Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Netrani Island Scuba Dive and Dandeli

Scuba diving at Netrani Island (near Murudeshwar, Karnataka) was in my wishlist. 2 years back, we were unable to visit the place as it was closed by the Navy. It is one of the best Dive sites in India.
We decided to visit Dandeli during our return journey. Travelers for this trip were me and wife Renuka. Our friend Ameya joined us. This time, my i20 was not on the road and we drove Ameya's New SUV 500.

Travelers

About Netrani Island and Dandeli
             Netrani Island (formally known as Pigeon Island) is small Island from the Arabian Sea. It is off the coast of Murudeshwar, Karnataka which is famous for Shiva temple. Island is 20km away from the coast and owned by Navy. It is used as target practice by the Indian Navy. Scuba diving was banned till 2017-18 due to a court case for disturbing ecological balance.
Dandeli is a perfect destination in north Karnataka for all nature lovers. It is also famous for adventure activities on the River Kali such as white water river rafting. Dandeli is a paradise for bird watching activity and Anshi National park from Dandeli is the home for Tigers, leopards, black panthers, elephants, gaur, deers, antelopes, and bears. Sighting of the cat family in such dense forest is rare.
Ganeshgudi is a small village near Dandeli and known for bird watching. The jungle is also home to reptiles and almost 300 varieties of birds.

The route to reach Murudeshwar (For Netrani Island) from Pune is Pune – join Mumbai Bangalore National highway – Kolhapur – Nipani – Belgaum – Take Right exit at Kittur (Road beside Hotel Gajaraj palace)- Alnavar- Yellapur - Kumta - Murudeshwar.
The route to reach Dandeli from Pune is Pune – join Mumbai Bangalore National highway – Kolhapur – Nipani – Belgaum – Take exit for Belgaum – Khanapur – Londa – Ganeshgudi.

Ameya's Car SUV 500...

Day 1: 09th Feb 2019: Pune – Murudeshwar:
              Our journey began at 6 AM as we wanted to avoid the highway traffic and enjoy the cold freezing morning. The National Highway 48 was in excellent condition and well suited for a long drive. We had a short break before Khambataki for tea-Coffee and breakfast break at Karad.
Our target to reach Murudeshwar by 8PM as our Dives were planned for Sunday 10th February. We took a lunch break at Kittur by 1PM and then left the national highway. The route from Kittur till Kumta was in excellent condition except for a few small rough patches. The route goes through dense forest. We were ahead of time so we decided to take a break at Kumta beach for Sunset view.
         We reached on the beach near Kumta by 6:30PM. We missed sunset but had a short break on the beach. After spending some time on the beach, we moved ahead for Murudeshwar.
We reached Murudeshwar by 8PM and meet Ajay Patil (Owner of Dive Netrani and Dive Goa dive school). We know each other from 2013 when we did our Scuba Dive in Goa. Check my Goa travel Blog here. Our plan was of Single Dive which we extended up to 2 dives. We meet our Dive instructor Rupee, Ram and shaoumik. We left Dive Netrani office (in the campus of Hotel RNS residency) after completing formalities.
               We were too hungry so we had a meal in a nearby restaurant and then searched for a place to stay. We booked 2 AC rooms at Shree Vinayak residency whereas booked Naveen beach resort (located on the beach) for Sunday Night.

Temple at Murudeshwar
Temple at Murudeshwar

Expenses:
  • Car Fuel: INR 5500/- for the entire trip
  • MH Toll-1: INR 90/-
  • Coffee: INR 70/- for 2 coffee at Kamat
  • MH Toll-2: INR 60/-
  • MH Toll-3: INR 75/-
  • Breakfast: INR 288/- (Misal-Pav, Idli Sambar, Rava Dosa, tea and mineral water)
  • MH Toll-4: INR 75/-
  • KA Toll-1: INR 25/-
  • KA Toll-2: INR 65/-
  • Lunch: INR 530/- (Butter Chicken, butter Roti, Dal khichadi, Masala Papad, Cold drinks)
  • Coffee: INR 30/- for 2 coffee
  • Dinner at Ratna Sagar restaurant: INR 377/- (3 South Indian meal, Cold drink, 2 Lemon Soda and 1 Water bottle)
  • Stay at Shree Vinayak Residency: INR 1300/- for 1 AC Room

