Diving Into the Blues
Planet Earth, is recognized as the “Blue Planet” for the obvious reason that more than 70% of its surface is covered in water. It not only covers a majority of the surface of the earth but also harbours majority of earth’s life forms. Though playing a very significant role in human life and biodiversity, the amount of attention it receives is much lower than what it deserves.
Veteran Traveller and Photographer Nanda Kumar and his son Rithesh explore the underwater world and capture its marvels.
Water, a basic necessity for all, pouring down upon us as rain, flowing as rivers, joining the sea, lashing the shores as waves, is a gift to planet earth. One that we must embrace and protect today. Water is the lifeline of humanity and water bodies house plethora of creatures that we barely know of… This underwater world, still so alien to man needs to be explored and studied in finer detail. It is sad that we fuel studies about outer space exponentially more than we encourage study about the underwater ecosystem.
Diving, more popularly known as Scuba Diving has enabled us today to venture into these virgin spaces and make new discoveries.
SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and was first conceptualized by Jacques-Yves Cousteau which enabled us to dive into the depths and this revolutionized the way we enjoy the underwater paradises. Scuba Diving since then has come a long way and has helped explore and create awareness among people about the marine ecosystem around the world, so much so that certain parts of some countries such as Maldives, Indonesia, Palau etc. are majorly dependent on Diving as their primary source of income. Today’s technological advancements have only made it more economically feasible for the common man, safer to use and enjoyable.
Scuba Diving as an Adventure Sport has rapidly gained popularity around the world and has become a favourite recreational sport among Indians.
How does it work?
Scuba Diving requires a special set of equipment to mainly enable us to breath underwater. Which naturally means that we carry a cylinder of Air, contrary to belief that we carry oxygen, the content of the cylinder is generally just normal air which contains 21% oxygen. Several other mixtures of gases are also available which are termed as ‘Nitrox’. This compressed air in the cylinder is made available for breathing by a set of apparatus called the regulator which makes the air available at the right pressure for us to breath.
Scuba diving requires us to remain underwater with a neutral buoyancy to ensure that we neither sink to the bottom not float up to the surface. Human body naturally is positively buoyant, which means that we would float on water and not sink. This positive buoyancy is compensated by carrying lead weights to help us stay at the bottom. In order not to sink, a buoyancy control device(BCD) is used to maintain neutral buoyancy underwater. The BCD is a simple jacket which houses an internal bladder which can be filled with air. This fine balance between the weights and the air in the BCD enables us to maintain neutral buoyancy underwater at all depths.
Talking about depths, diving does not permit us to dive as per our own will, it is required to keep a careful watch over the amount of air left in the tank and the depth we are at, we thus carry a depth gauge and a tank air pressure indicator to monitor the same.
Exploring the depths…
Don’t let the technicality of diving scare you, what we can tell you from our experience is that starting diving is one of the best descriptions that we have taken so far…
We ventured into diving about 6 years back. We still remember our first dive together in the Netrani Islands off the coast of Murdeshwar, Karnataka. It was a high that parallels none. The jolt of the first plunge into water makes you regret that you waited too long to do this.
The underwater world is a paradise in itself. Schools of fish racing past, a curious cuttlefish fish swims beside at a safe distance. A shadow creeps upon us as a school of barracuda swim past above us. It feels other worldly to experience and see it with our own eyes rather than on our TV screens.
We haven’t looked back ever since, we have always looked out for different places to dive and each place has been a thrilling experience. Best of our dives were in Maldives, swimming with numerous Manta Rays and in Tonga Island, snorkeling with Humpback Whales. It is not only these friendly giants that we look forward to see underwater. The marine ecosystem is heaven for Macro photographers and people who would love to appreciate the finer details in nature. We both enjoy shooting tiny fishes such as blenny or looking for Pygmy sea horses which are just about a centimetre or lesser in size. The Straits of Lembeh, Indonesia have been our personal favourite to hunt for these critters underwater. The joy of finding a Lembeh sea dragon (a member of the seahorse family, about 1.5cm large) among the muck is unmatched.
Diving has also involved a lot of risks for us, we have been stuck in currents too strong in Layang Layang while in pursuit of Hammerhead sharks, but the sheer pleasure in the pursuit outweighs the negatives.
As photographers, we partially started diving only to capture the wonders underneath. We have now come far from that and have now become divers first and then photographers underwater.
Underwater Photography has been a challenging genre of photography for us to purse at the same time very unique and niche too. We are now a family of underwater divers and photographers who follow the hobby passionately.
Diving in India
The diving community in India is rapidly on the rise with more and more people of all ages taking up this amazing hobby. With a long coast line, the possibilities are endless, but as yet undiscovered! At present diving is limited to just four dive destinations namely Goa and Pondicherry on the mainland and Andaman & Nicobar Islands off the East coast and Lakshadweep on the West coast.
Goa & Pondicherry
While rather limited in underwater visibility, both these destinations offer a reasonable variety of marine life and are great training grounds for those looking to get certified internationally. Goa, in particular, offers more than 60 species of fish, hard and soft corals, sponges and an amazing shipwreck all in very shallow and safe waters making it a perfect environment to learn the basics.
Andaman and Nicobar
572 Islands which house a vibrant array of corals all around them, offers hundreds of dive sites to choose from deep wrecks to caves and terrain with rocks or with coral reefs spread across miles.
Dive resorts are common around Havelock and diving these azure waters with enchanting fish life is a thrill to beginners and professionals alike.
Chidiya Tapu towards the south of Andaman’s houses the best possible dive sites around there and when in luck one might be lucky enough to spot a Manatee.
An extension of Maldives, they form a chain of exquisite coral islands rising steeply thousands of meters from the sea floor. Offering an amazing variety of hard and soft corals and marine life, they are the quintessential diver’s paradise with world class dive sites.
Fascination about the underwater world doesn’t cease to amaze us! We now make use of every chance we get to pack our bags and dive into the Abyss. We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to experience the best of both worlds.