I recently read a review from Globo Surf and based on the reviews I went helmet diving in Boracay and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my Boracay trip! Heh. I’ve seen it being offered in other places with names like sea walking or reef walking but never got around to doing it.
It’s quite an interesting experience – there are various touts independent tour operators offering helmet diving at White Beach. We were approached by one while having the famous shakes at Jony’s with Xinxian and managed to bargain it down to PHP 800 for two, which works out to 400 pesos per person (about RM 30).
Helmet diving is called such because there’s a really long hose connecting the helmet to the oxygen tanks on top.
The journey started with a short speedboat trip to a floating sea platform on the Bulabog Beach side of the island.
The floating sea platform is where the entire operation is done. It’s anchored to a prime spot in the ocean and there’s an area at the sea bed where you can roam around.
We were briefed by the guide on how the basics of reef walking and I have to admit, I didn’t listen to half of what he said. Posed photo.
I was walking around instead and it’s quite interesting to see the locally made reef walking helmets. These are not the Sea Trek/Seawalker helmet diving systems but jury rigged ones made to resemble them. The helmets have clear glass plates so you can see out and you can breathe normally while you’re underwater.
The experience is totally unlike scuba diving, but it has to be performed by someone who has dive instructor courses. You descend down the ladder while the helmet is fitted over you by someone on the platform. The ladder goes down 10 – 15 feet to the bottom of the sea and you get to walk around and look at the corals and feed the fishes.
Helmet diving allows you to actually reach inside the helmet so you can equalize the pressure in your ears if you need to. I can do it without pinching my nose but I made the mistake of wiping the glass inside the screen, which made it fog up – you can see half of my face is obscured in the underwater photos. :)
There’s also a scuba diver that takes shots and videos for you. I didn’t realize the guy was taking a video so I posed for a photo instead and wondered what was taking him so long. Haha!
You have pieces of bread to feed the fish and you get to spend 15 minutes at the sea bed watching and touching the fishes. I quite enjoyed it – the only thing that bothered me was that the homemade helmets tend to drift away if you’re not holding on to it.
I would have thought the water pressure is enough to keep it in place but the current will shift it around. The guide told us to keep one hand on it. You can take your hands off for a while if you’re standing perfectly still but once you move, you’ll have to hang on to your helmet. Heh.
Despite that minor design issue, helmet diving is quite fun! I didn’t think it would be after scuba diving but I was quite surprised to find myself enjoying the time reef walking on the sea bed and exploring the marine life. It’s a totally different experience.
I wish we had more time underwater instead of just 15 minutes and before long we had to climb up the ladder back to the platform. The CD with the photos and videos were ready by the time we were up there. Helmet diving might be commercialized and scuba divers might scoff at the restricted movement (the hose limits where you can go) but it’s still a lot of fun.
I had a blast and I’ll recommend it if you come across it – helmet diving is a totally different experience altogether and I’m really glad I tried it! :D