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Adventure sports are gaining momentum in our country and so we now often hear about friends and family who have tried rappelling, bungee jumping, surfing, parasailing, caving and SCUBA diving at various destinations in India. Being a travel and adventure sport enthusiast, I was bitten by the SCUBA diving bug five years ago. The experience of being underwater, to be weightless, to hear the sounds only of the creatures that call the sea their home and to see sights and underwater life that are so vibrant and amazing that they baffle the imagination is just a treat for the senses. One that has made me feel even closer to the ocean, a life giving force.
If you are wondering what SCUBA is all about, please click here. To help you plan a diving trip with your family in the country, this post will set you in the right direction to start your exploration into the big, beautiful blue.
For more information on the world of scuba diving and introducing your child to this exciting sport, mycity4kids talked to Anees Adenwala (a CMAS Two-Star Instructor as well as a PADI Open Water Instructor) about what all you need to know about Scuba Diving for kids. You can read that article here.
Before you plan a dive trip:
Ideally before you do a certification course (popular certification agencies include PADI, SSI, and NAUI) try the Discover Scuba Dive session which is a fun dive but with an instructor controlling everything. You just go for the ride. This allows you to decide if you are comfortable and how you feel about the equipment and with being in the water. You could do this at any of the dive destinations. You could also just try it out at a pool. For example, Lacadives, Orca Dive Club, Dive India and Scubalov offer SCUBA pool sessions in Mumbai.
The pre dive instruction typically includes topics like how to equalize, deal with mask recovery, getting water out of the mask, regulator recovery, alternate regulator use, hand signals etc. Once you are sure that you all are comfortable with the DSD then go ahead and plan a dive trip which could be to do some more DSDs but in the ocean where you will have access to coral reefs and all the life they offer, or to go ahead with a certification course towards being a recreational diver.
About the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Diver Course:
The PADI course consists of a confined water segment, which could be in a lagoon or shallow site in the sea or in a swimming pool. There is an element of classroom style followed by practical instruction in the water and videos. This is followed by a written exam. Ideally the exam should be done after reading the book completely rather than at the end of the two days. Then you do the 4 qualifying open water dives that happen in the ocean to a maximum depth of 12-15m. After you do the confined water followed by the exam, you are free to do the qualifying open water dives to get your certificate with any agency anywhere in the world. It does not have to be the same agency you do the confined water training with.
Where to go SCUBA diving in India:
The most popular destination is Andamans. This is because of ease of access with various airlines making daily trips into Port Blair from airports around the country. This tropical paradise has several dive sites many of which are comparable to spectacular sites anywhere else in the world.
WATER SPORTS COMPLEX PORT BLAIR
FERRY TO HAVELOCK
Port Blair is where you can spend a day or two sightseeing before heading by ferry, either government or private like Makruzz, to the popular Havelock Island where most of the dive shops are located. Havelock Island is one of the few spots where the administration has allowed and encouraged the development of tourism. Over the years, it has become a magnet for those who love the incredible shades of blue and green that the sea turns every day, the fresh air, lush green hillsides and forests, thick beach side foliage, white sand shores, local and Bengali food, and amazing visibility making it a superb option for divers.
The dive shops you should consider on Havelock include:
DIVE INDIA SHOP
OCEAN TRIBE DIVE SHOP
Other exciting ‘off the beaten path’ activities to do while at Havelock are:
KAYAKING WITH TANAZ NOBLE
RADHA NAGAR BEACH
Lacadives runs their dive shop from Chidiya Tapu which is about 17 kms south of Port Blair. This location is far from the touristy crowds and in close proximity to amazing rain forests.
LACADIVES DIVE SHOP
India Scuba Explorers has their dive shop on Neil Island a close ferry ride away from Havelock. Neil is not as busy as Havelock tends to be and has fewer options for accommodation, food and beverage but if it’s a quiet time with superb diving, under excellent teachers, in beautiful surroundings, that you crave then just head here.
An Andamans live-aboard experience
Try a completely unique experience by taking your family onto India’s only SCUBA diving live-aboard, the Infiniti. The concept here is that you stay on board the yacht that sails to various destinations. In this case the Infiniti would take you to dive sites not generally accessible when you stay on an island. The Infiniti is a 39m, all steel, four decked live-aboard promoted by Karina Tourism & Adventures. This live-board offers diving to remote locations such as Barren Island (the only confirmed active volcano in South Asia), southern islands, and Duncan Island.
