When thinking of India spices, tigers and cricket are the things that spring to mind. India a country steeped in ancient religion and mythology is quickly being recognised as a top diving destination and home to some of the most spectacular and diverse diving.
With something to offer each diver, from the coast to coast, there are dive sites and centres popping up all over the place. Although the industry here is still in its infancy the centres that are doing it, are doing it right.
India offers everything. From fresh water diving and shipwrecks in Goa, Maldive like conditions and large game fish on the reefs of Lakshadweep (special permission required), to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. For each of these diverse diving destinations there are a number of centres that will take you on your first journey into the underwater world on their nursery sites.
Sadly much of the Indian coast line has been badly affected by bleaching, however the fish life on these reefs more than make up for the lack of coral life. On the shallower reefs one can expect to find fields of anemones closely guarded by their tenants, pipe fish, morays and the juvenile harlequin sweetlips, which will entertain you with their bum wiggle dance for as long as you care to watch. Not to mention the chance of seeing what the legends of mermaids are made of… Dugongs.
For divers who are already qualified. It is from the 20m + mark that the diving becomes really breathtaking; swarms of goldies, barracuda schooling mid-water, massive napoleon wrasse, turtles and rays. Tiny hingbeaks and mantis shrimp all set against a back drop of the most amazing colours.
To experience the best of what India has to offer it's recommend to have an advanced qualification and nitrox, both of which the surrounding centres will be happy to facilitate.
The currents range from non existent to very strong and most dives are made from local fishing boats called 'dungies'. These have been specially modified to accommodate divers and their equipment. Due to the distance to of some of the sites and the very relaxed pace of these boats, most dives are two tank dives and your day is spent either diving or lounging around the boat waiting for the next dive.
Many of these reef systems have yet to be explored and have for a long time been closed to tourists. Many centres offer exploration dives where you can get involved in finding and diving brand new sites.
India is as colourful below the water is it is on land and well worth a spot on your itinerary.
(By Nadia Cooper)