Deep down under
The adventures of becoming a certified scuba diver at Pondicherry in four days
After a few snorkelling trips in Thailand, Malaysia and a couple of dives in the Great Barrier Reef, I had been itching to do a scuba diving certification course for a few years, but somehow, could never dedicate four days to it on any of our travels. This time, as my birthday and our anniversary gift, my husband agreed to take care of our child while I went diving.
There was not much planning to do. Pondicherry is just two hours away from Chennai. We started at 5 a.m., and after navigating through a few narrow lanes, we reached the Temple Adventures’ centre by 7 a.m. I was taken aback, since the place looked no bigger than a house! There was a 6x4x5-feet tank at the entrance and two rooms to store diving gear, a simple reception and a small area where scuba gear was sold. Some paperwork later, I started day one with videos and quizzes. It got better from there onwards. There was one confined pool session in the same tank at the entrance. Initially, I was a little nervous, but my instructor was very patient. I guess I was a lot better at the end of an hour.
Day two centred on practising the rest of the skills in a swimming pool that was a 15-minute drive from the centre.
On day three, I was taken to scuba dive in the sea. We assembled our gear, loaded it onto a boat, and took a 30-minute boat ride to the diving spot. There were three more people with me on the boat. The site was 18 metres deep. The current was very strong. Hence, we were instructed not to let go of the rope at any point of time.
The diving spot, an artificially created reef, is home to several marine species. The visibility was around six to eight metres. We saw many large groupers — one of them weighing as much as 60 kg and measuring a metre-and-a-half in length — lionfish, barracudas, morays, angelfish, bannerfish and, of course, the instructor’s face, as every 30 seconds we had to demonstrate some new skill. Many a time, one of us would be disturbed, either to clear our masks or to manage buoyancy well. But all was well-handled, and the three of us came to the surface alive. We did two dives and I returned tired, tanned and confident about my diving skills. We had two more dives in the sea on day four. It was a Sunday and around 25 people were diving that day. There were six instructors and six boats.
Fifty per cent of them were doing fun dives, and the rest were doing one of the certification courses. The sea was very rough and it took a lot of time to set the anchor and get started with our dives.
We saw some more marine life and demonstrated the rest of the skills that were a part of the course. At around 12:30 p.m., we returned to the centre and I got my certification.
Pondicherry is one of the best places to head to for your diving certification due to its proximity to Chennai and Bangalore. You need not book flights or make elaborate plans, as the city offers you plenty of hotels to choose from.
Besides, the course rates here are good and there aren’t many distractions that prevent you from dedicating four days to diving.