“Diving is diving and don't judge the waters. It is always great to put yourself underwater and just breathe”. Have heard this statement so many times from so many people but never really believed it. Always thought you need to travel to these exotic destinations that you hear about or see on someone else's Facebook wall. In order to pursue this sport, we too have spent huge amounts of money traveling and diving in various parts of the world. Definitely no complaints on that but we have never considered India as great diving destination. Yes, when we did talk about India and diving, it was only the Andaman & Nicobar Islands or Lakshadweep. Both not very easily accessible and at the same time quite expensive to get to. All of that built into the idea that SCUBA is an expensive sport and also exclusive sport. We were so wrong..
I can now shamefully say, it was just our ignorance. Both Karthik and me had heard about the diving in Murudeshwar many years back. But the political issues there and the ban on diving just made us believe that it was never a great place to visit and hence, we never made the trip though it was in the same state and just a bus ride away.
Early this year, we did talk about going diving in Murudeshwar but never got down to planning it. Until, we spoke to our dear friend Keith who runs the operation - West Coast Adventures. They are one of the 3 Govt appointed, dive centres who operate in Murudeshwar. Keith was kind of enough to call us so many times but we always delayed going there. Finally, when we did decide to dive in Murudeshwar, it was the end of the diving season and 2 of the dive operators had already closed operations for the season. The only company that were operating for another few days was Nethrani Adventures run by Senior PADI Instructor Andy Stone Bridge and Dive Master Ganesh.
Well, diving is diving and going by that principle, Karthik and me booked our dives with Nethrani Adventures and took our sleeper (Washing Machine) bus ride to Murudeshwar. We were expected to arrive at 6:30 am, check into our hotel and then head to the dive centre at 8:45 am. The bus reaches at 8 am. So, we had to rush to the dive centre so that the boat does not leave with out us. A quick wash, change and in half hours time, we were en-route to Nethrani Island ! With us were Andy, Ganesh and 5 Discover SCUBA guests. All excited and ready for the adventure ahead. A quick check on the GoPro to make sure we were ready to get some new footage. Damn! its not charged….never bothered to check until we were on the boat, half way to Nethrani… genius at work.
Anyways, an hours slightly bumpy boat ride and we arrive at Nethrani Island! Quick gear check and we were ready to go in… Now is the time to spill the beans on this one… So en-route to the island, when I told Karthik that I had not charged the GoPro, he told me don't worry the footage wont be anything better than dipping it in a bucket of muddy water. In a strange way, I thought that is how it would be too. How wrong were we….As we reached the dive site, we noticed that the visibility had changed dramatically from the Murudeshwar beach. The water was crystal clear and we could actually see the bottom of the ocean floor. Before I realised, Karthik was already in the water and kitting up on the surface. Think he was totally stunned seeing the viz. He even told Ganesh that he is going under and waiting for everyone. Excited !
The dive site was called Pebble Beach. Amazing! As we descend, we realise what a fabulous topography this site has. Rock formations typical to that of an island. Huge boulders stacked together with abundant coral life. The site was not deeper that 15-17 mtrs. But sure was exciting with loads of fish life, critters and huge eels. Not to mention the 20 mtrs visibility. It was quite strange and interesting to see that all the life here was enlarged and BIG. May be the fact that 3 years of the diving ban, may have actually helped. May be.. But everything was huge and flourishing. So glad to see. I had never see a Honey comb Moray Eel that big. At least 3.5 mtrs long. Healthy fat fella. Eels, scorpion fish, groupers, lobsters and many more reef fish have made this site their home. All thriving!
Our shallow and easy dive at pebble beach lasted for an hour and 10 minutes. We got back up to the boat totally thrilled and impressed with what Nethrani had offered us. This was just one of their many sites. A quick surface interval and we were raring to go in for the next dive. The next site was called ‘The Wall’ and Andy promised to lead us on this dive to show us the famous Napoleons that inhabit these waters. We dived in and followed Andy. A bit of current we had to swim against and we reached the end of the wall, where we saw a few massive Napoleon Wrasse swimming along and taking a glimpse at us too. A quick turn around and with the current we headed back to our boat. On our safety stop, we had Barracudas swimming along side us. Never seen them so close.
When we surfaced, the boat was a quite a distance away, but they spotted us quickly and picked us up. As the sea was getting a bit rough we all had to quickly try and get on board, The captain was struggling to keep it steady. Anyways, all of us were back and extremely thrilled… what fantastic dive sites..and what an experience… with just 2 dives, I don't think we have done any justice to this place. I think we need at least a week of diving around this little island called Nethrani …Cannot wait for the season to start again and Karthik and me know for sure we are going to be back and how!
Last but not least, did I mention that the DSD guests who were waiting on the boat for us to finish our second dive, saw a Whale Shark swim by …… I don't want to mention anything more… cause you can guess how we felt about that …. :) Lesser about that... the better…
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