This is a brief description of a trip to the Andaman Islands and a few dives there between March 1 and March 9, 2008.
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Many western tourists arrive with the airplane in the capital Port Blair, in order to then immediately continue for Havelock Island. But that is a pity (or good, depending on how one looks at it). For much is there to see besides beaches and corals. As a result, on a day trip from Port Blair to Baratang Island I did not meet a single other western tourist. But I have no regrets in making this trip. Much nature is to be seen, among others a mud volcano and a limestone cave.
For such a day trip one has to expect to spend about 800 Rupees per person in a jeep with up to 10 tourists (at this point in time, the exchange rate was about 55 Rupees per Euro). The trip starts at 3 in the morning, and one comes back at around 7 in the evening. For the unlikely case (which in fact happened to me) of meeting people of the native tribes, one should under no circumstances take photos of them. This is also stressed repeatedly. In this trip we met a group of Jarawa, who walked towards us on the street. The group consisted of several men, a woman, and two children.
Port Blair itself is like a normal Indian city. But for sure it is worth visiting Ross Island. It is easily done even on the afternoon of the day of arrival, as the flights from Chennai and Kolkata arrive in the morning. The British used Ross Island as their administrative center, while Port Blair itself was used by the British mainly as the location for the infamous prison. During the occupation of the Anadaman Islands by the Japanese during World War II, many bunkers were constructed on Ross Island. Nowadays, nature has equally conquered bunkers and colonial buildings.
One can enjoy a wonderful time on Havelock Island. Here indeed there (still) exist dream-like beaches the way one expects them from a tropical island. The beaches are numbered. Most famous is beach No. 7.
This beach one best reaches with a rented motorbike. Expect 150 Rupees per day plus fuel, whereby one will hardly use more than on 1 liter. It is recommendable to test whether the breaks indeed work, for the machines (for example a 100cc Yamaha) are pretty old and run-down. It's best not to rely on working lights. The yellow hard-heads used in construction are a common sight as motorbike helmet.
In order to get to the island, it is cheapest to use the public ferry from Port Blair. The trip costs 200 Rupees and takes about 2 1/2 hours. The first ferry leaves at 6 in the morning. Book your ticket (or have it booked through your hotel) a week in advance! The return trip is unproblematic.
Havelock Islands has the diving bases. I used the Barefoot Scuba diving base at beach No. 3. It is well organized. A large concrete surface allows easy assembling of the diving equipment in the morning. Departure with the boats to the dive sites is at 7:30 in the morning. These are essentially modified, local fishing boats and correspondingly small. Two dives are made. Return is in early afternoon (depending on the distance to the dive site). The divers don't have to carry the tanks themselves. Large, well-marked barrels of water allow easy rinsing the various parts of the diving equipment. One boat trip with the two dives costs 3000 Rupees including rental equipment. For the 6th dive a rebate of 500 Rupees is given. Furthermore, 15 % are reduced from the price, if you bring your own equipment. Payment by credit card costs 2.5 % extra.
My only critical point is that the briefings certainly can be improved. Apparently, the guides are used to that divers ask no question and simply follow the guide, no matter where to. But at least I would like to know the detailed dive plan before the dive, even if in the end I simply follow the guide.
A good restaurant is right behind the diving base. Furthermore, there exist 6 huts right there, which one can rent for 2000 Rupees per day.
Finally, it was time to leave the Andaman Islands. The flight to Chennai allowed a glimpse of North Sentinel Island. This island is home to the Sentinelese, an indigenous people who have still resisted all contacts with outsiders.