Though it has been many months since my unforgettable Scuba Dive at Havelock Islands in Andamans, that thrill of being underwater was something that I still remembered. My resolve to do an independent dive remained as strong as when I made it after my first dive. I had already gleaned information about how to get certified for Scuba Diving from the Divemasters in Havelock. All that remained was to actually sign up for the PADI Scuba Diving Course. And that is what I went on to do.
With my announcement of having completed the PADI Scuba Diving course, came in a lot of congratulations and best wishes from all of you. Also, thrown in were questions on what were the requirements of such a course, where could one do it, what would it cost etc, And then, there were some who even wanted to know how it felt and if Netrani Islands, where I completed the course was worth it. Best to compile the answers all into this mega blog post on my personal experience with the PADI Scuba Diving Course at Netrani Islands along the coasts of Karnataka in India.
This post should serve you as a dual travel guide – one on how to get your scuba diving certification in India and the other guide on scuba diving at Netrani Islands. So, here goes –
Initial research on the Scuba Diving Courses in India
India or Abroad, there are basically two recognized diving courses – SSI (Scuba Schools International) and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). I will admit that I was familiar with only one – PADI for that is the name that I saw in most of the dive shops and resorts that I had visited. A little research into the whole system revealed that both the courses were almost similar in every aspect – costs, eligibility and even the course. The differences were minor. Talking to people, I realized that PADI was a little more popular than SSI. As is the case, Familiarity evokes trust and thus, PADI it was for me.
There are plenty of PADI Scuba Diving Courses. The first step or the first level is the PADI Open Water Diver Course, which allows you to dive to a maximum depth of 18m. Only after you have completed certain number of dives, can you move ahead to the advanced courses. There are also, special courses like the underwater photography courses but again your basic PADI Open Water Diver Certification is a must for this. Naturally, this is what I opted for. Through the blog, I refer to the PADI Open Water Diver Course only.
Requirements of a PADI Scuba Diving Course
The sea was my first concern for with a home base of Bangalore, I had none accessible by a walk. Interestingly, my search on the PADI website, threw up two options in Bangalore itself. A quick email to both the places revealed the following –
- The PADI Open Water Diver Course needs you to complete three basic modules – classroom training, confined water dives (pool training) and finally the open water dives.
- The first two modules can be done at any PADI center across the world while the third module can be completed at a PADI certified school or resort at any of the beach destinations.
The advantage of doing this course in places like Andamans, Thailand or Indonesia is that you can finish it all up at one-go over a 5 – 7-day course. However, for that, you would need to stay at that destination, which would mean an additional hotel or stay charges. The advantage for me doing it at home was that I just need to pay for the first two modules of a course while only keeping aside 2 days at a beach destination for the third. It made sense to me given that I could complete the open water dives in a span of one year after I completed the first two modules. I knew that one trip to the beach in those 12 months was a definite! 😉
The other criteria as I discovered for the PADI Scuba Diving Course were –
- You needed to be physically fit. A detailed medical form must be signed before you enroll for the course.
- You must know swimming to the point that you can swim at least 200m (in any style) continuously.
- Another test that you must take is staying afloat for at least 10 mins.
- And yes, you need to be 10 years old or over 😉
Signing up for a PADI Scuba Diving Course
Armed with the knowledge, I was ready to sign up for my PADI Scuba Diving Course in April 2017 with Planet Scuba. However, there came in a catch. The open water dive season in India ends by April end for the monsoons make the visibility in the water an issue. It re-opens only in October and that for me was a huge gap. Thus, I postponed my course until November 2017. Come November, I paid up my PADI fees for the first two modules and sat down like a good student to absorb the classroom videos and notes.
Module One of PADI Open Water Diver Course
Module one is essentially, all about the theory and science behind Scuba Diving. If I had to give you a broad outline of the same, it covers –
- Impact of Scuba Diving on your body. It illuminates you about what happens to your body in the water at a depth.
- Learning to communicate underwater
- Safe Diving Norms to minimize body harm – equalizing your ear pressure, ensuring you reduce nitrogen build up in your body etc.
- Introduction of various equipment used in Scuba. How to assemble them and take care of it.
- Techniques of getting through emergency situations underwater – like if your mask gets flooded, or you get stuck without air etc. There are certain norms that you learn about Scuba diving like how to descend in water or how to come out.
- What to expect underwater – the marine life and being a responsible diver
I enjoyed reading this all up and I also, admit that I was a little overwhelmed. However, the next day, after meeting my instructor Ranjit, everything fell into place. He took me through the various nuances of what I read and gave examples of certain aspects of Scuba. Then, came in the classroom test, which is essentially a knowledge review with multiple choice questions. The norm is that you need to pass that with at least 70% and only then you move to module two.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Diving cannot be done as a solitary activity? It has to be done with a buddy!
Module Two of PADI Open Water Diver Course
This is the confined water course which lets you apply all your knowledge of Module one in reality but within the safe environment of a pool. My pool training took place at the Nisha Millet academy which had a pool depth of 16 feet. The pool sessions are generally over 2 days and cover the following –
- A swim test to check eligibility for Scuba Diving
- Assembling and using the Scuba Equipment
- Techniques of entry and exit into the water
- Simulations of various emergency situations and learning to handle them
- Diving using the safe diving techniques
- Practising the entry and exit norms of Scuba Diving
It was a fun thing to do and I, having done an assisted dive at Havelock Islands, knew what to expect. Ranjit would demonstrate every skill once and then test us to ensure that we could do it ourselves. This became our evaluation and at the end of the two sessions, we were passed and promoted to Module Three.
