February 10, 2018

STAYIN’ ALIVE UNDERWATER

WORDS CHINMAY CHAUDHARY | PHOTOGRAPHY FINKICK ADVENTURES | UNDERWATER KSHITIJ MITTAL

PLUNGING BENEATH THE SURFACE, THE SILENCE FINALLY SETTLES, BEING BROKEN ONLY BY THE SOUND OF MY BREATH, THE BUBBLES BURSTING FROM MY LIPS. A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORLD! – CHINMAY CHAUDHARY

A GOVERNMENT ORGANISED DIVING FESTIVAL, A FIRST-TIMER WHO CAN’T SWIM, AND THE QUIET JOYS OF THE DEEP BLUE SEA. A LIBERATING FIRST HAND REPORT OF THE NETRANI SCUBA DIVING FESTIVAL

Lost! I was completely lost as I filled the declaration form which mentioned various parameters of the sport, the safety aspects and concerns. Meanwhile our motorboat was cutting water and entering deep inside the Arabian Sea from Murudeshwar towards Netrani island. I vaguely remember ticking those boxes, filling my name in and signing my affirmation for the dive. After all the forms were done with, we were then briefed about breathing techniques, underwater sign conventions and communication, which was later followed by individual demo sessions by the Finkick Adventure instructors (who organised our dives at Netrani). Netrani is a very small heart shaped island located roughly 10 nautical miles (19 kilometres) from the Murudeshwar beach in the Arabian sea.

Spending around an hour and half in the boat, we finally reached Netrani. Our clan had a few certified divers who had dived over a hundred times, and simply love the sport. They soon kitted up and started launching themselves underwater. Any person can become a certified diver by completing courses with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), SSI (Scuba Schools International) or CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques). The certifications also carry different levels to denote how experienced a candidate is underwater and the depths the diver is certified to reach.

What do the instructors do when you chicken out at the last moment of your turn to jump by yourself in the water? Without showing much love, they ask you to sit on the gunwale of the boat and push you in the water. Simple! “I can’t swim!”, I signalled to my instructor. “It’s recommended, though it’s fine even if you don’t,” she reverted and began deflating air from my jacket and we started descending underwater and I had my first ever encounter with live sea life.

Look, I’m not a history enthusiast and neither am I the type to go gaga over ruined architecture from half a millennium ago. That said, Hampi has got some cool structures that are worth taking a look at. Back in the 1336, Hampi was chosen to be the capital of the Vijayanagar empire by prince Harihararaya. It prospered for a few centuries and this city had over 5 lakh people residing there. Some say that it was the second biggest settlement in the world, after Beijing! It was a hub for trade with merchants from all over the world frequenting it, however this didn’t last forever. In the late 16th century, an alliance of the Deccan sultanate rulers ransacked the city and left it in ruins. No, I’m not fanning religious sentiments here, okay? Go read a history book. Facts are facts. There are plenty of temples scattered around the place including the famous Vittala temple and Virupaksha temple that are in close proximity to the main bazaar. But these are just the big ones and there’s also baths and all sorts of other medieval buildings.

Oh boy! Where had I come? So calm, so serene, so quiet. Plunging beneath the surface, the silence finally settles, being broken only by the sound of my breath, the bubbles bursting from my lips. A completely different world! For some reason, while diving, the stress stays at the surface. It’s just me and the tranquility. As we reached the sea bed, we witnessed a different kingdom, a plethora of underwater creatures; so untouched by mankind and still so close. Someone has truly said, “the best way to observe a fish is to become a fish”. No thoughts come in your mind, you are one with the ocean, with the fish, with the sheer soothing ambience of the surroundings. I didn’t want to go back up! Hard to narrate, harder to put in to words, hardest to share the experience.

I’d been underwater for 45 minutes and my oxygen was at its bare minimum, I had to go up. With a feeling of accomplishment of the otherwise easy task, I came back to the surface asking myself, so how was heaven? I might seem to be exaggerating a bit, but I guess that’s the effect diving has on a first timer. It’s also a completely safe sport to try at least once in your lifetime and it can be Diaddictive! As I sit at my desk in Pune, hammering out my diving experience, I am already planning my next dive, hopefully pretty soon.

About Netrani Scuba diving festival Netrani Scuba Diving Festival was a two-day event conducted on January 6 & 7, 2018. Sponsored by the Government of Karnataka, the event was organised by Finkick Adventures. The event hosted a beach clean-up activity led by the Versova beach clean-up team. Apart from scuba diving, the festival also organised shore walks, free diving seminars, a sea turtle awareness seminar, underwater hockey training, snorkelling, beach football and spikeball, an underwater photography exhibition and a couple of movie screenings for marine life awareness.

Getting there

AIRPORT – Fly In!

The nearest airport is in Mangalore, about 137km away from Murudeshwar. You can check-out Zoomcar for car rentals from Mangalore. You can also fly into Goa (212km) and rent a car/cab to Murudeshwar.

RAIL – roll In!

Murudeshwar railway station on the Konkan route, the closest station at 1.5km. You may also check trains upto Bhatkal (16km) or Honnavar (32 km).

ROAD – Drive In!

Murudeshwar is 8 hours from Bangalore, 5 hours from Goa and 3 hours from Mangalore.

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