The Andaman Islands are in Indian territorial waters but best discovered by Thailand liveaboard, with Phuket some 450 km to the southeast.
Finally open for scuba diving to the general public, being off limits to non-Indian visitors for decades, the Andaman Islands are one of the few undiscovered diving charms that have yet to be explored. However, diving conditions in the Andaman Islands involve drift and current diving and only experienced divers should consider booking Andaman Islands cruises.
At places like Fish Rock, schools of surgeons and barracuda gather in mid-water, sweetlips and snapper swarm over the rocky reef, and big fish like humphead parrotfish and giant trevally are seen almost every dive. Giant grouper and schooling mobula rays also appear regularly. Many dive sites are home to endemic species like Andaman damselfish, Andaman sweetlips, and the distinctive Indian-Ocean spinecheek anemone fish. For a great Andaman dive one of the main attractions is the snorkeling elephants and saltwater crocodiles.
Although not all the islands are open to foreign visitors, among the best for Thailand liveaboard diving are isolated volcanic outposts: Narcondam and Barren Islands, the latter of which is still active. Each features healthy hard corals in the shallows, but the best diving areas are steep drop-offs and pinnacles, where you will find huge barrel sponges and fans, as well as stunning soft corals. Both islands have a dark volcanic seabed, but the substrate at Barren, being almost jet-black, beautifully emphasizes the vibrant colors of the soft corals and red encrusting sponge. Fish are impressive at both islands, with plenty of colorful reef species, including various anthias, angelfish, blue palette surgeons, flag-tails and magnificent dart gobies, and shy but beautiful Indian yellow-fin grouper. For sheer volume HQ Pinnacle at Narcondam and Black Magic at Barren are great sites, with massive schools of bigeye trevally. There is also a good chance of dogtooth tuna, Napoleon wrasse, humphead parrotfish and mantas at many sites.
This Andaman diving region is home to more than 130 different coral species, all varying in size, shape and color. You will find four-meter tall barrel sponges and fans twice the size of the ones in the Similans. Unlike many other dive spots everything near the Andaman Islands is healthy, untouched and alive, the reefs are simply teeming with fish and macro life. A true diver’s paradise!