Scuba diving is a popular tourist activity in the waters surrounding India, and it’s no wonder why. After all, India’s coastline wraps around 270 degrees of the country, swathing the landmass in the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal. All three are home to endless stretches of sandy beach, coral reefs, and drop-dead gorgeous underwater landscapes. India’s titillating island groups, with their balmy lagoons, crystal-clear waters and a delightful tropical climate, offer one of the world’s most beautiful settings for scuba divers to explore the undersea world. These islands–Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Chennai, Maldives, and Goa–top the list of the most desired diving destinations in India.
From the moment you arrive in Chennai, the bustling port city that serves as the gateway to the Andamans, you’ll be charmed. it’s the largest city in south India, but its crackling energy and amazing food are both utterly addictive. Once you’ve crossed the Bay of Bengal to the string of small volcanic islands that composes the Andamans, you’ll never want to leave. It’s charmingly remote, but that doesn’t stop scuba divers from finding a way to haul their fins over for a look. Havelock is the most-visited of the Andaman islands, boasting excellent dive shops and scores of scuba diving adventures, but–as popular as it is–the island still retains many unexplored dive sites. Minerva Ledge and Button Island are worthy of multiple dives, as well, with their beautiful coral, rainbows of colorful fish and rarely explored depths. Cinque Island’s clear water is populated with several species of shark. Another of these–Snake Island–is home to a wide variety of marine life, as well as jaw-dropping submerged landscapes peppered with stunning rock formations.
The popularity of the Maldives island group is no secret to any serious scuba diver. Its iconically crystal-clear waters offer awesome visibility of its catalogue of reefs and wrecks. Scuba divers make their way to the Maldives to enjoy its postcard-perfect resorts and liveaboard holidays, though cheap scuba diving vacations in the Maldives are easy enough to come by with a bit of research. There’s scuba diving in the Maldives for all levels and proclivities, so it’s a great place to take a varied group of divers.
The Islands of Lakshadweep
Visiting the Islands of Lakshadweep, deep in the Arabian Sea, is like stepping back in time. The group of thirty-six coral atolls and islands that’s a day-long oversea journey from the mainland, so it’s a commitment to get there–but it’s well worth it. The waters are liquid glass, laced with white-sand beaches, and the islands are blessedly crowd-free. Of the ten inhabited islands, only two (Kadmat and Bangaram) are open to globetrotting foreigners. Luckily, you’ll find dive centers on both. The wreck of the Princess Royal is a great dive off the coast of Bangaram, and divers hobnob with turtles, sharks, and rays on the sandy sea floors near the more isolated Kadmat.
If you’re into wreck scuba diving, you’ll be in heaven near the island of Goa. Divers on nearby Grande Island explore the hundreds of sunken Spanish and Portugese ships that now serve as playgrounds for local fish species. The waters are temperate and riptide-free, making for pleasant scuba diving year-round. There’s more world-class diving within a hundred miles or so from Goa, in Angria Bank and Pigeon Island. Visibility isn’t as “guaranteed” as it is in the other top Indian dive sites, but cheap scuba diving vacations are even easier to come by and there are excellent facilities for PADI-certified instruction.
Near the equator, temperatures are never extreme, but avoiding the monsoon season is key. The scuba diving season in India is generally from November to May. Also keep in mind that visitors need to keep valid permits on hand at all times for security purposes, and you might be asked to flash your passport for identification.