Travel: Dive into Pondicherry's aqua world

Jul 16, 2015, 08:20 IST | Suprita Mitter

Diverse marine life, exciting underwater conditions, an artificial reef and an adventure company to guide you 365 days; these are some of the reasons that make Pondicherry an irresistible diving destination

While in search of offbeat diving destinations, our search engine veered towards India’s East Coast. Moving away from the Andaman Islands, we were surprised to stumble upon just one operator that offers dives in Pondicherry. 

A diver relaxing above the Temple Reef. Pic courtesy/Donarun Das

Inspired by the research and discovery projects of writer-journalist Graham Hancock, Temple Adventures has been diving off Pondicherry since 2007. The area has amazing reef and marine life; already, they have located and mapped ancient areas of land and structures, as old as 25,000 years. Temple Adventures was started by Aravind Tharunsri, Rob Partridge and Dave Hearn, with a dream to make the people of India aware of scuba diving and train divers to the highest level through the school.

Snapper on the reef. Pics courtesy/Donarun Das

Polyps and Fishes. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin
Polyps and Fishes. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin

Colours of a sea urchin. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin
Colours of a sea urchin. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin

They offer a full range of PADI diving courses, from beginner to expert. They also take qualified divers for guided underwater tours. They take beginners to experience the underwater world, as well as dive with hardcore technical divers to explore new regions of the ocean. It is also India’s only PADI Instructor Development Centre, which means that they train divers to become instructors, who continue the legacy to teach students. They also have a centre in Chennai, where instructors dive in some spots, and are exploring some more regions that are suitable for diving. In Tamil Nadu, they dive off Chennai, Pondicherry and Cuddalore. Chennai has similar underwater formations and seascapes as Pondicherry, while Cuddalore has a very beautiful shipwreck called the MV Mothi, which is great for diving. Recently, a new dive center has opened in Vishakhapatnam.

Stan the Grouper. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin
Stan the Grouper. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin

Nudibranch love

Why Pondicherry?
While the waters off the Andaman Islands are popular because of their perfect visibility and consistent diving conditions, what drives Temple Adventures to dive in Pondicherry, is the nature of the diving. “Everyday, whenever we set out, we find something different — be the marine life or the conditions. It helps us to learn more about the ocean as well as to evolve our skills, constantly,” informs Donarun Das, a diver with Temple Adventures. “So ,whenever we, or our students, go diving in more popular locations like the Andamans, or anywhere in the world, we are qualified, trained and are experienced to handle almost any conditions thrown at us,” he suggests.

At Temple Reef. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin
At Temple Reef. Pic Courtesy/Julien Fortin

A marine miracle
Temple Adventures has also created a beautiful artificial reef environment — the first of its kind in India. It boasts of a million fish at any given point and an amazing dive experience overall. Named after both, its creator Temple Adventures and the shape of the site on the ocean floor, the Temple Reef is an artificial reef off the coast of Pondicherry, made from fully recycled concrete blocks, rocks, trees, palm leaves and iron bars. It was completed on October 8, 2013. It is located 18m (60ft) below the surface, 5 km west, off the Coromandel Coast, off Pondicherry, in the Bay of Bengal. In a short span of time, the reef became home to a diverse aquatic life. There is a vast range of corals and fish like groupers, lion fish, kingfish, eagle and manta rays, moray eels, sea snakes, triggerfish, parrot fish, angelfish, banner fish, butterfly fish and crustaceans. The adventure company is building another reef close by, called Wreck City, roughly 60m from Temple Reef.

Eyes of a scorpion fish

The idea to create Temple Reef was to provide a safe haven for fish from trawlers and the dangers of modern-day fishing. Started three years ago, the project faced many challenges like hauling tons of rocks and concrete, and assembling the structure underwater. In the end, the fish love it and so do the divers.

Juvenile Morayat Temple
Juvenile Morayat Temple

Swaying Anemones
Swaying Anemones

Underwater in Pondy
Pondicherry has a wide range of corals, lion fish, grouper, kingfish, moray eels, eagle and manta rays, parrot fish, sea snakes, triggerfish, butterfly fishes, angels, bannerfish, crustaceans and if you’e lucky, sharks, whale sharks, turtles and dolphins. The months between October and March are the best months to go scuba diving in Pondicherry. Changes in currents produce calm and still waters and 20m-30m visibilities at these times

In Mumbai
Orca Dive Club offers a special rate for an introduction dive/ fun dive on PADI Women’s Dive day.
ON July 18, 11 am to 4.30 pm. The sessions will be for approximately 20-30 minutes in the water.
AT Celebrations Sports Club, Andheri (W). COST R1,500
CALL 24928175

For a Temple Adventures experience

It includes theory training, a dive skills training session in the tub with instructors, scuba equipment use, boat ride, snacks and deep-sea diving experience. This course is designed as an introduction to scuba diving, and is specifically suitable for non-swimmers. Cost R6,800 INR per head.

Schedule: (2 days)
Day 1: Training session in the tub, between 12 noon and 6 pm, takes about 2 hours
Day 2: Ocean dive (6.45 am- 12 pm) NOTE: Dive-day start timings are fixed, finish timings approx
Minimum age: 10 years
Discounts (fixed):
3+ persons, They offer a 5% discount. Thus cost is just R6,460 per pax.
6+ Pax it is a 10% Discount, so R6,120 per person
9+ Pax they offer a discount of 15%, thus just charging R5,780 per person
(Photography: Deep-sea underwater photos of can be sourced for R500 extra per person).

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