Entrepreneur and social media expert Salahuddin decided to take a spontaneous trip to one of the
sunniest hidden holiday gems India has to offer – Netrani Island. Read on as he tells us about his adventure.
There are two kinds of holidays. The first is meticulously researched beforehand – the best routes, the most suitable accommodations and detailed itineraries for every single day. Or you could just pack your bags and go.
My first scuba diving trip was a mix of both – I’d signed up with a travel club and found myself on a bus where I knew only one of the 20 other people present. We were headed to Netrani Island, just off the coast of Karnataka. Half of the people on the trip kept referencing Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, while the other half tried to calm them down.
Our itinerary was simple; day one would be the dive, and day two would be a four-kilometre trek to a local waterfall. The group I joined up with were ardent trekkers, and I was a little taken aback by the intensity with which they went about things. I had come expecting a holiday, but this was a rush of adrenalin from the word ‘go’.
Our trip began when we reached Murudeshwar, the temple town and our launching pad to Netrani Island. There’s nowhere to stay on this heart-shaped mass of land, so our dive was effectively a day trip into the Arabian Sea and back. Within a few hours of arriving in Murudeshwar, we boarded a boat and headed for the island. During the 90 minutes it took to get to our dive site, the instructor took us through the basics to ensure we had a safe and memorable first time. Since this was a beginner dive for all of us, we would be joined underwater by instructors.
We reached the island to a view of birds skimming the water as they made their way to and from the island. We anchored about 30 metres from the rocky shore and broke off into groups of three. As the first group suited up and went under, the rest of us snorkelled in the cool, bright water. Soon came my turn to take the plunge, and I saddled up in the necessary gear. On went the oxygen tank, goggles, fins and mouthpiece; since we wouldn’t be going too deep, we skipped the wetsuits.
The instructors helped me on to the edge of the boat, where I sat and got my bearings. My breath came out raspy and loud, and I was not at all comfortable with the mouthpiece. But after a few minutes, while the instructors waited patiently as I got used to sounding like the Predator, I was ready to go. I sat on the side of the boat, tank hanging off me, and gave the instructors the go-ahead. One nudge was all it took to fall backwards and into the ocean.
Those first few moments after I hit the water were absolutely disorienting. I had gone down headfirst and was now bobbing up and down, my view alternating between the coral and the bright noon sky. An instructor was waiting under the water for me, and once I had settled down, he reduced my buoyancy so that I began gently sinking. Every few feet, he would stop and ask via hand gestures whether I was alright. The main concern was to equalise my body pressure with the underwater pressure; I had to go up a few times because I was unable to equalise my pressure, swimming in shallower water until I was good to go.
So there I was in the water, descending in bursts to ensure my ears had time to equalise. The water was fairly shallow at around eight to ten metres deep, but it felt incredible given that it was my first time. Spread before me in the clear daylight were the yellow-green corals, with schools of fish swimming almost rhythmically around them. Small schools flew in all directions, scattering before our hands could even touch them. The sunlight filtered down to the sea bed, allowing me to see far into the distance, and everything seemed to have a yellow glow.
As I stared at one school, my instructor would tap me on the shoulder and point out another of a different type. Big or small, there was not one fish that was anything but gorgeous. There was so much to see all around that I turned my head in so many directions; soon enough, my goggles were filled with water. Slowly, we made our way across the ocean bed, swimming around the boat.
As we prepared to surface, I grabbed hold of the anchor line for one last look at this almost alien world. If the multi-hued waters of Netrani Island could be so clear and give me such an exhilarating view of marine life, how would the blue waters of the Caribbean be? Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to go diving yet again. – Salahuddin