25 Feb 2024  |   04:47am IST

A one-of-a-kind experience

Scuba diving is increasing in popularity with domestic as well as international tourists in Goa and the sights and sounds in the waters around the State will ensure it will remain a very popular place for novices as well as experienced divers
A one-of-a-kind experience

Ajit John

It is one of life’s great joys to try something that is interesting. Something that will keep you fascinated for the rest of your life. Diving is one such activity. Diving in Goa is an activity that is slowly growing in popularity and tourists from all over the world are increasingly diving in the waters around the State.

Sinjini Chanda, an operations manager, and an avid diver herself said it was the water and the freedom and peace that water brings. She said, “We live on a planet that is 75 percent water and that’s where most of life is.” Now an experienced diver, she started in 2017, learning the skill in Goa. She had learned swimming when she was less than a year old. She says she does not remember a time when she was not in water. She represented her home state, West Bengal, in various water sports and is a alumni of Calcutta University. She represented the University in rowing in the International University Regatta. She said she felt happier in water. Moving to diving, she said, was a natural progression. After a rather unenjoyable stay in Delhi, she moved to Goa in 2017. She became an instructor in 2019 and now as staff instructor she is considered a senior in the field. She is now a Padi Staff instructor. Padi is one of the foremost international agencies for dive training. 

However, diving in Goa has problems. According to Sinjini, there are various illegal operators in the game. She said it was possible to go paragliding, diving, jet skiing or on a banana boat for as little as Rs 2,500. These companies, she alleged, would take 50 people on a boat with 4 to 5 cylinders. Her company she said would usually take 6 people with 6 cylinders. They would not take more than 10 people diving in a day. Each dive had dedicated equipment and a fresh tank. It was an adventure activity and people were known to come up with ruptured ear drums. Sinjini said, “When it is done in an unsafe manner, it will be dangerous. Gas poisoning is a possibility and Lung damage is also possible when done dangerously. It is a safe activity when done properly.” She said people from all over the country come, this also includes a lot of international guests. The people come looking to get a good experience. The motivations were different. Some want to tick it off their bucket list. She teaches the course and one could look at it as a way of life. Some of them start learning and eventually become professional. That would take anywhere between 4 to 6 months. Diving was also a way to earn credits for universities abroad and some in India. A lot of people, she said, learn to make it a career. For any aspiring marine biologists, this was a great career skill set. Engineers today used physics and chemistry to revive reefs. Many were bringing their unique skill sets to revive the oceans.

For Elvina Menezes, who has been diving for two years, she was always interested in the water but had never got the opportunity. However, when it was presented to her she took to it and made the most of it. It was, she said, the most amazing thing there ever was. When she started off. the school was very accommodating and never cramped her schedule. She is now a full time diver with a 5-star Padi Instructors Development school in Anjuna. Elvina said she intends to do this for the rest of her life. She said, “The waters around Goa are safe and we are safe too. Not everyone who does scuba diving does it in a safe manner. Everything is so interesting underwater. I meet new people everyday. I swim with the fishes and I see things I would never imagine before. I have seen a lion fish, Scorpion fish and an angel fish to name a few. The sights are just unbelievable.”

People come into diving in different ways. For Isaiah Oliveira, it came courtesy his uncle. He had just completed his Class 12 standard exams and was contemplating his next move and his uncle suggested he try his luck at the school where they were looking for divers. He went for the interview and says looking back it was the best move he ever made. He started just after Covid-19 in September 2021 and certified as a dive master in 2022. He worked during the season as a dive master and is now certified as an instructor. He said his greatest joy was to teach his course earlier in the week and watching his student complete a skill successfully. He said it felt great to be a teacher. He was not a water baby as a child but he would go with his parents to Tambdi Surla and swim in the pools or go with friends to swim in a quarry. Life as a diver can bring about unexpected experiences. He is the only Goan to spot a Nudibranch, a snail underwater which has exposed lungs. This species can be seen in a few spaces around the world and not in Goa. He said, “Being underwater brings about a different sense of life. I love going to the wreck of a British cargo ship which sank in the 60’s. It is a great spot. It is disintegrating fast and will not be in existence in a couple of years. I intend to do this all my life and intend to be a course director, which is one of the highest courses in diving. I will do other things too but this will be the centre of my life.” 

For corporate executive, Nilanjana Mitra, it was her love for water that got her hooked. She started diving in 2014 and did her first certification in 2015. Being underwater, had a calm soothing effect on her. She said, “I love being underwater. There is so much to see underwater. You know what you are going in for but you will never know what you will see underwater. There are so many species of marine life. There is a lot of work that goes before a dive. I have just become a divemaster and I have dived over 200 times. Each dive is different. The ocean or the sea is different. A lot of times during the monsoons, we dive into a quarry because the sea is violent. Deeper the dive the visibility gets poorer.” She has travelled all over for diving. She said it all depended on what you wanted to see and plan accordingly. She did her open water and advanced open water course in Thailand in 2015-16. Since then she has been to the Maldives, Egypt, the Red Sea, Mozambique, Japan and Sri Lanka. 

Speaking about Goa, she said people come on holiday and discover diving is available in Goa and try it out as complete novices. There were options available. There was the Discover scuba diving if they did not have the time and were here for just a day. In it, one does need to know how to swim or have any experience. An instructor will hold the student all the time and they will do everything for him or her. The student will not have to worry about buoyancy or the functioning of the gear. But if you have 3 or 4 days, the student can then do the open water certification. Here someone will teach the student and and guide you and there is will be some theory you need to know. Then, two days will be dedicated to pool dives and tow days to open water dive. Goa, she said, had been attracting people for the beaches and the parties and people wanted something new.

Diving in Goa is certainly picking up in popularity and as more people take up the adventure sport, it will have to follow the rules and regulations that will ensure it remains a safe adventure sport. 

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar