Your dive guide to the Indian coast
Andamans and Lakshadweep are great, but if you find yourself craving for some quick underwater action, here's where to go
Tour & Taste
Ancient & HistOrical
If you live in Mumbai and are a diver, it's pretty much a daily heartbreak—water, water everywhere and not a sea to dive in. And while two worldclass dive regions are right within the country's borders, going to the Andaman Islands or Lakshadweep isn't always possible.
The good thing is that dive spots are opening up across the country's coast and while the visibility isn't, well, like what a Nusa Penida offers, if you want to brush up on your skills and acquaint yourself with the underwater residents of India, these might be good spots to take your dive gear to.
Jackson Peter, the managing director of Bond Safari Kovalam in Kerala, says diving activities began here five years ago. The place is now popular for watersports, with underwater scooters, kayaking, etc. Bond Safari Kovalam is a PADI-certified centre and Peter says, October to April is season time. However, off season, fresh water diving is available. Visibility on good days is seven to 10 metres. What you get to see: shoals of anchovy and silver moony, bluefin trevaly, the odd moray eel, puffer fish, groupers, box fish, sergeants, pipe fish, butterfly fish and rabbit fish.
Temple reef. Pic courtesy/Donarun Das
Don't care for the seasons? Try your hand at Puducherry, which Gail Doveas from Temple Adventures, a PADI dive centre, says, has several beautiful dive sites. "You can dive in Puducherry year-round. There are no seasonal fluctuations, the diving never stops here and it has 23 sites," she says, adding that some of the local favourites are Aravind's wall, Temple reef and Tex Mex. Aravind's wall is 40 metres deep and accessible only to advanced open water divers or those holding deep diver speciality certificates. The reason it's called the wall is because of the enormous rock formation that's 2.5 km long and runs from south to north. You'll find a vast population of gorgonian fan corals and whip corals. Marine life includes rabbitfishes, fusiliers, snappers, groupers, bannerfishes, and jackfishes. The prime attraction is the manta ray. The most interesting dive site at Temple Reef is the parking lot, which is a small wreck. It consists of a Maruti car, truck, bike, and some triangular metal structures. Here, you get to see batfish, trevallies, jackfish, groupers, snappers, Indian lionfish, stonefish, frogfish and octopuses.
Suzy's wreck, a British ship that sunk in 1942, is a site for the more experienced divers. Pic courtesy/Westcoast Adventures
It's season time here as well, so if you are planning a Goa holiday, it might be a good time to go visit Suzy. Jason Fernandes, of Westcoast Adventures, says first-time divers are taken to Suzy's wreck, which is a British ship that sunk in 1942. "There's a whole lot of marine life to look out for, ranging from tiny blennys and nudibranchs to big Malabar groupers and schools of groupers, snappers and surgeon fish," he adds.
Pic courtesy/Westcoast Adventures
Diving is so much about luck. If you are lucky, you get to see a humpback whale. And it's a train journey away. Murudeshwar is a quiet town on the coast of Karnataka, the highlight of which is the Murudeshwar temple and a 123 ft high statue of Shiva. Divers are taken to Netrani island 20 kilometres away. The visibility here is an average of 10 metres, but on a good day, it can even go up to 30 metres. The best time to visit is from October to end May (so you have some time). As a beginner diver, you have three dive sites to head to: Bomb rock, Pebble beach and Nursery. There's a reef on one of the dive sites which is nearly 70 metres long and filled with marine life. You get to see
octopus, groupers and reef sharks and if you're lucky, humpback whales, whale sharks and turtles. Experienced divers will be taken to a ship wreck and to the crevices in the island.
Madhava Reddy of PlanetScuba India says if one were to rate diving areas in India, Chennai would come second after Netrani. "There's no reef here; it's rocky boulders, but you get good visibility of five to 10 metres," he adds. Sea life includes barracudas and rare sightings of whale sharks. While you can dive through the year, December to February offers good visibility. Conditions of course, depend on the current. Recommended dive centres are Salty Bone Divers run by Meenal Bhandari (96267 38876) and DiveIndia by Vandit Kalia (email@example.com).
Before you go diving
. If you are on any kind of medication, you will need to get a clearance from your doctor. Take a letter along, so there's no last-minute disappointment.
. The diving season along the Indian coast lasts from October to April, except, as mentioned in Puducherry. Note these while making plans
. Most dive centres provide you with gear, but it's a good habit to ask before hand.
. If you are afraid of the water or the water, communicate to your dive instructor. Bravado is pointless in the face of the ocean.
. Want to get training before you head out? Contact Orca Dive Club (24921541) or Lacadives (26400434), which conduct pool training in the city regularly.
. Do check the ratings of the dive centres and how they rate on the safety scale before getting on the boat.
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