Day 2: 10th Feb 2019: Scuba Dive at Netrani Island:
              We woke up by 7am and reached a Dive Netrani office before 8:30am. It is always advisable to have some light and less oily food before you dive, thus we had some south Indian breakfast before we move ahead for our Dive. We geared up and went on the beach. We were accompanied by other Divers who were doing their Open water Certifications. We all had walk till Murudeshwar beach and then we load Cylinders, Scuba gears and snacks onto our boat.
              Our 1-1.5hr journey began for Netrani Island. During the journey to Netrani Island, we had a good briefing on how the SCUBA equipment works, do’s & don’ts underwater, signs to make during Dive, etc. It was our 7th and 8th Dive in last 7 years hence we were aware of many do's and don't things. We were still attending the briefing carefully. We had new friends on the boat and some chat with Ajey. After an hour, we saw glimpses of Netrani island.

Set for Dive with Dive Netrani

               When we reached close to the Island, we got to know that the first 4 Advance certified divers will Dive for their Deep dive training which was up to 30 meters. It was our relaxation time and we were getting ready with wet suit n all. One cannot land or step up on Netrani Island as all the edges of Island are sharp and vertical. Also, Island belongs to Indian Navy hence roaming on Island is not allowed. We planned with 2 dives per head with max allowed depth up to 12 Meters. After waiting for some, an Advance diver came up. we learned many things from those certified divers.


               We left the deep dive spot and started our journey towards an Island. The boat was anchored near Island and we equipped with Scuba gear. We are not PADI certified Scuba divers though, this was our 8th and 9th Scuba dive. Friend Ameya was the first person to start his 1st Dive. He also did a couple of Scuba Dives abroad. As we were aware of breathing technique, Renuka and then me entered the water without wasting any time for our first Dive. We went down slowly. Visibility inside water was fabulous. This time we were carrying our own underwater action camera to capture underwater beauty.




            Marine life at Netrani was too impressive and we were not expecting such an amazing experience. We were underwater for around 40-50 Munites with a depth of around 8 to 9 Meters. We saw too many colorful fishes and small fish colonies. Eel fish, pufferfish, Boxfish were major the major attraction of our first dive. It was a wonderful experience to be a witness the underwater beauty.


            We came up and board the boat. After finishing of first dive it was time for relaxation before we start our second dive. Ajay Told us that our second Dive (Not sure but dive site name is Nursery) will be more thrilling as you will be able to witness a huge fish colony around you. We had some food which was available on boat and power nap. We went together for the first dive through our underwater directions were different. For the second Dive, We went one by one. Renuka Went for her second Scuba Dive. I and Ameya entered in the sea for some swimming and snorkeling.


              My second Dive was the last Dive of the day and I went with Divemaster Ram. I was underwater for around 45-55 min with recorded depth as 9.9 Meters. This was my one of the Best scuba dive I ever did across India. I saw Variety of fishes, Eels popping out from the rock, Huge Fish schools around us, beautiful coral and many more. The peak point of Dive was when we saw Bamboo Shark just 3-4 meters away from me. Shark was within Rocks and Ram spot that and then I saw. It was around 3-4 Feet long beautiful Fish. This was not the end of my dive as we saw Humphead Wrasse fish (also known as Napoleon fish) which was huge in size. Fish was swimming parrel to us for around 15-20 seconds before it disappears quickly. After Dive I got to know that Humphead Wrasse (Napoleon fish) is very shy and don't prefer swimming around or parrel to Divers. I don't want to come out of the water as I was swimming all together in a different and beautiful world.





             After my Scuba Dive, We all left Netrani island. We all had Fruits which were arranged by Dive Netrani Team. After an hour we reached on Murudeshwar beach. We all help to shift Diving gears from boat to Dive Netrani Office. It was a fabulous day and satisfaction can be easily seen on our faces. If you're looking for Dive certification or Discover Scuba Dive then Netrani is one of the best sites to explore the beauty.



