Underwater Heaven: Havelock (Andaman)
Home to vibrant fishes and kaleidoscopic corals, the crystal-clear waters of Havelock Island lagoon feature some of the world’s richest and least spoilt marine reserves.
We were diving in the crystal-clear water of a lagoon on a bright sunny day. On our left, the magnificent coral reef was illuminated by the sunlight piercing through the clear water; and on our right, we could see the sandy bottom of the ocean. ‘Magnificent’ would be an understatement to describe the beauty of this coral reef. The shapes, textures, and colours of different types of corals overwhelmed our visual senses, and the reef was brimming with vibrant marine species.
After we descended to the bottom, we decided to hover over the reef for some time. As we moved past some table corals, a visual magic unfolded in front of our eyes. A school of ‘Yellowback Fusilier’, hundreds of them, swam towards us from a distance. Probably, they were curious seeing the divers and decided to give us company. Within seconds, the colourful school surrounded us from all directions. For a moment, we were gripped by an absolute sense of awe and then began to enjoy their cohesively swimming around us.
There were some beautiful Staghorn corals on that reef. As we finned past these corals, we saw some beautiful ‘Damselfishes’ flitting about in their branches. Down below, ‘Clownfishes’ were playing hide-and-seek in the cluster of ‘Sea Anemone’ tentacles. Little ahead, near a large rock, there was a school of Blue-striped Snapper- extremely beautiful fishes with a fluorescent-yellow body and four blue stripes on each side. I exhaled continuously through the regulator in my mouth just to descend a little bit to get closer to them. They seemed to be very cautious about the approaching diver and quickly turned around to swim towards the reef.
By this time my SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge) reading was showing 100 bar. SPG, the indicator of air pressure unit, informs the divers about the amount of air left in the Scuba tank. As per the guidelines, divers need to plan for ascending to the surface when the air pressure drops to 60 bar so that there is still enough air in the tank for a 3-minute safety stop during the ascend, and also to inflate the BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) at the surface. (A BCD is basically a wearable jacket which is connected to the scuba air tank. BCD can be inflated or deflated to control the buoyancy underwater or at the surface).
Going by the SPG reading, I had about 15 more minutes to explore this fascinating world under the sea so opted to explore the sandy flat at the bottom. A pair of ‘Sand Lizardfishes’ caught my attention. They were very careful; sensing my presence, they immediately hid themselves inside small burrows in the sand. Failing to capture any images of the Lizardfish, I finned towards a rock, which had a groove on one side. As I peeped through, I saw some spines protruding out from the groove and I spotted what I expected – a Lionfish – living in its safe den. The spines of Lionfish are venomous; so I maintained a safe distance while trying to take some photos.
Leaving the Lionfish behind, I did some ‘flutter kicking’ with the fins attached to my feet and positioned myself just above a sandy patch. To my utter surprise, I saw a shape that appeared like Stingray – half buried in the sand. Suddenly, it moved a little – as if to make me aware of its presence. Now the body was just lying above the sand, and those wonderful blue spots were clearly visible. Yes, it was a Blue-spotted Stingray— with electric-blue spots all over the body, it looked magnificent. It allowed few seconds for me to appreciate the beauty by remaining still, and then it swam away with its inherent agility.
My SPG was now at 60 bar and it was time for an ascent. I hand-signaled my dive buddy and we finned towards the anchor line of the boat. We positioned ourselves vertically and started ascending along the anchor line. There was mild current at the surface of the sea. The moment we reached the surface, we inflated our BCD and started swimming towards the boat to avoid getting drifted by the current.
That was the end of a fabulous dive session off the Havelock island (Andaman). In the boat, we savoured hot tea and crunchy samosas. As we sipped the tea and munched on the samosas, we excitedly shared our experiences with fellow divers.
The boat sped up, the strong wind ruffled our hair, and the island’s beaches started appearing nearer. We were already excited about the following day – diving to explore another coral reef.
Cover Photo: Havelock Beach
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