From the ravishing streets of French colonies, prodigious Auroville universal city, peaceful Aurobindo ashram and captivating beaches of Pondicherry like serenity beach, rock beach and paradise beach there’s something more to Pondicherry and that is scuba diving.
When I first visited Pondicherry, I wasn’t really aware of scuba diving scenes here! But after taking the first dip on my third visit here my expectations were surpassed witnessing the crystal clear waters of the Bay of Bengal and the rich marine biodiversity here. It was absolutely over and above from what I had expected as it is a mainland diving destination. Definitely, love at first sight!
It all started with my thought of getting trained as a commercial diver and for that, I needed an open water certification for which I immediately started looking for the closest places where I could pursue the course with the least dent in my pocket. After a lot of research I found out most of the places and dive shops in India were shut because of it being an offseason. My only hope now was temple adventures in Pondicherry who were located in Colas Nagar which was very close to white town. I immediately contacted them with my fingers crossed hoping for the best. A very friendly voice from the other side responded to my question about the open water course “you can start tomorrow! We dive year-round in Pondicherry as the ocean allows us to”. I was immediately relieved and felt excited!
Fast forwarding to reaching Pondicherry, I took a rickshaw and went straight to the dive shop with my entire luggage. What I saw was a building with PADI flags all over, wetsuits hanged around the corner, and two confined pools. There were some really good tunes being played in the background. Simply good vibes! I was immediately made to feel comfortable. Temple adventures also had many accommodation options ranging from dorms, shacks, single rooms to luxury rooms. In no time I felt at home because of the warm welcoming and friendly nature of the staff. On the first 2 days, I finished all the theory and pool sessions and was nearing my first ocean dive. I was nervous, excited, happy and enthusiastic waiting to witness the unknown.
On the dive day, after reporting to the dive shop at 6.30 am and having some healthy breakfast composed of toasts, fresh fruits, and eggs, we boarded the bus which took us to the harbor. Me and all the other guests were very excited about the dive. After reaching the harbor we were briefed about the marine life around the reef, some safety protocols and basic guidelines to be followed while on the boat and diving. Temple adventures have built an artificial reef which is located 5 km from the shore and is a home to more than 85 species of fishes.
You can find a wide range of marine life here like Batfish, trevally, Napolean wrasse, barracudas, turtles, octopus, jellyfish, and lionfish! The list can just go on. There are also reports of some whale shark sightings having been happened at temple reef and keeps happening 7 to 8 times a year. Most of the staff of temple has witnessed the magnificent whale shark which is the largest fish in the world. Isn’t that exciting? floating around the magnificent creature! Can’t imagine what a feeling it must be!
Soon we were nearing the dive site, all the instructors and dive masters onboard started kitting up, wearing their wetsuits, knives, compasses, and cleaning their masks, it just augmented my excitement level. After throwing in the anchor, the instructor displayed how to back roll in the water and descend. The boat captains and dive masters helped me to kit up and there I was, I took a deep breath, held my mask and regulator with one hand and back rolled into the ocean after which my instructor signaled me to descend and so did I.
I was finally in the water at a depth of 5m slowly descending with the help of a descent line tied up to a triangular metal structure. I was so astonished by temple reef. It was this huge structure with palm tree leaves tied up with a buoy on the top and some recycled concrete blocks and rocks at the bottom at the depth of 18 meters. The enormous fish settlement just added up to the whole experience. There were so many species of fishes around me that it left me overwhelmed. I definitely had not expected my first dive to be so awesome. The dive site of temple adventures at 18m consists of 4 different sites – Temple Reef 1, Temple Reef 2, Parking Lot, and Beer Garden.
As mentioned above, Temple 1 consists of a huge palm tree leaf tied up with a buoy and many rocks at the bottom with some triangular metal structures, here you will always find a lot of batfish, trevallies, lionfish and some huge puffer fish too. Temple 2 consists of 2 old Omnis and a Maruti car. It’s home to a lot of fishes, especially you’ll find a lot of stone fish here! Though it’s very difficult to spot them as they are good at camouflaging. The parking lot is another reef with some bikes, a truck, a car, and triangular structures. And the last one is Beer garden which actually has a lot of beer bottles stuffed in concrete which is home to a lot of small fishes and moray eels. Trust me! it takes huge efforts to create something like this and this is what makes it such a special experience.
Another dive site I got to dive at with temple is Danny’s Eel Garden. It’s an amazing natural reef consisting of large deposits of stones and is famous for its moray eels. You will spot a lot of them here!
After this, I went on to continue with advanced open water certification. It opened up new doors for me and gave me an opportunity to dive at the deep site of Pondicherry, Aravind’s Wall! It is a beautiful natural deep site which goes to a depth of 40 meters and is a huge 25 km reef! You will be amazed by the size of the fishes around the reef. You will find a lot of gorgonians around here like sea fans and a wide range of marine life like snakes, napoleon wrasse, moray eels, manta rays, and triggers.
After all of this was over it was time for me to head back home! I was so captivated with the experience of diving in the Bay of Bengal that I wanted to come back soon. Within a month I came back to complete Emergency First Response (EFR) and Rescue Diver certifications from temple. I also decided to do a divemaster internship with them. For me, the dive master internship has been a great learning experience up till now. What sets temple apart is they don’t just make the dive masters lift tanks or sit at the dive shop but they actually push you in learning all aspects of running a dive center. From marketing, operations, social media, customer service and sales to diving! And also there’s not really any limit on how much you can dive with them as a divemaster trainee. After all, that’s what every diver wants.
Temple Adventures also has an NGO named Temple Reef Foundation which is working to facilitate marine conservation-centric research and education in India. They also conduct beach cleanups and conduct research on the marine life and reefs. I also have been a part of reef-building where you get to learn so much about the marine life and the science behind it.
Diving in Pondicherry has been such a unique experience. For a person like me who loves adventure, the fairly rough ocean, the crystal clear waters, and the current everything just amazes me. I got hooked on. Literally! There are so many dive sites around here! 2 deep sites that I am aware of, Pirates and Aravind’s Wall and 5 sites with a depth of 18m like Temple 1, Temple 2, Parking Lot, Danny’s eel garden and beer garden. There’s so much to explore!
Many people are not really aware of the scuba diving scenes in Pondicherry. If you are ever coming to Pondicherry it is definitely worth exploring the dive sites here! They will surely leave you amazed.
For me, diving has been a major life-changing experience. It’s like sometimes you just try something out of the blue and you just realize how much you love it and this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Scuba diving is not something people do to make money, they just do it for the love of it. The kind of people I get to meet here every day is simply amazing, you simply get to share so much and learn so much about life in general. When I am underwater it just feels that I am in perfect harmony with the universe. To experience life at such depth is simply a soul pleasing experience. It unleashes the calmness within.
Happy Bubble Making To All! 🙂