            If you just want to try scuba dive for the first time then you can go for Discover Dive (at some places, it is called an Introductory Dive). You will not receive any certification and it is just to explore the underwater world with the help of Divemaster. Swimming is not mandatory for this dive. After Quick basic training session, you can dive into the water with Divemaster.


              There is plenty of diving course available in PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). you have to be first PADI open water Diver course. The course contains classroom theory, Pool training and then Open water dives. You should be medically fit, able to swim with any swimming style and above 10 years to be certified Scuba Divers. Detail information on PADI and PADI Scuba dive courses is available at Website www.padi.com


             After Dive sessions, we did check-in in the Naveen Beach resort which is located on the beach. We went to the temple for darshan and Murudeshar market for some shopping. We all were tired hence preferred seafood dinner in the Hotel itself. It was quite a long day and we had rest after our Dinner.

Shiva Statue at Murudeshwar

Sunset from Murudeshwar
Sunset from Murudeshwar

Expenses:
  • Scuba Dive cost: discover Scuba Dive INR 5500/- per Dive + INR 1500/- for next dive (Next dive should be on the same day/Same Trip)
  • South Indian Breakfast with filter coffee: INR 220/- for 3 person
  • RNS cafe: INR 751/- (chana Batura, cheese sandwich, paneer pakoda, Manchurian, 2 coffee and Juice)
  • Naveen beach resort stay: INR 2500/- per AC room per night with breakfast
  • Dinner at Naveen beach resort: INR 782/- (Kingfish curry with rice, lemon Rice, Masala Papad and 2 cold drinks)

Day 3: 11th Feb 2019: Murudeshwar - Dandeli:
             we were ready by 7:30AM to visit the beach and the temple. After spending some time on the beach, we went to the temple for Darshan. Temple area consists of Murudeshwar Temple, Raja Gopura and Statue of great Lord Shiva. Temple is built on a hill which is surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea. The Lanka King Ravana worshipped Shiva with devotion for the Atma-Linga. Pleased by his prayers, Lord Shiva agreed to give him the boon on the condition that it should never be placed on the ground before he reaches Lanka. If the Atma-Linga was ever placed on the ground, it would be impossible to move it. The gods thought that with the Atma-Linga, Ravana may obtain immortality and cause destruction on earth. Lord Ganesh came up with a plan to confiscate the Atma-Linga from Ravana. As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk. To perform his evening rituals, He wanted to handover Atma-Linga to someone. At this time, Lord Ganesh in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the Atma-Linga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Atma-Linga on the ground.

Murudeshwar Temple area from Gopura

             Ravana returned to find that Ganesh had already placed the Atma-Linga on the ground. Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. He realized that he had been tricked tried to uproot and destroy the linga. Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. He threw the cloth covering the Atma-Linga to a place called Mrideshwar which has been renamed to Murudeshwar.

Ganesha calling Ravana before placing Linga on Ground

Ganesha placed Atma-Linga on ground

             At the entrance of the temple, 20 storied Gopura (tower built at the entrance of the temple, especially in Southern India) is constructed. With the help of the elevator, you can reach on the 18th floor which offers a breathtaking view of the Arabian Sea, Murudeshwar beach, village view and a beautiful view of the 123-feet idol of Lord Shiva. It was an amazing experience to view Murudeshwar from such height. Gopura has beautiful carving and two life-size elephant idols are placed at the entrance.

Morning view of Murudeshwar Beach from Gopura

               After Gopura visit, we went inside the temple. Temple is small but maintained very well. There are many small temples. Photography in the main temple is not allowed. Real gold is used on the roof of all temples.

Temple view from Top

            Last attraction in Murudeshwar was the statue of Lord Shiva. The Shiva statue is the second highest statue in the world after Kailashnath Mahadev Statue situated in Sanga, Nepal. We saw a museum which is below the statue and has a series of different statues that tell you a story of Lord Shiva, Ravana, and Atma-Linga. There is a huge Nandi statue in front of Shiva. The statue of Ravana holding the linga is also at the front. Various sculptures depicting the incidents from mythological tales can be seen around.

