Humankind has achieved various feats in the exploration of our planet, having reached where only a few of us could have imagined reaching. From the Mariana Trench to the Moon, we have been successful in finding out the treasures of the world we live in. But there remains an important fact that even though 71% of our ‘Blue Planet’ is covered with water, only 5% of the ocean floor has yet been explored. Considering the immense difficulties that come with underwater exploration, this number, albeit small, is quite something and it is needless to say that scuba diving has played an important role in these explorations. Whether done recreationally or vocationally, scuba diving as a sport helps divers to be up close with marine species that one might have only seen in movies, read about in books or perhaps never have imagined existed! There’s perhaps no better joy than knowing the unknown and being able to get up close and personal with an absolutely different kind of world under water.
SCUBA is an acronym for ‘Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus’. It is a method of underwater diving wherein an external supply of breathing gas is carried by the diver inside the water to be able to breathe underwater. First developed by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan in the 1940s during the Second World War, scuba diving is different from other forms of diving like surface-supplied diving and breath-hold diving where the breathing gas supply is either not used at all, or not taken along underwater. Scuba diving still differs from snorkelling- a sport where external breathing gas is not used. Where snorkelling lets you see the marine universe, scuba diving lets you be a part of it. After all, it has been well said that the best way to observe fish is to become one!
Diving has been an important sport especially for food and trade and can be traced back to the very beginning of time, ever since the human could swim. But scuba diving as we know today is mostly thanks to modern warfare and was developed by the two Frenchmen for the French Navy during World War II. At least something good came out of the world wars!
Today, most coastal parts of the world provide scuba diving and scuba diving in India is itself filled with tremendous opportunities. While scuba diving in Goa is the most popular, the waters there now are unfortunately slowly losing their charm due to pollution and over tourism. Scuba diving in Andaman has now started gaining momentum and the islands offer some of the best coral reefs and biodiversity, making it one of the best places for scuba diving in the world.
Best Places for Scuba Diving in India
The first thought that comes to most minds after listening to ‘Goa’ is hip beaches, breathtaking sunsets, insane parties in the nights and even insane adventures during the day! Goa is a haven for those seeking to turn up the notch of their vacation just by a little and indulge in some blood pumping activities. In India, perhaps the most popular destinations for recreational divers is Goa where there are several private tour operators that provide fun dives. North Goa, in particular, is famous for its diving spots, with companies like Barracuda Diving India, Dive Goa and Scuba Diving India offering some of the best experiences in the region.
ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS
The azure waters of the Bay of Bengal surrounding the Andaman and Nicobar Islands offer marine biodiversity unmatched in the entire world. Looking at the calm and crystal blue waters of the island, it can be mind-boggling to know that there is a whole other world living and breathing under it! From rich coral reefs to exotic marine species, it is no surprise then that these islands, especially Havelock, are a haven for divers all around the world. Companies like Dive India, Laccadives and Andaman Bubbles offer some of the best scuba experiences in the islands. Some of the most widely seen species in the waters surrounding Andaman include grey reef sharks, white tip sharks, silvertip sharks and hammerheads.
Scuba diving in Lakshadweep is perhaps as mesmerising as it gets in India. Since the island is relatively less explored than Andaman and sees fewer tourists per year, the waters here are some of the most pristine in the world. Lakshadweep offers a bounty of exotic marine life including vibrant corals, turtles, tropical fishes, coral sharks and rays. Some of the best known institutes for scuba diving in Lakshadweep are in Kadmat and Minicoy Islands.
Pondicherry is lesser known for its dive spots and more for its commercial tourism but the waters surrounding this small region are said to be great for diving. Apart from the artificial reefs here, other exotic species like manta rays, moray eels, lionfish and sea snakes among many others are not an uncommon sight.
Best Time to Go Scuba Diving in India
The best time for scuba diving in India varies upon the location of the diving. For most of the East Coast, the best time is mostly between January to May and especially the March to May window is considered to be absolutely ideal for diving. October to April is considered to be the perfect diving months in the West Coast.
Scuba Diving Courses and Certifications
The two most well-known scuba diving certifications around the world are SSI and PADI. SSI stands for Scuba Schools International and PADI is an acronym for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. The basic difference between SSI and PADI is that SSI requires its Dive Masters to be affiliated with a physical store whereas PADI Dive Masters can teach independently, without a store as well. The SSI certification is recognised by 110 countries and PADI certification is recognised by 183 countries and territories around the world. However, India only recognizes PADI. Where PADI focuses on reaching larger groups, SSI gives preference to smaller groups and smaller teacher to student ratio.
Other well-known scuba diving certifications and organisations in the world include International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS), National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) etc.
SCUBA DIVING COURSES
There are a number of both PADI courses and SSI courses for scuba diving in India and each of these levels or courses enable the diver to reach different depths and difficulties underwater. The most popular of these are the basic open water diver course wherein the divers learn to dive up to a depth of 18 meters. The advanced diver course teaches diving up to 30 meters. Other diving courses include rescue diving wherein divers are taught to prevent and solve problems underwater, as well as master diving which enables the diver to help share their love for scuba with others by teaching them the know-how of this sport.
Other courses offered by PADI include Adventure Diver, Boat Diver, Altitude Diver, AWARE Shark Conservation, Cavern Diver, Deep Diver, Digital Underwater Photographer etc.
Scuba Diving Career Options
Scuba diving is a sport that has immense career prospects ranging in various fields. The most common is working as a Divemaster in the recreational diving industry. Another common career option is in commercial diving where divers are paid for a host of services including cleaning boat hulls to welding pipes. One can also consider getting into public service including the navy, coast guard, marine patrol etc.
Apart from these, there are of course a wide range of jobs in the research and science side of things where divers can work with marine biologists, marine researchers etc. With the plastic menace reaching new heights (and depths) and invading our beloved ocean, not only does this career opportunity come with a wide scope, but also with immense respect and nobility.