DIVE INTO CLEAN, COOL WATERS
Words & Photographs: JYOTHY KARAT
GREAT FROM Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Bangalore
GREAT FOR A crash course in scuba diving
Scuba diving can be a life-changing experience. And it is indeed addictive. If you haven’t done scuba diving before, and are planning a trip to international waters, why not pick up (or hone) diving skills on home ground right here in India? You read that right. Tarkarli, a Malvani village in Sindhudurg, is home to a state-of-the-art, effortlessly-efficient scuba diving centre. So do yourself a favour right now. Book tickets to Tarkarli for your next weekend and sit back with a smug smile, because this is the best time to discover scuba diving or to become a certified diver.
The Indian Institute of Scuba Diving and Aquatic Sports (IISDA) is perhaps the best training facility you can find on the Indian mainland right now. Nestled between Tarkarli Beach and the backwaters, the newly-opened facility offers scuba-diving sessions to people of all levels of expertise along with lodging. If you’ve never dived before, sign up for the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) programme. You’ll have a pool session with an instructor prior to your dive in the ocean in which you’ll be given a brief introduction to scuba diving and safety measures. The pool at the IISDA is something to marvel at. It dips to a whopping 7.5m with underwater murals you could gape at (selfie-op alert!) and has suspended rings large enough for a person to pass through. You could invent your own games or simply test your buoyancy skills with the help of these rings. What this depth also means is that you can get a feel of what it’s like to be in the open waters. Your instructor will show you how to equalise pressure as you descend.
If you are diving with the IISDA, expect to be pampered. The cheerful staff makes sure all your gear is sparkly clean and ready for your dive the following day. A swanky speedboat picks you up from the jetty to take you to the dive site, Vengurla Rocks, about 45 minutes away. If not for the hot vada pav distributed by the staff on the boat, it’s easy to forget that you are in India. At a glance, the Vengurla Rock Island looks like someone dumped a pile of rocks in the middle of the ocean and decided to stick some toy buildings on it. Although the old lighthouse (which the locals claim was built by the Portuguese) and the few buildings on the island look abandoned and bare, the new lighthouse in a vibrant red and white looks gorgeous against the lovely blue ocean. This is where you’ll jump in, escorted by an instructor. The dives are vastly influenced by weather conditions. Visibility could be an abysmal 3m at the bottom and you might have currents and waves on the surface, but, if you’re lucky, you could find a few blue ring angelfish inspecting your nose underwater – they’re curious about strange bubble-emitting creatures in their home. Be respectful, stay still and resist the urge to pick up a gorgonian coral or a shell for your souvenir collection.
When you return from that first dive, take a stroll down pristine Tarkarli Beach and ponder over the vast blue mystery that’s spread in front of you. You now have a chance to get to know its secrets. Grab it while you can.
From activity timings, stay options to loo stops, find all the practical information you need to plan this trip now – in LPMI’s April 2015 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter