From the ravishing streets of French colonies, large Auroville universal city, peaceful Aurobindo ashram, scrumptious Indo-French Cuisine and captivating beaches of Pondicherry there’s something more to this small but beautiful union territory, and that is SCUBA DIVING!
I wanted to head out for some adventure after being stuck in the concrete jungle for too long. Some break was needed from the monotony that was haunting my life. After some research, I found out scuba diving to be one of the exhilarating options I had. I decided to do the PADI open water course, which would certify me to dive to a depth of 18 meters anywhere in the world.
After doing quite a bit of trekking around the north of India and climbing higher, the idea of going down deep fascinated me. I quickly turned to the internet god to know more about my newly discovered interest. Only to find most of the dive shops in India to be shut due to it being an offseason!
It was the month of August, and most places in India were either shut or too far fetched and heavy on the pocket. After a long period of struggle, the internet god finally blessed me with an answer – Temple Adventures on the east coast.
I immediately contacted the dive shop located in the teeny but artistic union territory of India – Pondicherry. A pleasant 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 instantly excited with the thought of being able to escape the concrete jungle!
I was so excited with the thought of heading to this beautiful french town of India for an Open Water Course!
The next immediate step I took was to book my flight, straight from Pune to Chennai. Once landed at Chennai, I took a bus from the Koyambedu bus stop to Pondicherry, which is a 3-hour ride. The busses from Chennai to Pondicherry are available from 6 am to 1 am and cost anywhere from INR 155 to 210. Remember to take the bus which goes from the ECR and not the one going through the bypass. The ECR is a lovely route, especially if taken during the day time.
As the name suggests, the road goes along the east coast, offering a continuous view of the ocean.
Fast-forwarding to reaching Pondicherry, I took an auto and went straight to the dive shop with my entire luggage. The dive shop was a building with PADI flags all over, wetsuits hanged around the corner, and two small pools. There were simply good vibes to this place! 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.
This was the small but neat accommodation I opted for!
After a good nights sleep, it was time for day one of the Open Water Course. On day one, I worked a lot on diving theory and went through three confined pool sessions, where I was taught many non-swimming related scuba skills. Day two was something similar, only this time we headed to the bigger pool for working on the remaining skills. In the PADI open water course, you learn 24 open water skills and 3 skin diving skills.
After two days of struggles of the pool and theory sessions, I was nervous, excited, happy and enthusiastic at the same time, waiting to witness the unknown!
Day three & four of the open water course, consist of a total of 4 dives, with 2 dives each a day. On the dive day, all divers report to the dive shop at 6.30 am. A basic and healthy breakfast composed of toasts, fresh fruits, and eggs is offered by temple adventures.
After meeting all the other divers and finishing devouring the breakfast, everybody boarded the bus, which took us to the harbour. All the other divers and I were thrilled for the dives.
Once reaching the harbour, we were briefed about the safety protocols to be followed while on the boat. The dive staff then gave us a recap of all the hand signals, and skills, and told us about what we were supposed to do for our respective dives.
There was a crisp short briefing given about the marine life as well, including the hand signals to use when we spot them and the essential characteristics of the aquatic animal.
The fun but informative briefing session was done, and we all boarded the boat to head out into the vast blue sea. As soon as we were nearing the dive site, all the instructors and divemasters onboard started kitting up, wearing their wetsuits, knives, compasses, and cleaning their masks. It just escalated my excitement level.
After dropping the anchor, the instructor displayed how to back roll in the water and descend. The boat captains and divemasters helped me to kit up. I took a deep breath, held my mask and regulator with one hand and back rolled into the ocean after which my instructor signalled 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. I was so astonished by the whole new world.
We were diving at a dive site called temple reef. There was this massive structure with palm tree leaves tied up together to a rope, with a buoy on the top and some recycled concrete blocks and rocks at the bottom at a 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.
As mentioned above, Temple reef consisted of a bunch of palm tree leaves tied up with a rope together with a buoy on the top which kept it upright. There were also rocks at the bottom with some triangular metal structures. I spotted a lot of Batfish, Trevallies, Jackfish, Lionfish and Silver Moonies here. The reef also has 2 old Omnis and a Maruti car. It’s home to a lot of fishes. Trust me! It takes considerable efforts to create something like this, and this is what makes scuba diving in Pondicherry a one of a kind 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 large population of moray eels.
If you go scuba diving in Pondicherry you will spot an enormous amount of marine life like Batfish, Trevallies, Butterflyfish, Barracudas, Turtles, Octopus, Jellyfish, Nudibranchs and Lionfish to name a few! The list can just go on.
There are also reports of whale shark sightings every year in certain months. Most of the staff of temple has witnessed the magnificent whale shark, which is the largest fish in the ocean. Isn’t that exciting? Diving with these gentle giants. Things can’t get better than that!
This is a picture of a juvenile porcupine fish I clicked! They are my favourite.
Completing my PADI open water course in Pondicherry has been such a unique experience for me. For a person like me who loves being around nature, the crystal clear waters, and the abundant marine life in Pondicherry just left me amazed.
Many people are not really aware of scuba diving in Pondicherry. If you are visiting Pondicherry, it is definitely worth diving here! It is among the top things you should consider doing, when in Pondicherry.