Updated: Jan 15, 2022
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One of the places in the Philippines that has attracted tourists all over the world is Boracay. South of Manila, Philippines, lies this beautiful island northwest of the Panay Island. Prior to the renovation of the area, you could find a barrage of activities- everything from Scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, to jet skis. When I went to Boracay in 2017, I became enamored by not only the beauty of the ocean but also by the variety of fun activities. I have not yet been back to Boracay ever since the renovation took place. Therefore, I cannot attest to the current situation in Boracay.
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During the time I vacationed in Boracay, I heard about this activity called Helmet diving or Reef walking. My girlfriend and I agreed to try this activity. Since my girlfriend had connections in the area, we had no problem getting a discount on the activity. I recall paying about 500 pesos for both of us for the helmet diving package and parasailing (which we did the next day). This was less than $10 per person. Other tourists were paying around 1,500 pesos or $30 per person. Regardless, we started our tour on a Wednesday morning and headed out to meet one of the boat guides. We boarded a speed boat at White beach. When the guide started up the engine and gradually inched the boat away from the shore, I happened to look down and espy fish swimming around on the bottom. That depth of the water was about 10 feet. The depth was even clearer with the help of the sun beaming down on the beautiful clear waters. I told myself: “This will be a great day.”Along the way, the driver allowed my girlfriend to drive. She had fun.
The enchanting 5 minute boat ride led us to our destination. When we arrived at the diving site, I noticed that there was a huge floating raft in the middle of the ocean where they were conducting the helmet diving operations. After disembarking from the boat, we met a PADI scuba diver guide, who assisted us with the helmet diving.
What is helmet diving? It is a water activity that involves walking around on the ocean floor as you comfortably breathe through a glass helmet. A long hose attached to the helmet provides clean air supply. This helmet diving has been dubbed as also reef walking because you are literally walking on the reef.
Prior to entering into the water, we were given a short safety brief about using proper hand underwater communication signals under water (the same signals you learn in scuba diving), and releasing pressure under water (a process called equalization). The following are some of the signals: Thumbs up- Go up. Thumbs down- Go down. Immediately after the brief, the instructor asked if we had any questions before we entered into the water. We nodded that we understood and that we were ready for this amazing adventure. We then put on our water shoes (which are provided). As we entered into the water, a scuba diver placed a heavy and highly pressured oxygen pumped glass helmet onto our heads. The helmet weighted about 55 pounds, but it weighed about 6 pounds under water. The purpose of the heavy helmet was to ensure normal breathing under water.
A hose and an air compressor was attached to the helmet to provide air supply from the top. As one descends in the water, the water pressure traps the water inside the helmet therefore allowing one to breath.
We used a small ladder to climb down to the bottom of the ocean. The depth of the water was about 10 feet. While we were descending, we had to equalize regularly by swallowing,pinching our nose and blowing the nose. While walking aroundon the sandy bottom of the ocean floor, the scuba diver gave us pieces of bread to feed the hungry tropical fish. The diver was holding a camera and he snapped pictures constantly as my girlfriend and I fed the vibrant fish. The digital photos were included in our helmet diving package in the form of a CD Rom disk. Schools of fish appeared from all directions and they begin to swarm us as we feed them bread. It was an awesome sight and an unforgettable and thrilling experience.
The 30 minutes underwater gave me an opportunity to not only record with my go pro, but take photos of the live corals, beautiful tropical fishes, and . After the time elapsed, the diver gave us a signal to go up by making the thumbs up sign. We followed the diver up the same ladder and climbed back to the top of the diving platform.
The helmet diving experience is definitely worthwhile. For those who cannot swim and are apprehensive about water, I can assureyou there is no swimming experience nor are diving certifications required for this activity. The guides will take care of you and will assist you the entire time. That was the experience I had the day I was helmet diving.
The ocean is vast and essentially an underwater city where you may observe schools of beautiful fish, beautiful reefs, and live plant life. Helmet diving allows you to have a glimpse of the underwater world. I have snorkeled many places in the Philippines and I can attest to the fact that this country has some amazing clear and pristine waters.
The Philippines is not only beautiful but cheap as well. The helmet diving package is cheaper in the Philippines as opposed to Cozumel Mexico, where may easily pay about $150.
1) Don’t accept the first offer on diving packages. Visit many vendor booths and accept the least expensive.
2) Be willing to negotiate. The Filipinos are trying to make as much as they can in Boracay. One reason for this is Boracay is a tourist hot spot. Filipinos will often set a high price for their product, and it is the job of the tourists to negotiate for a low price.
3) Don’t panic underwater. The scuba diver is great about helping you from the moment you enter into the water to the moment you ascend back to the surface.
4) Keep your head upright when walking on the ocean floor.
What to Bring?
1) Go Pro