Thursday, March 17, 2016

Trip To Boracay, Philippines: Helmet Diving

Photo By: Elin Chow

One of the most popular activities in Boracay is Helmet Diving. I have read and heard so much about this activity that I wanted to try it myself.  We purchased a Helmet Diving package from a tour agent from Shingley Helmet Diving and Tours in front of our resort at PHP 3,000 (about RM 273). 

We were initially offered a flat rate of PHP 4,000 (about RM 364) for two persons, which we found it a little too expensive. But before we could bargain, the agent offered us a PHP 1,000 discount, which reduced the price of the activity to PHP 3,000 for a 15 minutes experience. 

After some discussion, we decided to book Shingley Helmet Diving and Tours for Helmet Diving as we found the price to be quite reasonable. But it is very likely that we still overpaid. Anyway, you will never know the real price or whether you are getting the best deal in Boracay. The White Beach is lined with hundreds of semi-aggressive vendors all trying to sell tourists the same activities at a different price. It will be tiring to approach each one of them to inquire about the price, because once you did that, you will find it extremely hard to leave. Thus, I would suggest that you just pay if you are happy with the price and enjoy the experience.

Helmet Diving

Helmet diving is one of the safest and easiest way to explore the underwater.This activity allows one to walk on the ocean floor without getting their head wet. No scuba certification, no previous diving or swimming experience is required for the activity. All you need to do is to walk and breathe once you are underwater. You can even wear your prescription glasses, sunglasses and contacts lenses as you normally do.

Our Helmet Diving package includes:

- Free transfer from the hotel to the boat pick up location in Station 3 of the White Beach
- Speed boat ride to Helmet Diving Floating Platform
- Helmet Diving equipment
- Free souvenir photos and videos 

In order to participate in this activity, you must be over 12 years of age and must sign a Waiver Form assuring good health. People suffering from physical disability or medical conditions such as Asthma, Epilepsy and/or heart conditions will not be allowed to participate in the activity. Helmet Diving is not suitable for pregnant women.

We were asked to read and sign a Waiver Form before undertaking the activity. Anyone who refused to sign the form will not be allowed to participate in the activity. For your own health and safety in water, please honestly disclose your medical conditions.

After signing the forms, we were taken by speedboat to the Helmet Diving floating platform sitting in the middle of the clear blue ocean. This is where the instructor briefed us on the dive, telling us what to expect and how to equalize our ears (relieve the air pressure in our ears) when we are underwater.  To equalize your ears, simply pinch your nostrils and blow hard through your nose. 

Other than that, the instructor also taught us a few basic hand signals that divers use to communicate with each other underwater.  The hand signals are very important because it is the only way you can communicate underwater. So, please try to remember some of the basic hand signals shown to you. 

Once we were ready, we were asked to climb down a ladder leading to the sea. I was feeling extremely nervous as I slowly climb down the ladder. The water was surprisingly cold and it took us a while to get used to the temperature. As soon as the water hit my shoulders, the instructor placed the helmet over my head. Once I had the helmet over my head, a scuba diving instructor came and pulled me down to the bottom of the ocean while I held on to the helmet so that it would not float up. 

While descending, I started to experience mild discomfort in both my ears. But the discomfort disappeared almost immediately once I equalized my ears. The bottom of the helmet is open, which allowed me to reach inside to pinch my nostrils so that I could relieve the air pressure in my ears. 

We were told that the helmet weight 11 kg above water, but only 2 kg under the water. Even so, the helmet was still very heavy under water. My shoulders were aching due to the heavy weight. In fact, my shoulders were a little sore even on the day after the activity. But it was worth it for the experience.

Attached to a hose and an air compressor, the helmet makes it possible for us to breathe normally though our nose just as we would above water. There is no scuba regulator or snorkel intruding our mouth as there will be a continuous flow of fresh air pumped into the helmet through the attached hose. I could hear the air continuously being pumped into it. The helmet has transparent plate for us to observe the underwater world at a shallow depth without getting our hair wet. 

While in the water, we have to hold onto the helmet to keep it from floating up. It was annoying. I wish the helmet could just rest on my shoulders without needing me to hold it down with one of my hands.  

During the entire duration of the activity, a PADI scuba diving instructor will stay by our side, guaranteeing our safety whilst underwater. The instructor will constantly ask us if we were ok by giving the "ok" signal. We smiled and gave him the "ok" signal to tell him that we were ok. So, if you are feeling uncomfortable during the activity, simply use the hand signals that you have learnt earlier to communicate to the dive instructor who was accompanying you. 

The diver instructor proceeded to take photos and video of our underwater adventure. All photos and video will be captured in high definition with an underwater camera. 

Our helmet dive package also includes a fish feed. We were given some bread by the instructor to feed the fish as to attract them to us. As soon as we were given the bread, the fish started to flock to our hand. Do not let go of the bread. Just let the fish swim to you. Do not worry, they do not bite. 

It feels incredibly amazing to be surrounded by a shoal of colorful fish. This allowed us to get a closer look at the fish.

We were told that the best time to do this activity is early in the morning when the water is very clear, offering great visibility. The ocean also tends to be quieter and calmer in the morning. A calm sea would mean that there is lesser underwater current, thus making it easier to walk on the seabed.

About 15 minutes later, the dive instructor will assist you to climb the ladder back up to the floating platform where we were asked to give a PHP 100 tip. We tipped, even though we were hesitant to. After we gave the tip, the agent from Shingley Helmet Diving and Tours came and carried our bags without explicitly asking if we would like help as we boarded the speedboat back to the beach. We thought that was a "service" included in our package. 

On alighting from the boat, he walked us back to our resort, and that was when he demanded a PHP 100 tip for carrying our belonging. Well, I must say that that was something we were not very happy about. Nevertheless, we still tipped him. 

We received a CD containing the photos and video of our underwater experience immediately after the dive so that we can share our experience with our family and friends. The CD even comes with a personalized cover! Even so, I still wish that I had an underwater camera. I believe I can take better pictures than these.

Take a guided walk on the ocean floor and experience the rich marine life underwater. I would recommend the Helmet Dive experience to anyone visiting Boracay. It was a truly unique and unforgettable experience for us!

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 4 days adventures in Boracay! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

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