Shiva Statue

              We left Murudeshwar by 11AM and our next destination was Dandeli. We plan to visit Yana Caves on the route which is around 24-25km from Kumta. Yana is famous for the massive black, Crystalline, limestone rock. Yana also has Cave temple where swayambhu Linga has been formed. It is famous for two massive rock is known as the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and the Mohini Shikhara. There is around 1.5-2 km forest trail followed by around 300 steps to reach Cave temple. The trail goes through deep forest with a water stream on your right. The waterfall is another attraction at Yana during the Monsoon session.

Yana Rocks

           After Quick Visit to Yana Cave, we started our journey towards Dandeli. We booked rooms at Old magazine house resort (a.k.a. OMH) from Ganeshgudi. This was our second visit to Ganeshgudi. Ganeshgudi is a small village near Dandeli and known for bird watching. The jungle is also home to reptiles and almost 300 varieties of birds. he Old Magazine House resort at Ganeshgudi is a property run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts. This place owed the ammunition storage during the construction of the Supa Dam project in the 60s. There are many birding spots in the resort; the best spot is beside the dormitory area where the birds enjoy a bath in the birdbath pots. The people at the lodge have put up a few birdbaths, a few perches around it and created a barrier a safe distance away for people to come and watch the bird activities. I do nor prefer sitting at one location to spot birds so we decided to visit nearby waterbody (Pumping station) and Timber market spot on next day.

Leaf Bird
Paradise Flycatcher Female

           Somehow, we manage to reach before evening and quickly we visited OMH studio (Birdbath area name). after spending an hour, we left for Ganeshgudi Pumping station for Hornbill. here is small government pumping station on Kali River near OMH and only resort guests are allowed to visit that area with the resort staff/ Naturalist. One side of the river has hornbill’s nests whereas the other side consists of trees with small fruits which are their favorite food. We saw more than 10-15 Malabar Pied hornbills.

Malabar Pied hornbill
Malabar Pied hornbill

            We went into the room and got ready for bonfire camp. A blazing bonfire came upon the grounds as we sipped hot soup and pakodas seated around it. We spent more than an hour discussing Wildlife, Photography and past experiences before we proceeded for dinner. After a delicious dinner, we took rest.

Expenses:
  • Parking at Yana caves: INR 20/-
  • Two Water bottles: INR 40/-
  • Lunch at Hotel Samrat, Sirsi: INR 225/- (2 South Indian meal, 1 mini-meal and, water bottle)
  • Stay at Old Magazine House with all meal and breakfast: INR 5818/- for 2 person room.

Day 4: 12th Feb 2019: Dandeli to Pune:
            We woke by 6 AM and were ready for bird watching. We skipped sitting near Birdbath and decided to go Timber Depot. The place is around 10-11 km from Ganeshgudi and located in the Dandeli. A naturalist from Hotel joined us as a guide. As the name says, its Depot of Timber especially Teak wood and Rosewood and they claim as biggest in Aisa. Timber Depot has trails and quality trees which is now home of many bird species. Timber Depot is also Home of Hornbill which indicates the richness of the forest.

Timber Depot at Dandeli

             There are lots of Fig trees in Timber depot which is a major attraction for Hornbills and other birds. we reach there at Sunrise time and soon we started spotting Hornbills. Though we have seen too many hornbills in our first visit (including Great Indian Hornbill) and at Ganeshgudi pumping station, so our focus was to spot other birds around Depot area. We saw Malabargiri, Leafbird, and Malabar Whistling Thrush in the first hours.

Brown-headed Barbet
Malabar Grey Hornbill

             We went deep inside and saw Racket-tail Drongo, minivet pair, Blue Cap rock thrush, Lesser Yellow-naped Woodpecker and Lesser Goldenback woodpecker. Some Birds like Tit, Sunbird, Wablers, plum-headed parakeet, etc were playing the role of Filler when we were moving from one spot to another.

