Heard of the potential of Aqua-tourism in Karnataka? We did just that. Read Further.
Water activities like kayaking, surfing, and diving are slowly catching up with enthusiasts, both for recreation and as a sport. Thanks to favorable winds, some of the most serene estuaries with mangrove ecosystems and untouched diving spots, Karnataka’s coastal region has been attracting enthusiasts and vacationers from all over. It was a family road trip driving down from the hills of Kodagu to the coast of Karnataka.
Just like the gad-bad ice-cream that originated in this region, our itinerary was packed with experiences. We wanted to see the bioluminescent waters. Bioluminescence is a naturally occurring phenomenon in which the microorganisms present in the water emit light when disturbed thus making the water glow. The darker the surroundings, the better the visibility of this phenomenon. Hence, we had signed up for a night kayaking session on a no-moon night in the backwaters of river Shambavi at Mulki. We chose to camp by the riverbank to have a closer connection to the waters.
After arriving at the campsite and while my parents enjoyed their time strolling around the place, my brother and I took our lessons on taming the waves with the surfboards. Although my brother was quick to get the knack of balancing himself on the surfboard, I fell into the water several times before finally getting it right. It was a fun session under the harsh sun until we returned to the campsite. We then tried some wakeboarding in the backwaters and then headed towards the beach again, to see the sunset.
Padubidri beach is among the only twelve beaches in India and two in Karnataka to have the blue flag certification. The drive to the beach itself was a beautiful experience with coconut trees towering over the narrow road running parallel to the sea. With all facilities including clean washrooms and good restaurants, the swim, and the sunset at Padubidri was one for the books. After grabbing some refreshments at the stalls there, we headed back to our campsite to relax a bit before the beautiful night that had to follow.
Since it was a no-moon night, the tides had caused the water levels to rise. It was pitch dark as we set our individual kayaks out into the water and began to paddle along the river. Geared with life jackets and our oars, we were ready to set the water ablaze, quite literally! We had no sense of where we were going but to follow a faint beam of torch light on the first kayak that guided us in the correct direction. The magic slowly started to unfold in the water after we had covered a certain distance. The glowing waters peaked while we all had gathered at the river mouth on our kayaks. Although, it is said that bioluminescent waters are a sign of unhealthy water, I convince myself of not being guilty of enjoying this experience. We all screamed with joy as we splashed the blue waters on each other with our hands and our paddles. With each dip of our hand in the river, our arms would glow in neon blue, which seemed nothing but a fairytale.
The following morning, we drove up to the temple town of Murudeshwara to score off yet another item on my bucket list. At about 20 kilometers off the coast of this temple town is Netrani island, a strategic patch of land controlled by the Indian Navy. Although entry to the island itself is restricted, the surrounding waters are open for public access during the spring months each year. This area is one of the best dive-sites in mainland India and that’s why I had been contemplating a visit here. We had pre-booked our slot for scuba diving with one of the several diving agencies around there.
Soon after filling out forms, a boat arrived at the beach to take us on a ride of approximately one hour to reach the dive spot. Our family was accompanied by a few other travelers, who like us were enthusiastic about their dive. Enroute, the instructions were given to everyone on the boat, both first timers and experienced. After reaching the site, without wasting time sitting inside the boat and waiting for our turn to scuba dive, we grabbed the snorkel gears and jumped into the water. The view inside had already set a good momentum for the expectations we had for the deep dive. Soon, each of us took turns to go underwater, touch the seabed and live our moments in a new world under the water. Especially for my sexagenarian parents, it was something that they hadn’t done before, and they felt a sense of accomplishment. It was evening by the time we returned to the shore with our boat tossing hard in the unusually rough sea.
We freshened up at a nearby lodge before visiting the Murudeshwara temple. We called it a day while watching the sun go down from atop the temple tower. It is highly recommended that this spring-summer trip to the coast of Karnataka should go onto everyone’s bucket list!