The Infiniti is child friendly and has conducted several open water certification trips for Mumbai school children. On the yacht are qualified and experienced dive team members to take the children through various courses with the certification courses beginning for those 12+ years. Some of the activities organised for children include beach, island and island school visits, and the Andaman naturalist program that teaches them about the flora and fauna of the Andaman Islands. There are board games, videos, movies, books and reef fish guide books in the lounge.
For further information please click here.
The Lakshadweep tropical archipelago of 36 atolls and coral reefs is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The name Lakshadweep in Malayalam and Sanskrit means ‘A hundred thousand islands.’ Only a few islands are open to visitors (everyone requires a permit) and not all are inhabited. The dive centres at the islands are run by the Society for Nature Promotion and Sports (SPORTS) which is a society under Lakshadweep administration.
The key islands for SCUBA training, fun dives and water sports are Kavaratti, Kadmat, Minicoy and Bangaram.
KAVARATTI BUBBLE MAKER COURSE
While the dive sites are pristine and underwater life just exceptional, as it is not so easy to get to the islands, tourists tend to look at more hassle free destinations.
You can fly to Lakshadweep from Cochin to Agatti Island from where you either take a helicopter or the inter-island ferry to get to your island. You also have the option of taking any one of the ships from Cochin directly to the island you have booked to stay at. If you can book in time to block a cabin, then the journey is very comfortable and views of flying fish, dolphins, clean deep blue waters, sunset and sunrise, thousands of stars, and if you are lucky bioluminescence in the wake of the ship, all make the journey an unforgettable one.
SHIP TO LAKSHADWEEP
VIEW FROM THE SHIP
To know all about the packages, diving, island accommodation and more please contact SPORTS.
Murudeshwar is best known for its tall Shiva statue that towers above everything along the shore at the temple on the beach. It is also the base from where scuba divers can take a boat to head to Netrani to dive the sites around the island. This is an uninhabited island that has been used in the past for target practice by the armed forces. The topography underwater is quite interesting in addition to the amazing sea life. If you are very lucky you may spot an unexploded old bomb shell on the sand bed or even a whale shark. Get in touch with West Coast Adventures for a range of courses if you want to dive Netrani.
WATER SPORTS AT MURUDESHWAR
Tarkarli in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra is a very popular beach resort tourist town. There are spectacular beaches, great local food options, and water sports facilities on the back waters where the Arabian Sea and Karli River meet. SCUBA diving is offered by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). They also offer snorkelling trips to the sites around the Sindhudurg Fort.
TARKARLI BACK WATERS
While the visibility on dives in Goa is not as good as in Andamans or Lakshadweep, if you wanted to dive to get a feel of the SCUBA experience you could consider it. Diving happens at dive sites (including a wreck) located near Grand Island also called Grande, Grandi or Ilha Grao. Dive shops are located at various places in Goa and they will take you by boat to the dive sites. The closet boat ride out to the island is from Bogmalo Beach. While headed out to your dive you are likely to spot dolphins frolicking around.
Some of the dive shops are:
Pondicherry or Pondy may seem like an unlikely spot for SCUBA diving but there’s a dive shop that has set up India’s first and only east coast dive centre. That shop is Temple Adventures. They offer diving at over 20 sites and various courses for all levels.
When getting to Pondicherry other interesting places to check out enroute include the historic Mahabalipuram on the Coromandel Coast and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology. The Croc Bank, as it is known, is a large reptile park.
MADRAS CROCODILE BANK
In Pondicherry do go visit Auroville.
Barefoot Scuba has a brand new dive shop that is in Covelong, Kovalam, Chennai and they offer dive courses and fun dives to various sites around the area.
Temple Adventures also offers diving opportunities in the Bay of Bengal off the coast few kilometres from the shores of southern Chennai city.
When in Cochin if you want to experience SCUBA get in touch with Scuba Cochin Dive Team. While the dive shop is in the city, the dive site is a fresh water eight acre wide quarry with good visibility and abundant under water life. This company also offers the option of kayaking, snorkelling, and backwater expeditions.
Happy, safe diving!