My First Dive Encounter in Hikkaduwa, SriLanka

31st Dec 2015
Photo of My First Dive Encounter in Hikkaduwa, SriLanka 1/5 by Muthu Venkatesh

As a part of my Srilanka trip I had planned to visit Galle in the southern coast for two days. When I was checking out about the places of interest in and around Galle, I got to know that the beaches around Galle are rich in coral reefs and are good spot for scuba diving. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to try out diving for the first time. For all those first time divers and those who plan to do scuba diving in Srilanka, here is my experience and some info about scuba diving in Srilanka.

Two beaches nearby Galle are known for their diving activities, one is Hikkaduwa which is about 10 miles north to Galle and the other one is Unawathuna, just a few miles down south. The first day in Galle, me and my friend hired a rental motorbike from Galle fort and headed north towards Hikkaduwa. The plan was to take a tour to both the beaches, enquire about the diving cost and possibility and do the diving the next day if time, weather and my wallet permits. We stopped by in one of the beach clubs in Hikkaduwa to enquire about the diving schools there. The club owner recommended us to check Barracuda diving school and also gave his card to show it there in the diving school to get some discount on his name.

As we were on the lookout for Barracuda diving school we found this another diving school named Blue Deep Diving center nearby, so we went in to check out that first. They seemed very professional and said to have certified instructors. For first time divers they quoted 10000 LKR (75 USD) and the diving spot is restricted to one location at a water depth of 10-15m depending on your endurance. For pro divers there were choices of 4 to 5 reef spots including one ship wreck at even deeper locations. After a brief enquiry we decided to go and check out the Barracuda diving school as well. Barracuda diving school not far from there seemed to be quite busy. Though they too quoted 10000 LKR initially , after showing the card from the club owner they came down to 8000 LKR for each of us. They told us they just got two slots popped open for us in the next session and without much thinking we decided to go for it.

Before the actual diving, we were supposed to take a short instruction class in shallow water to familiarize with diving signs and underwater breathing. Apart from two of us there were three more Russians in our session and they seemed like first time divers too. We were given all the scuba gears and as my turn came I walked down the beach like an old hag carrying the heavy oxygen cylinder on my back. The session went well and the instructor said I'm ready to venture into the sea though I was still not sure how to inflate/deflate the diving vest and to breathe out water from the goggle to prevent water from entering the eyes. On the other hand my friend didn't feel comfortable breathing underwater using the mouthpiece as it was making him feel nausea so he had to dropout.

Photo of My First Dive Encounter in Hikkaduwa, SriLanka 2/5 by Muthu Venkatesh
Inside the Dive school
Photo of My First Dive Encounter in Hikkaduwa, SriLanka 3/5 by Muthu Venkatesh
After the instruction session – All set for the dive

After the instruction session was over we all got into the speed boat to take us to the actual diving spot. When we were about to leave one more lady joined us who seemed to be a pro diver and little did I know then that she is going to be my guardian angle under water. After about 5-10 minutes into the sea, we reached our diving spot and the anchor was dropped into the sea bottom. We quickly buckled up all our diving gears and jumped into the water one by one. The diving vest was initially kept inflated to help us stay on the surface. Once we all were ready to plunge in, our instructor deflated my vest and we started to descend with the help of the anchor chain. Seconds later the water pressure stated to build up on my ear drums and before even we reached half a way down, my ears stated paining like hell. Even the others felt the same and our instructor told us to pinch our nose tight to equalize the pressure on the ear drum but it didn't do much help in reducing the pain. With all the endurance I somehow managed to get to the bottom with others.

Once we were in bottom of sea I had a very hard time maneuvering around because of the water current (not very string though) and the camera in my hand. Also the field of view got very limited due to the diving goggle with only things that were directly ahead was visible for up to about 10-15 meters even in that clear water. I was getting quite nervous as my body was getting adopted to that alien environment. Holding the camera in one hand and garbing the breathing regulator on the other hand to prevent it from slipping from my mouth, I really had a very difficult time initially in keeping up with my group. Also the breathing regulator slipped out of my mouth once but glad I didn't panic even though I took some water in.

Then came my guardian angle out of no who grabbed my hand and dragged me with her. With her besides me I gained some confidence that I can make it through this. Gradually the inner pressure on the ear was equalizing and the pain on my ear drum became milder. I got quite comfortable now and started focusing on the recording the dive and clicking some under water pictures but still I had problem with maneuvering around. I should admit that was a terrible and stupid idea to carry a camera during the first dive and nobody warned me against it. So if you are a first time diver and carrying a underwater camera with you, I'd suggest you better request your instructor or other pro divers in the team to carry your camera and to take pictures for you.

During the dive we came across lot of marine life and coral reef but due to my condition I couldn't really enjoy that ambiance. I have uploaded the videos of my dive in the links below which I really enjoyed watching later.

Struggling with my first dive

Coral reefs of Hikkaduwa

Photo of My First Dive Encounter in Hikkaduwa, SriLanka 4/5 by Muthu Venkatesh
Resurfaced after the dive
Photo of My First Dive Encounter in Hikkaduwa, SriLanka 5/5 by Muthu Venkatesh
All well and back to beach

After enough of dive time under water our instructor guided us back to the anchor drop location and one by one we started to ascend back to the surface with the help of anchor chain. We stopped midway for a few minutes to acclimate to the surface pressure and once we were back on the surface the instructor casually told me wash my face clean but only after I got into the boat I realized that my face was fully covered with blood due to nose bleed which almost gave me a panic attack then. Although I maintained myself cool, I felt quite exhausted for the next few days and breathed sign of relief only after consulting an ENT doctor back at home.

Scuba diving is adventurous but not a fun sport, if you don't understand the risks involved it can turn out to be quite fatal. Below are some links I came across that should guide you before your first dive.

5 common mistakes new scuba divers make

How to equalize ear pressure during dive

Ensure that the dive school is registered with PADI. Do enough research about the risks involved and safety precautions needed before your first dive. Putting yourself in a completely alien environment is quite challenging and a life time experience which you shall never miss.

Also do checkout my blog on my travel itinerary for Srilanka.

Cheers until next time :)

This blog was originally published on 'my travel hustle'