India has a long coastline. And just beneath the surface of the water is a completely different world with hundreds and thousands of fascinating new species.
But let's face it; most of us can't swim, or can barely stay afloat. Does that mean that there's no hope for us to ever experience the ocean's wealth except from a glass-bottomed boat (and we know those are hard to come by)? Not quite true. Say hello to snorkelling, the less glamourous but far easier cousin of scuba diving that may not get you nose to nose with a 3-feet barracuda, but will definitely let you lock eyeballs with Nemo's cousins, the clownfish, among a host of other kinds of species.
Can't swim, will snorkel The way snorkelling works is that you have a pipe in your mouth that extends above the surface so that you can keep breathing through your mouth even when you're floating face down in the water. There's a mask to cover your eyes, so that you can see clearly. Fins are usually recommended since they allow you to cover larger distances with less effort.
Depending on the location, you can snorkel to a bit of reef that's a short distance from the beach and easily accessible, or take a boat to a likely spot and jump into the water.
You don't need to be able to swim; if you can float then you're good to go.
In fact, snorkelling works best when you're floating calmly in the water, minimising your movements. Don't worry if you're not even sure you can float. All boatmen have a life jacket or a floating tube on boat; just get yourself one of those, ask him to throw you a line you can hold on to so you don't float too far and can be roped in when you're done, and have a good time.
Got salt water in your snorkel?
Don't panic, it happens every time a tall wave washes over you. Just blow the water out, making a loud noise, to clear the snorkel. If that doesn't work, calmly take your head out of the water and clear the snorkel.
Do the pretty fish bite?
Salt water can't harm you, even if you end up swallowing some, but there are other things you need to watch out for. If the clownfish is the snorkellers' mascot, the staghorn coral is their nemesis. Many a careless snorkeller has wound up with painful scratches from the sharp points of commonly found coral that looks like the antlers of a stag. Stay aware and look out for these so your can float away.
Never touch anything. For one, you can kill coral simply by touching it. Secondly, things like pincushion urchins may look safe but if you touch them, you'll be shot full of thorns. You needn't be scared of the fish though; most of them are probably more terrified of you. Just stick to the divers' adage of never leaving behind or taking away anything, and you're bound to have a good time.
All you need to know
Choose a mask well. A loose mask will keep filling with water. To check for size, hold the mask over your eyes and nose and breathe in. If it tightens around your face and stays when you remove your hand, it's a fit.
Masks tend to fog up in the water. To avoid that, spit on the lens and rub it in. Then rinse it out with sea water. You'll not have any fogging problems.
You can snorkel at any beach along the coastline that has reef or coral close by where there is likely to be a lot of aquatic life. Seaside holiday spots are likelier to have snorkelling equipment available on rent and boats to take you out, for example, Goa, Pondicherry, Tarkali, Calicut, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshwadeep.