always in the vicinity as are Nurse Sharks. Among the rest of the marine life are Eagle rays. Potato Cod, large coral groupers, fusiliers, suitlips, turtles, batfish, bumphead. Parrotfish, Squrielfish, curious and friendly oriental sweetlips, surgeonfish, yellow Tangs, Triggerfisk, tuna, Rainbow runners and many more.
- Havelock Island, about 50 kilometers from Port Blair, has many relatively unexplored dive sites rich in underwater marine life. Mac Point is known for mostly hard corals, and dugongs have been spotted here. Turtle Bay is an easy pleasant dive site not exceeding 14 meters. Rays are found in the sand and with luck, turtles too. Seduction Point is a huge rock with different kind of aquatic life, including staghorn corals. The Wall is a huge submerged rock that drops down to a maximum of 55 meters and is full with life. Huge forests of soft corals and schools of colourful make this a memorable dive. Pilot Reef near Havelock is a huge block of pristine hard corals. At the bottom (maximum 24 meters) leopard and white tip sharks have been sighted.
The Impact of the December 2004 Tsunami
Tips For Mindful Diving Off Coral Reefs
- Never pick coral to carry home as souvenirs. Take photographs, not specimens.
- Never anchor your boat on the reef.
- Clean the reef after every dive.
- Never walk directly on the reef.
- Do not litter the coast with plastic bags or plastic items. Take back the waste with you to the main coast.
- Follow the safety tips and pay heed to the suggestions given by the boatmen and the guides.
- Carry your own food and water when you are going to smaller islands to see the corals.
- Do not leave behind used bottled water containers.