The diving experience in Bangaram…

17.01.2017:

The teardrop-shaped island – Bangaram is enclosed by a coral reef, is surrounded by a shallow lagoon and is ranked among the best hideaways of the world. It is a renowned spot for scuba diving and is comparable to the Great Barrier Reef and the Maldives. The island is open for tourists, national as well as international. However tourists are advised to check in advance as some of the activities are limited to specific islands at specific times of the year. Who ever visits this island will try to have a taste of what it feels like to dive under the water with their breathing apparatus and the flippers on their legs.

How will I miss it, when the place is a renowned spot for an adventure sport and when it is the best to go scuba diving? Yeah, Bangaram has the first dive center of Lakshadweep and the best time to go scuba diving is between November and March when the waters will be clear. Imran being to Kadamat told us that even Kadamat is a famous diving center. So excited, we started walking towards the dive center. The sun is scorching and the crystal white beach is as if it is reflecting almost all the rays back to us and making us sweat.

Though aunty made so many futile attempts to make uncle agree to come along with us for a dive, uncle denied those requests softly and encouraged us to go. The lead’s name is Mohamed and he gave us a form each and asked us to fill all the details and sign the declaration. The form consists of columns like our details, address and emergency contact details and the declaration states that we take the entire responsibility for everything we are doing. We filled the forms, signed the declarations and handed over them. Once done we settled down to listen to our instructor who is going to explain us about the gear and all.

Our instructor started explaining about scuba-diving, the history of the dive center and where the people had been trained, the courses that they offer, the gear and the signs which we have to use during our dive. They do offer different kinds of courses like the basic diving courses as well as advance courses and the duration of these courses vary accordingly. Many of India’s certified divers began their underwater explorations in these shallow, clear waters. When once we are confident enough, he asked us whether we are ready and we nodded! We were so excited and ready to hit the waters with our scuba-diving gear on us! 🙂 🙂

The best part of scuba-diving is that you will always have a buddy with you and you can enjoy the under-water life without being bothered about anything as your buddy will take care of everything. My buddy is a pretty friendly one and when entered the shallow lagoon as a test drive before going for the real dive, gave some instructions about having three regulators strapped on to me, in case one malfunctions. We’re skimming the turquoise waters and the dive site is about half an kilometer away. “I’m going to be with you the whole time”, he says, “so don’t freak out, okay?” I told him not to worry with a thumbs up! 🙂

As soon as I entered the lagoon for my test drive, I have seen some colorful fishes and a clear sea bed. After playing for quite sometime and getting enough of breathing exercises, I hit the top of the water again, just to have a quick fresh breath. Immediately an instruction hit my ears, don’t remove your breathing apparatus, it has got ample amount of fresh compressed air and I don’t need any of that to remain in your cylinder by the time you come back! As an obedient student, I obliged his instruction and told my buddy that I am ready and let’s go 🙂

We started swimming towards the diving spot and reached there within minutes. All the talk in the world doesn’t prepare you for the sensation of diving in the sea. As soon as my jacket is deflated, the weight strapped to my waist band take over and I begin to descend. The water became colder and I started to shiver! For a few moments what all I can see before me is an empty expanse almost threatening to swallow me whole. I sink some more, and am suddenly, keenly aware, of how labored my breathing sounds in my ears.

I feel pressure building and clogging up my ears. I started to acclimatize and my breathing is fine and I started enjoying the dive. I have seen shoals of fishes sniffing around crimson corals, a big black fish whose name is not known to me, some clown fishes scanning the waters with fierce concentration to find the pieces of fish feed that is being left by my buddy into the water. The dive is liberating and meditative even! The best part is that beneath the waves, the water around these islands offer something for everyone. And especially most of the islands in Lakshadweep have their own home reef and waters filled with rich marine life!

At the lagoons edge of the Bangaram Island, the barrier reef surrounding the island tapers off into deeper waters. Coral abound on these seaward slopes and coral of all shapes and sizes grow side by side, creating caverns and alleyways that host some of the most beautifully bizarre creatures on the planet. Though I enjoyed the sight of so many fishes and corals, I totally freaked out when my buddy asked me to touch some of the corals and feel them 😐 . I simply rejected the idea and continued enjoying my dive chasing some fishes and finding out Imran and aunty, so that we can pose together for some photographs 🙂 .

Diving in Lakshadweep is thrilling, to say the least!

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Go.. Grab the Entry Permits first!

Visiting Lakshadweep is not as easy as visiting the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. When I first discussed my plan of visiting Lakshadweep with my friend Avinash, he told me that I need to get some permits in order to visit those islands. All visitors, both Indian and foreign nationals, must have a visa-like entry permit to travel to the Lakshadweep islands. Usually there are two ways in order to get these permits, we can either approach the Lakshadweep Tourism Department and book a package so that they would take care of everything or do everything by your own provided you know any islander!

I chose the later for two reasons: Firstly, a package is a costly affair and secondly, I know few islanders 😉 . The first important thing in this process is to get a No Objection Certificate or a Police Clearance Certificate from the Commissioner/Superintendent of Police of the place where you are staying stating that I don’t have any criminal cases against me as per their records. I got mine after verification of my address and all. Then the next step is to fill the application form for obtaining a permit. For further details and forms one can visit this website http://lakshadweephomestay.com/

While my friend Avinash gave me the declaration that should be given by an islander, I submitted my application along with the NOC and other identity proofs at the Lakshadweep Administration Office, Indira Gandhi Rd, Willingdon Island, Kochi, Kerala 682003. Trust me, it is truly a frustrating process, as we need to apply for this at least 45 days before the date of your journey and wait till the last moment, as there is no guarantee that they would be issuing the permits. For your info, this is only for the people who would be applying directly like me, but not for those who will be booking a package 🙂

Tourism is restricted in order to preserve and protect Lakshadweep’s fragile bio-ecological environment and prevent overcrowding. With the tourism board taking charge of water sports, underwater adventures in Lakshadweep are now restricted to the four main islands – Kadamat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti and Minicoy. Tourism is monitored by the local administration in close concert with the Lakshadweep Island Development Authority with the sole objective of protecting the interests of the islands. Scarcity of potable water and accommodation is a major constraint. The administration is wary that indiscriminate tourism promotion would lead to depletion of potable water for the islanders.

At last I got my entry permit on 13.01.2017 while my tickets for Agatti are booked for 16.01.2017. Ritu Aunt and Jit Uncle are going to accompany me, but the sad part is Avinash is going for some training and he won’t be accompanying us there in the islands. He gave the responsibility of us to a friend of his – Imran, who is also going to become a very good friend of mine 🙂