Mysteries locked, species undiscovered, deep ends and a paradise laying under the bright blue waters – nope, this is not a supernatural place, the oceans are cryptic enough to pull you in and take you to a whole new world. How do you best explore this gigantic aquatic heaven? Diving. Yes, scuba diving is probably the best way to explore the big blue sea. And India happens to have some exotic locations where you can get all the right amount of doses of Vitamin Sea!
1. Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Andaman & Nicobar Islands surround itself with an enormous marine life. From more than 560 species of corals to rays, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and sea lilies – Andaman Islands offer a spectacular view of the vibrant aquatic life in its waters. The abundance of varied sea creatures and species never seen before attracts visitors, making it popular for underwater activities like scuba and snorkelling.
Popular Sites – Havelock Islands:
Andaman’s capital city, Havelock has numerous diving spots from where one can explore vibrant reefs, unique fish and exotic sea creatures.
1) AQUARIUM: Beginners can start here, a fringe reef spot where you can see hard corals and various colours of fish.
2) LIGHTHOUSE: If you want to get even more adventurous and explore the ocean in the night, this is a famous spot for night diving. Suitable for all levels of divers, this spot goes 6-20 meters deep where one can spot octopus, lobsters, lionfish and interesting species like the Humpback Parrotfish.
3) THE WALL: A certain Napoleon Wrasse who is believed to be very friendly to divers, along with Pufferfish and Lionfish are often seen circling the purple, red and yellow corals on ‘The Wall’.
4) BARRACUDA CITY: Remember the group of sea turtles from Finding Nemo? Well, you can spot some at ‘Barracuda City’ in Andaman!
Popular Sites – Barren Island:
Barren Island attracts visitors for its uniqueness above the ground and under the water as well. The island houses South Asia’s only active volcano. But under the smoke-mountain, in its crystal clear waters, one can see the exuberant coral growth.
1) MANTA BAY: You can find Manta Rays, iridescent corals, Sharks and Octopus at this diving spot.
2) CORAL PARADISE: Truly a paradise, one can find white and brown staghorn corals here.
3) PURPLE HAZE: One can see sightings of blue marlins, purple corals, fluorescent rocks and deep crevasses.
Popular Sites – Neil Island:
Divers can also find interesting spots in Neil Islands.
1) JUNCTION: Aptly named, this spot is located between Neil and Havelock and is frequented by blue spotted stingrays and sea stars.
2) MAGHARITA’S MISCHIEF: If you want to discover a maze underwater, this is where you’ll find yourself among maze boulders and dungeons. Here, you also get to spot the marine mammal – Dugong. Fun fact – They’re vegetarian and can stay underwater for six minutes, so sometimes to come up to the surface, they ‘stand’ on their tails!
Best Time: Most sites accessible all year long, however January – March and September – December is best for maximum exploration.
Cost: INR 3000 to 40,000.
Far below the noisy, touristy shacks and beaches, one can find tranquillity under the waters of Goa. The array of sea creatures may not be as exotic as Andaman, but Goa nonetheless has numerous spots where you can find plenty of fish in the sea ;)
Popular Sites – Grande Island
An hour away from the main city of Goa, the Grande Islands are where the adventure junkies gather! This island offers some exciting diving spots for beginners and experienced alike.
1) GRANDE BANKS: One can spot groupers and butterfly fish in the sandy patches of ‘Grande Banks’. 4-8 meters deep, this site is also popular for its whip and table corals.
2) BOUNTY BAY: Different species of lobsters, crabs and stingrays can be found here.
3) SHELTER COVE: Another popular diving spot, a channel takes you down to hundreds of fish.
4)DAVY JONES LOCKER and SUZY’S WRECK: These two shipwrecks are now turned to famous dive spots due to its visitors – big groupers and scorpion fish.
Best Time: October – April
Cost: INR 2,500 onward.
Colonial buildings, French croissants and the peaceful lifestyle calls out many to the beautiful city of Pondicherry. But besides the indo-international blend, delicious food, chic cafes and serene beaches, the city lures thrill seekers to dive into the deep ocean waters.
1) ARAVIND’S WALL: Out of the many scuba diving sites, Aravind’s Wall is getting increasingly popular among divers. The visibility here extends up to 40 meters and the site is divided into 12 parts due to its large area. The wall is where you can find Barracudas, Groupers, Lionfish, Rays and scattered corals. The sea currents at the site facilitate drift diving!
2) TEMPLE REEF: Who said reefs have to be natural? Temple Adventures, South India’s only PADI Certified diving centre created a man-made reef made from recycled materials like concrete blocks, iron bars, cars, scooters, palm leaves etc. This artificial reef is home to a wide variety of aquatic species like Malabar Grouper, Red Snappers, Humphead Batfish, Butterfly Fish, Moray Eels, Porcupine Puffer Fish and more!
3) COOL SHARK ROOF: If you’re okay with Sharks swim by you, Cool Shark Reef should be your dive spot.
4) TABLE TOP : Beautiful colours of fan corals cover the flat table-like site. Groupers, Snappers and Barracudas are other frequent sightings.
Best Time: October – May
Cost: INR 4,500 onward
Besides crescent beaches ornate with palm trees, some shacks and plenty of tourists – Kovalam gives you the thrill of experiencing life under water. The waters at Kovalam don’t have too many different dive sites, but it has one unique offering – a submarine! Well, not exactly a submarine, but a vehicle of your own. Bondi is an eco-friendly scooter that you can ride underwater. This one definitely requires you to wear a helmet which is more of an air-container. It is a one-of-a-kind experience! The next best thing for those frightened of scuba diving or snorkelling. Kovalam also has facilities for scuba diving across various levels. You’ll spot several schools of fish, ranging from Boxfish, Puffer fish, Sergeants, Silver Moony to Moray eels, anchovies and more!
Best Time: December – March
Cost: INR 5000 onward
Verdant forests, steep hills, and backwaters – away from the Karnataka as we know it, 19 Km from Murusdeshwar is the Pigeon Island, where life under is just as beautiful. Pigeon Island or Netrani is where one can find diverse marine life.
Popular Sites – Pigeon Island
1) GRAND CENTRAL STATION: With sightings of the big fish like Barracudas, Napoleon Wrasse, Groupers, Parrotfish and Snappers – this site is rightly called Grand Central! You can also spot the Olive Ridley Turtles resting on the sloping walls.
2) JENNY’S AQUARIUM: Rocks surround the walls of the dive that are frequented majorly by Moorish idols, Bannerfish, Butterflyfish and sometimes bigger fish like Napoleon Wrasse and Groupers. If you’re lucky, you’ll also chance upon sighting White Tip Sharks!
3) THE NURSERY: Gravelled bottoms and shallow walls house the tinies of the marine world. Mainly a breeding ground, at Nursery you can spot stonefish, honeycomb and nudibranch!
Best Time: October – May
Cost: 2,500 onward.
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