September 2010 & February 2011
Diving in India
Baga Beach & Bagmallo Beach, Goa
In the mainland, or India as we all know, diving is relatively under-developed. Andaman & Nicobar islands on the east cost is so far away that few people even recognize it as India until a few years ago. During the past few years however, with the private sector opening up in aviation, you have daily flights to Port Blair now, the capital. From Port Blair, you have to travel further by ferry to hit Havelock and the areas around it, which has the best diving spots in India, and on par with the beauty of Malaysia. Selected as one of CNN’s 10 best places to dive in the world, Havelock is an exciting location, one I intend to travel to soon. Will fill in my experiences then as I don’t have much information about Havelock now, other than what is available online.
Goa on the west coast has about 4 or 5 dive shops, all of them based along the beaches, but not in anyway comparable to the scale in Malaysia, the reason most probably being that diving is hardly developed as an industry here. The experience also leaves you with not much of a memory, as most of the time, the whole diving experience is just about 4 hours in the morning. So unless you go with a group of friends and have an agenda for the rest of the day, the dive trip can be quite a lonesome experience, as it was for me. There are no ‘dive resorts’ here, and dive shops are very small with hardly any place to socialise with fellow divers. The atmosphere of a good dive trip does not develop mostly due to the lack of time. The visibility is an entirely different experience altogether, the best visibility is worse than a real bad day in Malaysia… just kidding, but its nothing to write home about.
My first dive was totally disorienting, and I was more intent on watching my buddy to avoid getting lost than being to look at anything. The wreck there, dive spot called Susie’s Wreck is quite large and interesting, and also buzzing with good aquatic life. Sadly, the wreck is about the only dive spot in the area, so in the 2 trips I had taken there with different dive shops, I had dived in the same spot more than 4 times. There may be other dive spots which dive shops may go out to, but in my trips, there seemed to be nothing more. So, there may not be much to go back to, nor a place where you could take say a week dive holiday. But otherwise, it is a place you can always try out, so you have an experience of different diving conditions.
Another location to go diving on the west coast I heard, is close to Mangalore, an island off the town of Murudeshwar, called Netrani or Pigeon island. I have not made an excursion there yet, but dive trips can be organised with dive shops in Goa who usually take on a group as a excursion. Please check if the organisation conducting the trip have proper PADI recognition and has the required certified instructors. There may be operators without proper certifications operating out of Bangalore or Mangalore, which is not recommended, especially if you are a first time diver. You will need to have a small group of 4 to 5 guys/girls, then head out to Goa, and work out a deal with some of the experienced dive shops there.