Think of adventure in India and the mighty Himalayas are the first thing that come to mind. While centers for trekking, rafting and paragliding are easily accessible in the hills and foothills, scuba diving here is something that is perceived to be relatively new and accessible only in a couple of places. (I mean you’d probably think of Thailand or Philippines while diving right?!)
Scuba or Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, of course, requires the diver to carry a breathing apparatus under water. This is what gives her/him the flexibility of movement and lets her/he stay underwater and see underwater sights.
Although India boasts of long coastline with a few islands scattered across in the surrounding ocean, it has never been on the map for divers globally. There are some pretty amazing dive sites though all along the southern part exposed to the sea, for those willing to explore and some not even been discovered yet. (And yes! That means you get to name the new dive sites!)
The Andaman and Nicobar experience
Stretching over a length of 700 km in the blue waters of Bay of Bengal, this union territory consists of 572 small islands. Thirty-six of these remain inhabited. Home to one of the richest coral reef ecosystem in India as well as the world, Andamans makes diving an inimitable experience for everyone. You get to dive at the foot of a volcano! (Read this fascinating post on my diving experience in Andamans)
While Havelock Island attracts the bulk of tourists, other diving spots on the island include Cinque Island, North Point, Corruption, Fish Rock and the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor. These are only a few of the many places where one can sight black corals, schooling fusiliers, banner and unicorn fish, dolphins and a host of vibrant, colourful corals. Pelagics like Manta Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays and Reef Sharks can be found in plenty. Even the rare Whale Sharks have been spotted here!
Alien tip: The best season for diving is from December to April.
The Lakshadweep experience
Fast emerging as a tourist destination, Lakshadweep has a water sports institute in Kadmat Island. This institute offers a host of water based activities along with scuba diving. The wild and adventurous have an option of either going to Kadmat or Kavaratti. Although Kadmat, Bangaram and Agatti are the only islands open to international tourists, Lakshadweep is now planning on opening up more islands for both, international and domestic tourists. Brilliant news! The natural coral reefs, lagoons and attractive marine life remain a hit amongst the visitors.
Alien tip: The main tourist season goes on from October to May. Agatti and Bangaram can be visited throughout the year.
The Goa experience
We all know what Goa is famous for. But to think that it is limited to only the beaches, alcohol and snacks with good food and music would be an injustice. While the limited underwater visibility does not make scuba diving a world class experience, there is a huge amount of underwater life that can amaze even the most proficient of all divers. Apart from the sharks, sting rays, jellyfish and unique coral formations, divers can also come across some shipwrecks. Although, very few have been found and explored.
Alien tip: The main tourist season starts in October and goes on till March. However, prices seem to drop considerably in the months of March to May because of the rising temperatures.
The Netrani experience
Netrani is a tiny island located in the Arabian Sea, located off the coast of Karnataka in the south of India. Situated 20 km from Murudeshwar, this island, is considered as the best diving spot accessible from mainland India. The place is also famous for drift dives and the Bhatkal shipwreck, a Japanese iron ore carrier. A few lucky souls have the opportunity of spotting whale sharks and orcas! Pelagics such as barracudas, tuna, jacks, trevally, fusiliers and corals though are commonly spotted.
Dive expeditions to new sites in Malvan and Tarkali, in the state of Maharashtra, are also organised although a lot needs to happen to make it a suitable site for environmentally sustainable diving. The dive sites here are primarily Sindhudurg fort, Vengurla rocks and Devbag Sangam. These sites are a little deeper than those in Goa but are teeming with large schools of fish.
Alien tip: October – May is open for all water activities and is considered the best time for tourists to visit.
The Pondicherry experience
A quaint little town on the East coast of India, Pondicherry is best known for it’s French colonial history – the road signs are in French, the people speak fluent French, and you’ll find French cuisine in a lot of restaurants! And it is probably the only place on the eastern coast of India suitable for scuba diving. The best thing is that the diving is all-year round. So if you can’t wait for your next dive and all the nearby sites are closed, this is the place to head!
Alien tip: February-April and September-November are best for visibility although as I mentioned before, diving is all year round here.
I was mesmerised by the sensation of being weightless and seeing nature in an unimagined form. Such was the intensity of engagement with the coral reefs and marine life in its uniquely primitive state. As I look back, I realise that I can say all this as an after thought, but actually on my first dive, I was just somewhere else!