Down to the Waterline: Adventures in Konkan

In parasailing, comes the moment when you are hoisted above the sea with a harness and a cable, to the greatest possible height. It’s an absolutely serene moment, especially for beginners – looking around, all you can see is inky blue water, a few seabirds and the outlines of land and shores beyond. distant horizon. At the same time, you can visibly feel all the tension draining from your body and mind. It’s a short time – a moment or two at best – but it’s a time you wish would last forever.

These thrills are in direct contrast to the adrenaline-rushing yet body-destroying thrills of rides on vehicles such as bumper boats and jet skis. They rely heavily on the excitement generated by speedy surfing over the crests and troughs of ocean waves, which is why they are preferred during high tides when the waters tend to be very choppy. But, while jerky riding can be a novel experience, be prepared to absorb the impact of every bump as they can be very harsh and can put a strain on your body’s strength. On a jet ski ride, the impact of every bump can be felt more, but the pilot/instructor’s arms that wrap around you at the sides add a layer of security. On the other hand, the rubber bumper boat absorbs some of the impact of rolling sea waves; however, you must hold on to the handle with all your might, as there is no other support to help you if things go south. Unsurprisingly, none of these activities are recommended for people with back problems.

I experienced all of this and more by participating in a number of water activities (including those mentioned above and scuba diving) while visiting the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Ganpatipule, a relatively unexplored and unspoiled beach in the Ratnagiri district, proved to be the perfect setting for jet ski and bumper boat rides against the twilight evening sun. Personally, the best thing about both rides was the salt spray that hit me as we rode the waves, completely rejuvenating me after what had been an excruciatingly long bus ride to get there. This was only beset by fatigue and aches that lingered during what was a most restful sleep in the sprawling and luxurious property, managed by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) right next to the beach. The next morning I participated in parasailing, where I experienced a level of happiness I never thought possible – that too, while suspended in the air. Contrary to what I had previously assumed, this was the farthest thing from scary.

Departure for the bumper boat ride

However, probably the greatest source of nervous excitement and even panic, in this author’s humble opinion, comes during scuba diving. This may be especially true for non-swimmers like yours who are trying the sport for the first time. Of course, there are personal reasons for my judgment (I nearly drowned in the practice pool!), but despite nearly every piece of scuba diving equipment ensuring your safety, there is a number of maneuvers, requiring precise body-mind coordination, which you must master effectively to prepare for eventualities such as water entering your goggles and/or your respirator, which can make all the difference between a memorable dive and a disastrous dive. For this reason, my companions and I first headed to the MTDC Water Sports Training Center near Tarkarli Beach in Malvan. taluka in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. Unfortunately, due to a postponement of our travel plans for the day, we were only able to start our training in the afternoon and had to get used to the rigors and demands of scuba diving in the open sea in watching a presentation and then making two attempts. (three in my case if you include the drowning episode) in the center pool – once in the shallow end and the next in the deep end. This level of precipitation is a surefire recipe for accidents – and as I’ll learn later, you usually never head out to sea without five or six successful scuba dives into the bottom of the pool (for a rough idea, the bottom of the deep end of a pool is at a depth of seven or nine feet, while in the open sea one dives 24 or 25 feet to reach the seabed).

Instructors prepare a jet ski for another ride on the choppy waves of Ganapatipule Beach

Anyway, after our training was over, a 50 minute ride on a private yacht brought us to the designated spot very close to a rocky outcrop on which Vengurla Lighthouse sits. It was almost dark (nearly 7pm) when I dove into the water. Luckily, a makeshift arrangement to shine the light from the yacht into the waters below allowed me to spot brown corals and clusters of bright and sparkling blue, white and orange fish, during the nearly 20 minutes I went under water. Despite the unique nature of the dive and my happiness to have completed it safely this time around, the overall non-existent visibility underwater left me disappointed. It was a poor reward, indeed, for fighting through and overcoming a near-death experience. Nevertheless, our biggest thanks go to Suraj S. Bhosale, my instructor and dive guide who runs the center at Tarkarli. He was the one who ensured my survival and ensured that I remained calm and poised during my subsequent attempts.

Representative image: Scuba diving can be both exciting and anxiety-provoking, especially for beginners

It may have come too late for me, but conversations with the knowledgeable water sports instructors at Ganpatipule and Tarkarli yielded some useful information on how you can enjoy and get the most out of water sports safely. Here are some of the highlights of the conversations and tips sparked for water sports (in general) and scuba diving (in particular):

  • Be absolutely upfront with your guides regarding any health issues you may have had or are still experiencing. They are the best people to advise you whether you should try the sport or not. For example, as mentioned above, back problems and bone and joint pain make it risky, if not impossible, for you to participate in jet ski and bumper boat or banana boat rides. Likewise, respiratory problems or conditions (including COVID-19) that wreak havoc on the body’s respiratory system and breathing systems can play spoilsport in case you want to partake in scuba diving.
  • The biggest threat to any watersport is the erratic nature of ocean/sea currents, which can even be life threatening if one is not careful enough, says divemaster Anto of Tarkarli Watersports Centre. Before you go, be sure to check the guides and instructors carefully about this. If you’re still unsure, you can check out the latest updates on the area’s weather and prevailing sea conditions and forecasts of how these might change in the hours ahead. Two other factors, tides and season, are much less disruptive due to their more predictable nature. Water sports, at least in Konkan India, are best enjoyed in winter due to calmer seas and greater visibility. And while jet ski and bumper boat rides are usually run at high tide, scuba dives mostly take place at low tide when visibility is more important.
  • Water sports organizers are not in favor of night scuba diving, due to the unpredictability of currents and the presence of fishing nets that prevent easy navigation on the seas. Midday is widely considered the best time for this activity.
  • During the training session before your open sea dive, pay attention and learn every aspect from the live demonstrations patiently provided by your instructor. Special maneuvers are often incredibly necessary. For example, if water gets into your goggles, you should first take a deep breath through the mouthpiece of the rebreather, then tilt your head back and, with two fingers gently pressing your forehead, exhale long and steadily through the nose to the water. in the glasses is emptied. It’s also important to keep balancing the air pressure inside and outside your ears. After each meter (or meter and a half) of descent, remember to pinch your nose after inhaling deeply, then to cover your ears. Long, deep breaths and a slow exhale are key in the depths of the water, but if you hold (read: bite) the rebreather mouthpiece too tightly, you can end up with jaw pain and end up by letting go. – a scenario similar to abandoning your life support system. Instructors will tell you that it is important to hold the respirator in your mouth with just the right pressure. Be sure to maintain an O-shape in your mouth throughout your adventure – any attempt to smile or move your facial muscles will likely result in water flooding into the rebreather’s mouthpiece. Make sure the guiding team double-checks every piece of your scuba gear, especially the gas level in your scuba tank and potential leaks and malfunctions in the equipment. Usually a single scuba dive consumes half the volume of gas in the cylinder. Finally, remember the gestures that are shown and taught to you. Each of these is essential for communicating your condition to your guide during the dive, and is especially critical if you want to let people know that things are not going well. Remember that you cannot say a single word while scuba diving, nor can your words be heard if you try to, if you are in a state of panic.
  • I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t panic in the face of an unfavorable situation. Instead of reacting instinctively (like I did), keep your cool and employ the emergency measures you have been taught. If you are still having difficulty, be sure to communicate to your guide using the correct gestures that things have gotten worse. Remember that experienced dive masters or guides are there for you every inch of the dive and are in constant communication with you to monitor your condition and remind you of things you need to do at regular intervals. Under the sea, your life is as much their responsibility as yours.
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