Though blessed with abundant water bodies, underwater adventures were never really a big thing in
Kerala. But, things are changing. According to experts in this sector, there has been a surge in the number of Malayalees engaging in underwater adventures, both recreational and occupational, in the last two years.
While the majority come for fun diving or scuba diving, the job prospects in the sector lure many local people to Kochi, a prominent centre for scuba diving.
According to Gilbert Antony, founder, Neel Diving Institute, Chullickal, it is mostly foreigners who come to the city for fun diving. As for occupational diving, there is a rush of Malayalees.
“So lucrative is this sector that many Malayalis are taking up courses to become divemasters or to work in commercial fields like underwater construction. Over 70 per cent of Malayalees come here to get trained. Many get basic certification in diving from Kochi and do scuba diving in places like Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand,” he says.
Not long ago, a lot of Malayalis used to work in West Asian countries with just basic training in diving. But, with many mishaps occurring, the West Asian countries made it mandatory to have the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification.
“Even lifeguards working in swimming pools need the certification. These are the main reasons why scuba diving on the rise in the city,” says Joseph Deleesh, manager, Scuba Cochin, Kadavanthra. According to Deleesh, around 3-5 people joined Scuba Cochin during the last two months for training, as compared to 15 in 2018.
“Most of them get employed in places like Andaman and Nicobar Island and Bali as divemasters. Some go on to become assistants to the instructors,” says Gilbert, who has around 21 years experience in training divers. “The training courses here are cheaper when compared to other countries. However, we need government support to tap its full potential,” says Gilbert.
“We get around 10 people for fun diving every month. The participation depends on the season. We have fewer customers during monsoon. Most of the foreigners come here to dive alone,” adds Gilbert.
Scuba Cochin had around 150 customers in 2018 for fun diving. However, it has increased to around 210 till October 2019.
“The season has just started. The number is sure to go up. Here we do freshwater diving at Shasthamugal quarry in Thiruvaniyoor. We have a branch in Thiruvananthapuram which undertakes sea diving in Kovalam. So in Kochi, freshwater life is explored while marine life is explored in Kovalam,” says Deleesh.
Among the customers who took fun diving this year, the majority were North Indians followed by Malayalis and foreigners. In Kerala, scuba diving is most popular among the techies.