Scouting destinations for my final phase of the PADI course
Now all I had to do is my last and final module. Planet Scuba recommended dives in Maldives or Andamans for this. However, given the holiday season of December, both these destinations were working out really expensive. The next three options were Tarkali in Maharashtra, Goa or Netrani Island in Karnataka. The last one was my pick for its proximity and reviews.
About Netrani Island, Murudeshwar
Netrani Island is an uninhabited island, off the coast of Murudeshwar. Murudeshwar is basically a temple town, a few kilometers from Gokarna. I had in my previous post on Gokarna recommended a day trip here to enjoy the beach. Netrani Island is now your additional bonus to visit here. For the last two years, the island waters were closed for Scuba following protests from the fishermen there. However, this year, it has been opened out for this sport.
With an overnight bus journey from Bangalore, I found myself at the doorstep of West Coast Adventures – a dive shop recommended by Planet Scuba to complete my course.
Open Water Dives at Netrani Island
As a part of Module Three of the PADI Open Water Diver Course, you are required to do 4 open water dives, over 2 days. Bright and early in the morning, I stood at the Murudeshwar beach, awaiting the boat that would take us to Netrani Islands. Along the ride, my instructor – Moin, tested me on the knowledge from Module One and two, while outlining my tests for each dive. I was nervous – I wanted to pass! However, when I figured that the tests were the same that I had done in my confined water dives, I relaxed.
The objective of this module is to test if you can handle an actual sea water scenario. And frankly, this is far more fun than the confined water dives, for you have an audience to please. Confused? I am talking about the sea creatures that you will encounter 🙂
The waters at Netrani Island are fairly clear. We attempted the dives at two points – The Nursery and Pebble Beach. The Nursery was a little shallow compared to the Pebble Beach. However, while the visibility was amazing at Pebble beach, the dive spot had a lot of strong undercurrents. Swimming in there was definitely a task.
The dives were absolutely invigorating. Moin made the tests fun for when we had finished them, he allowed us enough time to explore. He pointed out to the various wonders of the deep sea – the colored parrot fish, hidden scorpion fish, moray eels and even, barracudas. For the first three dives, I did not take my camera in for the idea was to concentrate on mastering the proper technique. However, on the 4th dive, as a reward – Moin allowed me my camera and this is what I got back for you!
Taking pictures underwater is a different ball game itself. Staying steady in the ocean currents, hovering over a fish and not touching it – man! I have so much to learn. And possibly a new goal to reach 🙂
Hallelujah! Becoming a certified PADI Open Water Diver
Back on the boat, it was all celebration. I was now certified. The ride back to the mainland on the boat had me dreaming of the immense new possibilities that this PADI Certification had opened up. Swimming with the dolphins and the turtles is something I really want to do. Exploring the sunken ships has always been a dream. Add to that, being Indiana Jones underwater with sites like Dwarka’s sunken city gets my adrenaline up. I sure would love to see the huge Mola Mola in Malaysia and don’t even get me started about the Carribean and the Red Sea.
The adrenaline rush of completing my PADI Scuba Diving Course kept me up that night. I had finally done it – fulfilled my own promise that I had made at Havelock Islands. The joy of your own dream coming true cannot be explained in words. It just has to be felt. 🙂
Getting to Netrani Island, Murudeshwar
- To do Scuba Diving at Netrani Island, you need to reach Murudeshwar. This can be done from Goa, Gokarna, Bangalore or Mangalore.
- From any of these destinations, there are regular buses to take you to Murudeshwar. The closest destination by bus would be Gokarna or Mangalore.
- Mangalore and Goa are the closest airports to Murudeshwar. Both these places are also, connected by railway to Murudeshwar.
- Bangalore is an overnight bus journey from Murudeshwar.
- Netrani Island is only a day trip possibility from Murudeshwar. You can reach here via boats from Murudeshwar beach. The Boat ride is 45 mins one.
- There are three PADI dive shops in Murudeshwar that offer you Scuba Diving at Netrani Islands. West Coast Adventures is the one that I have tried and I highly recommend the same for their considerate and well-trained instructors
- You can opt for fun dives or assisted dives (Scuba discovery dives) at these dive shops
- If you wish to do a PADI scuba diving course directly at Netrani, it is possible. However, you will need to plan a stay for at least 5 days to finish the course – that is inclusive of all three modules described above.
- There are plenty of places to stay in Murudeshwar. West Coast adventures too, has a room available for students opting to take the course. It is quite safe and affordable to stay here.
- Be well rested for your open water dives. A good night’s sleep is a must. Avoid drinking the night before the dive.
- If you get sea-sick, please ensure you have a medicine before you head out to Netrani Island. Also, let the dive instructors know the same.
- Keep some food and water with you on the boat when you head to Netrani. Generally, the dive shops carry light snacks and fruits on the boat but it is always good to have something of your own.