It was a fine summer morning in April, with blue skies and sea breeze, when I took my first plunge into the ocean: a step towards becoming a PADI certified Open Water Diver. A flux of excitement, nervousness and anticipation pulsed through me. Crystal clear waters, schools of fish, and finally, I was able to witness what I always saw on Discovery and NatGeo with my own eyes! I can never forget my first ever dive in Netrani, Murudeshwar. That was in 2010, and it continues to be one of my best dives till date.
Since my first visit to Netrani, I have revisited the place about a dozen times with over 60 dives. Yet, I continue to crave to go back and explore what else it has to offer.
Netrani Island, also called Pigeon Island, is a small island in the Arabian Sea, 10 nautical miles off the coast of Murudeshwar. The island serves as a naval training site today instead of being a protected marine reserve. With its shallow areas and spots of corals all around, the island is an ideal location for all levels of certified divers to experience the grandeur of the underwater world. Those who wish to refrain from diving have the option of snorkelling around the island.
With depths ranging from 6 to 40 metres and visibility ranging between 10 to 30 metres, not only is Netrani home to a great diversity of fish life that is common to the Arabian Sea, but it is also well-known for regular sightings of turtles, Napoleon Wrasse, Great Barracuda, groupers, eels, stingrays, snappers, trevallies, Lionfish and Stonefish. At times, divers have also reported sighting Blacktip and Whitetip Sharks, Whale Sharks, Orcas and Olive Ridley Turtles around the island.
Netrani Island has more than 10 dive sites that one can experience, and many are still left unexplored. The best sites among these are The Nursery, Grand Central, Pebble Beach, Bomb Rock and The Abyss.
Nursery, aptly named so, is ideal for beginners and starts out only at about 6 metres, while The Abyss, being the deepest of them all, has its bottom at 35+ metres.
These dive sites have a variety of life forms for divers to witness. Moray Eels are in plenty, and sometimes, one can be lucky enough to spot multiple eels peeking out of their burrows. There are occasions when I have seen more than four species together, in the same burrow. A little effort to safeguard their habitat can go a long way in making this place a unique sanctuary for Moray Eels.
When luck favours, divers find themselves suspended amidst large schools of groupers, snappers, trevallies and sometimes, even barracudas.
For those seeking an adventure, a small fishing boat that has drowned there in recent years rests at 22 metres. Experienced divers can explore the wreck and see how what we call ‘rubble’ can actually act as an anchor for coral to grow on.
Underwater photographers can switch to their macro lens and look for nudibranchs, of which, several varieties can be sighted here.
However, Netrani does suffer from the intrusions we humans cause to the environment. We often see careless fishermen creating a menace for big fish, turtles and eels. Careless dumping of damaged nets can be found every once a while and fortunately, it is us divers who attempt to clear this pristine ecosystem. We also educate new divers and do our part by doing a ‘clean-up dive’ wherein we collect these old fish nets and bring them to the surface to dispose them correctly.
In terms of accessibility, Netrani island is an hour’s boat ride from Murudeshwar, which is easily accessible by road and rail from Bangalore, Mangalore, Mumbai and Goa. It is a comfortable 7-hour drive from Bangalore. It is ideal to reach Murudeshwar by evening and rest in the night before heading out for a dive the next morning. A trip lasting 3 days, covering 6 to 9 dives, is recommended for someone with a keen interest in diving and underwater photography.
Netrani is a paradise in our own backyard and a suitable destination to all those adventure seekers looking for a short weekend trip, or even a long trip for a certified Pro Diver.