“I am going Scuba diving!”
Every time I mentioned this to someone, they would ask – “Where? Andamans? (or some other exotic location?)”
When I told them Netrani Island near Murdeshwar, I wasn’t surprised that no one had heard of this place. I had not until a few months back. So, I took it on me to let as many people as I can know of this amazing place & the wonderful experience it offers.
Netrani Island is in the Arabian Sea, a little over an hour’s boat ride from Murdeshwar. Murdeshwar, is a 3 hours’ drive (160 kms) from Mangalore or about 9 hours (512 kms) from Bangalore.
Travel tip: Few airlines offer direct flights from major cities to Mangalore, while many others have connecting flights.
The planning started a couple of months back, when I decided to strike out another item on my bucket list – scuba diving. Did my research, spoke to friends, made the bookings and we (my brother and I) were ready to go.
We took an early morning flight (Spicejet – 7.05AM) from Hyderabad to Mangalore, and spent the first half of the day getting to and walking around the (surprisingly) pristine Panambur beach. As the day grew warmer, we stopped wandering around and decided to head to the train station. Shortly after we were on our way to Murdeshwar on Matsyaganda Express, that departs from Mangalore Central at 2.35 PM.
The pristine Panambur beach
Enjoying the waves
Travel tip: There are 4 trains from Mangalore to Murdeshwar. You also have the option of taking a bus from Mangalore to Bhatkal, from where you can take an auto or cab to Murdeshwar (20 minutes’ drive).
Murdeshwar is a temple town, known mostly for the second tallest statue of Lord Shiva. Frequented mostly by devotees, the temple & statue are right next to the beach, ensuring travelers are not just spiritually satisfied, but also visually. The small town has many hotels, with per night costs as low as 400, to a few thousands. We stayed at Dhenu Atithya, which was a 5-minutes walk from the beach and temple. It was a decent hotel, with comfortable rooms (though my brother was disappointed that it didn’t have a swimming pool).
Temple by the beach
Post checking into the hotel, we headed to the beach, and spent the evening there, enjoying the evening sea breeze.
Next morning, we were back at the beach by 8, as instructed by our contact at ‘West Coast Adventures’. West coast offers various packages for scuba enthusiast, depending on how much you want to learn. My brother and I were the only ones there for DSD (Discover scuba diving), while 15 others were there for an Open water diver certification, which spans over 2-days.
After helping get all the equipment on the boat, we were on our way to Netrani island. During the boat ride, we did the crash course on scuba 101 – Signals to use underwater, breathing through our mouth using the equipment, equalizing the ear pressure, and pumping water out from our goggles, without taking them off. The instructions did make us feel a tad bit nervous, but we sure were excited as well.
After dropping off the ‘experienced’ divers, my brother and I suited up, and got the final set of instructions. We then jumped into the water, and did a dry (not really) run of all the instructions given earlier. And then we dove.
Both of us were accompanied by an instructor each, and they helped us navigate through the water (it’s perfectly fine if you don’t know swimming, since the instructor will be holding on to you all along). We were lucky that it was a bright day, and the water was crystal clear. As we went lower, we were treated to amazing visuals – fishes of different sizes, colors and even shapes. We must have seen a few thousand in the 40 minutes that we were down there!
An interesting one!
The corals were beautiful, and the marine life amazing. The breathing took some getting used to, and we had to be conscious about breathing in and out (it’s interesting how we take breathing for granted otherwise). We went to a depth of around 11-12 meters (36-39 feet) and almost touched the bottom of the sea. Keith, my instructor, made sure I was comfortable as we kept going lower, and helped create memories to take back by shooting videos and photographs on his GoPro.
Few of many
40 minutes later when we came back to the surface, we felt satiated, and amazed – Satiated with the experience, and amazed that it’s the “Same planet…different world” (tag line of West Coast Adventures)
We were soon on our way back, and at around 4 PM we were back in Murdeshwar. West coast took good care of us by offering snacks and (non-alcoholic) beverages en route. The instructors and crew were highly professional and courteous. Had a great experience with them!
Travel tip: Visit westcoadventures.in or call them on +91 705 706 6669 and book your slots early.
The return journey the next day took us a tad bit longer – got to Bhatkal, took a KSRTC bus to Mangalore, and then flew back to Hyderabad (Indigo this time!)
In the movie ‘Zindagi nah milegi doobara’, Laila, the character played by Katrina Kaif, talks about how scuba diving is like meditation for her. I couldn’t agree more! Being conscious of your breathing, being in the moment and at peace…it’s as close to meditation as I have been.
So, if you are planning to experience scuba diving, and can’t afford a trip to Andamans (or some other exotic location) …actually, even if you can, you must give this place a shot. You will come back with memories you will cherish a lifetime.