All You Need To Know About Sea Walking In The Andaman Islands

A sea walk or helmet dive is a fun alternative to scuba diving and snorkelling as a way to explore the underwater world of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Surrounded by a shoal of fish in blue waters
Surrounded by a shoal of fish in blue waters

Snorkelling and scuba diving are the de rigueur activites to do in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But if you are looking for something different, look no further than sea walking. Also known as undersea walking or helmet diving, this activity is ideal for those who do not know how to swim.

In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, undersea walking is conducted at North Bay Island near Port Blair, and at Elephant Beach in Havelock Island. Participants walk on the sea floor at a maximum depth of seven metres during high tide and in calm water.

Undersea walking tourists
Undersea walking touristsFlickr: ann523

So how do you prepare? Your head and shoulders are encased in a helmet, one that is quite similar to those worn by pearl divers. A breathing device in the form of an air hose is attached to provide oxygen. The air hose supplies fresh compressed air from an air compressor or cylinder placed in the watercraft or a platform above the water. You descend to the sea floor from the platform or boat with the help of a secure ladder, and walk under water while breathing normally.

Unlike scuba diving, you are connected to the surface and can walk around easily, which is an advantage for non-swimmers. The transparent visor of the helmet also offers an unimpeded view of your surroundings.

A participant in an undersea walk
A participant in an undersea walkFlickr: Seman Diving

Safety is taking seriously at all times. An underwater guide with scuba gear and a secondary air source for emergencies instructs the helmet divers during the sea walk. Another guide wearing a mask, snorkels, and fins uses a surface swimming monitor to follow the trajectory of the helmet divers, thus ensuring their overall safety and well-being.

The air supply monitor on the boat or the overhead platform ensures that the required air supply is maintained at all times when the sea walk is taking place, and that a reserve air supply is always readily available. A maximum of nine participants are taken for the sea walk and the activity takes around 15-20 minutes.

A view of the marine life while undersea walking
A view of the marine life while undersea walkingFlickr: Funky Clarence

While a healthy youngster or adult can participate in a sea walk, those suffering from certain medical conditions may be prohibited because of safety concerns. It is advisable to fill in the registration form honestly as wrong information can jeopardise one's well-being.

As per the requirements set down by the local administration, kids below seven years are not allowed to sea walk. Chidren between seven and 15 years of age should be accompanied by an adult during the underwater trail. It is also mandatory for helmet divers of legal age, or a parent or legal guardian in case of a minor, to read and sign an assumption of risk and release of liability waiver prior to participating in the activity.

A guide overlooking prepartions for an undersea walk
A guide overlooking prepartions for an undersea walkFlickr: shankar s.

As the sea walk is usually held on a first come, first serve basis, it is best to inquire about its timings from sea walk tour operators. This activity is also subject to weather conditions.

Prior to a helmet dive, the manager of the helmet diving company is legally required to provide a description of the activity and information on the local marine life, conservation issues, and safety procedures.

Elephant Beach at Havelock Island is an ideal spot for undersea walking
Elephant Beach at Havelock Island is an ideal spot for undersea walkingFlickr: sarat talluri

Sea walk operators and participants are also required to follow rules that safeguard the marine environment. These include not conducting the activity at a distance of more than 500m from the nearest land; holding the activity only along approved trails and at a minimum distance of 1-5m from corals; no touching of any coral or marine life; not feeding the fish, etc.

With the experts on hand and these safety precautions in mind, we hope your next sea walking adventure is a thrilling and memorable experience.

How to get there: Take a plane ride to Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair. Use a private or government-run ferry to cross the distance from Port Blair to Havelock Island, which is about 73 km and takes about four and a half hours.

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