Racket-tailed Drongo
Golden back Woodpecker
Orange Minivet (Male)
Orange Minivet (Female)

             We went a bit deep trail and saw Jungle owl. It was perfectly camouflaged with the tree. while coming back to Timber Depot, we saw Taiga Flycatcher and brown breasted flycatcher which was a jackpot for us. It was worth to visit Timber Depot rather than spending time in OMH studio. By 9-9.15 AM we left the place and reach OMH for breakfast.

Jungle Owl

Taiga Flycatcher at Dandeli
Taiga Flycatcher at Dandeli

            After breakfast, we were again busy with birding activity but now in the hotel area. Somehow there was less activity in the birdbath area so we started exploring the nearby area from the hotel. We saw a Malabar giant squirrel. Near the Fence area of the hotel, we saw a pair of Paradise flycatcher. Male Paradise flycatcher was young and we were clearly able to see his long tail with rufous color (Redies Brown) with some white color patches on it. Females are short-tailed with rufous wings and a blackhead whereas Males have elongated central tail in white color and blackhead.

It's My breakfast Time

             We had a lunch break by 1PM and again join the birding activity. We heard the call of Black Woodpecker. Hotel staff aware of where he will land as there is a nest nearby. We went and soon saw Black Woodpecker. It was quite far away from us so I barely managed to take record shot. Black Woodpecker is entirely black with Red-colored crown.

Sub Adult Male Paradise Flycatcher

Malabar Gaint Squirrel 

Malabar Gaint Squirrel

               Our plan to leave for Pune was by 4.30 PM but as more activity began after 4 PM we decided to leave a bit late. Our evening session began with the entry of Emerald dove followed by Oriental White Eye, Flame Throated Bulbul, Monarch, Little Spider Hunter, White Rumped Munia, Shama, Crimson-backed Sunbird, and chestnut bee-eater. We were busy with the camera. Soon Racket-tail Drongo entered on perches. It is the largest bird from Drongo family. The tail with twirled rackets is distinctive and in flight, it can appear as if two large bees were chasing a blackbird.  Bird has a wide range of loud calls that include perfect imitations of many other birds. Shreeram Kumar (Also a photographer and guest in OMH) recorded his call and activity on Camera. It was truly fun to observe the bird.

Black Woodpecker at Dandeli
Black Woodpecker at Dandeli
Blue capped Rock Thrush at Dandeli
Blue-capped Rock Thrush
Oriental White-Eye
Emerald Dove
Plum-headed Parakeet
It's a Bath Time

By 5PM, I packed my Camera and Male paradise Flycatcher arrived on perch. We witness the beauty and left for Pune. We reached home at midnight. It was truly a stress-relieving trip.

Racket-tail Drongo

Expenses:

  • KA Toll-1: INR 90/-
  • KA Toll-2: INR 65/-
  • KA Toll-3: INR 25/-
  • Hotel Kaveri: INR 70/- for tea-Coffee
  • Dinner at Aaroma restaurant: INR 465/- (veg dish, Roti, Masala Papad, Curd rice, water bottles and, cold drink)
  • MH Toll-1: INR 75/-
  • MH Toll-2: INR 75/-
  • MH Toll-3: INR 60/-
  • MH Toll-4: INR 90/-

Contact Numbers for Reference:

  • The Old magazine house: Mohan Babu 08383256301, 09448133240. Website: http://www.junglelodges.com/old-magazine-house
  • Scuba Diving: Dive Goa (Ashwini: 09325030110; Ajay: 093250300109) Website: https://divegoa.com/ OR https://divenetrani.com/

GPS Locations:
Murudeshwar: 14.095134, 74.485558
Netrani Island: 14.014424, 74.326859
Yana Caves: 14.590087, 74.566232
Old magazine house, Ganeshgudi: 15.291701, 74.520990
Timber Depot, Dandeli: 15.242992, 74.621711

Indian Paradise Flycatcher Male

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.


Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune

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