Where does the grandaddy of Indian diving go when he feels like taking a dip? For ad guru Prahlad Kakar, 58, a dive site has to meet several criteria to be counted among his favourites. Th e “pristineness” and “undived” nature of the spot is very important, he says; in the more popular spots, there are actually chances of losing your co-divers underwater. “You can go down with an English-speaking group and come up with a German-speaking one,” he chuckles. Next comes the wealth of marine life, the range of visibility and the comfort factors, including the temperat ure of water.
Some of his best dives, Kakar says, have been in Indian waters. But when we point out that his ownership of Lacadives, which operates two diving schools in Lakshadweep, could be construed to colour his vision, he gamely looks elsewhere, too.
In the deep: Kakar’s favourite diving locations include unspoilt spots in Egypt and Lakshadweep
Shark Pit, Mauritius
Around 10 years ago, in October, the end of the southern winter, my wife Mitali and I had 16 sharks circle us for half an hour. These were grey reef sharks, not known to attack humans, but since they’re shy creatures—like tigers—it’s tough to spot them. In some controlled dives, for instance in the Bahamas, operators feed sharks so that they congregate the moment divers make an appearance.
This, on the other hand, was an open sea dive off Mauritius’ north coast and to have not one, not two, but so many sharks come up to you was very special. The pit is elliptical and I was at one end while the sharks swam around, getting increasingly more agitated at the invasion of their space, so with every circuit, they came within touching distance. Mitali and the dive instructor were actually at the bottom of the pit, watching the sharks belly-upwards. Eventually, realizing we weren’t going to move, they left the pit. In all my years of diving, this was definitely the most memorable dive.
Shark at Alley, Lakshadweep
The name is actually a play on Shaukat Ali, one of our divers at Lacadives, who discovered the site quite by accident. This is a deep, 36m dive and a tricky one, since it’s just one spot in the middle of nowhere. One off day, Shaukat did a straight dive down and found that the lip of a particular shelf creates a natural cave. Inside the cave were six sharks, fast asleep. We were wildly excited, of course—we’re still mapping and naming the dive spots around the island and every such find is cause for celebration—but six subsequent dives to the spot yielded no sightings. Finally, we figured out that the sea needed to be still. We chose a time between high and low tide and then, on the seventh dive, we were lucky. Since then, every diver at the spot has seen one or two sharks, even tiger and guitar sharks, apart from regular nurse and grey reefs. Like tigers or leopards on a land expedition, sharks add a frisson of excitement to a dive.
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Consistently rated one of the top dive sites in the world, it’s testimony to the fact that if there’s a unique experience to be had, commercial exploitation is inevitable. The multiple wreckages caused by the dangerous currents and underlying reefs in the northern Red Sea are a huge attraction, especially the SS Thistlegorm, a British ship that was sunk by a German bomber during World War II. As one of the most exposed sites, there are no surprises as such here, but the beauty is still breathtaking. The colours of the coral, the visibility in the water, the large varieties of coloured fish have to be seen to be believed.
BOOK ON THE MOVE
Now why didn’t someone think of that before? That’s the reaction the folks at iXiGO are looking to elicit through m.ixigo.com. It’s a travel search engine for mobile phones (an offshoot of their Web product) that allows GPRS-enabled phone users to point their browsers to the site and access flights and hotels while on the move. Fares and rates are the main criterion for the search. If you have a hotel in mind, all you need to do is key it in and your screen shows the details. Click “book” and your search is transformed into a call to the reservation desk of the hotel you’ve chosen. “We launched the mobile product in mid-October and we’re already getting 350-400 users a day,” says Dharmendra Yashovardhan, co-founder, iXiGO.
With a database of 6,500 hotels in India, that ensures you’re never without a roof over your head, even if your laptop or USB data card is acting up.
GOING, GOING GOA
The year’s drawing to a close and you suddenly realize you’re missing your annual Goa fix. The time to hit the state of sun, sea and sand (and of late, alas, scandal) is now, before the resorts hike their rates to the astronomical festive rates over Christmas-New Year. At the Leela (Cavelossim beach, south Goa), packages are available for Rs16,500 (pavilion) to Rs20,500 (lagoon suite), inclusive of access to the casino Las Vegas and the swimming pool-sauna-steam bath facilities. The Majorda Beach Resorts (Majorda beach, south Goa) has three-night deals for Rs29,999 (superior rooms) to Rs35,999 (cottages), and throws in half a day’s sightseeing, a boat cruise and a bottle of cashew feni per day. At the Taj Exotica (Benaulim, south Goa), chill at the famed Jiva spa with the Spa Sojourn package (three nights; garden villas for Rs65,065 to sunset view pool villas for Rs1.12 lakh) that includes a spa lunch, yoga and meditation sessions, and sundry treatments. Taj’s North Goa properties at Fort Aguada and Sinquerim offer deals ranging from Rs39,060 to around Rs1.16 lakh. At Dona Sylvia in Cavelossim, Rs31,000 includes the usuals, plus a dolphin chase. To book these and to enquire about more deals, contact Baljit on 09212186719 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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