Helmet Diving and Snorkeling in Boracay

Helmet Diving

My original plan was to go jet skiing. I wanted to go jet skiing since I had never been before, and I was in the perfect location to do so. Since the beach was lined with semi-aggressive vendors all trying to sell tourists the same products or activities, I merely approached one to inquire about prices, and in the midst of haggling, he mentioned something about helmet diving. Having seen helmet diving on many brochures around town, I added it to my list of things to try, but up until that point, I had completely forgotten about it.

“Oh yes, helmet diving, I want to do that instead.”

“Great, I give you the Filipino price. 1,500 pesos instead of 4,000, okay?”

“Sure.”

Helmet diving is an odd experience. Via what looked like a motorized canoe on its last legs, my guide took me out to this massive buoyed platform where dozens of others were waiting their turn to go helmet diving or scuba diving. Unfortunately, I think I spent more time with those other people than I did with the fish. When it was finally my turn, I stepped down the ladder into the ocean, and before my last step, the guide planted this huge, white head cage on my shoulders and down to the ocean floor I went. Only about 5-6 people can go helmet diving at a time, and each group is accompanied by 3-4 diving instructors. It was neat to be able to stand, walk, and even sit on the ocean floor. I even go to feed some fish. One of the diving instructors handed me some unidentifiable piece of food, gestured for me to hold out my hand, and the fish swarmed to try and get their own piece. It really freaked me out mainly because I never imagined feeding fish under water off the coast of one of the most beautiful islands in the PHILIPPINES as a possibility or something I’d even choose to do. Sometimes I can really surprise myself, and that’s the best part of any trip.

Snorkeling Boracay

On my last day in Boracay, I woke up feeling really lazy. I didn’t want to do anything except for maybe see how far I could walk along the beach. When I went downstairs to the hostel common room, I spotted a sign up sheet for an island hopping tour. Being escorted to different islands on a boat sounded like fun without a chance of overexerting myself. The clouds showed signs of rain, but why not give it a go anyway? Me and 5 of my hostel mates headed out to our first and only stop, Crystal Cove. Because of the threatening rain and choppy seas, we were only allowed to visit one island where we did a bit of hiking and got to explore a couple of underground coves.

To get to the coves, we had to walk down very narrow and steep sets of stairs and along some slippery pathways where one misstep could land you in the ocean. As balance and full awareness is needed, I don’t advise going on this tour if you’re hungover or have been drinking since the morning. Once underground, our voices echoed off the rock walls and if there hadn’t been a barricade of boulders, we would have been swallowed by the crashing waves in an instant. In a way, I felt like I was in Pirates of the Caribbean, defying nature.

For me, the highlight of the short trip was snorkeling. We got to spend about 40 minutes snorkeling in shallow waters, swimming with fish, and getting a glimpse of life under the sea. The water was warm and slightly murky, and even though we had to stay within a small radius of the boat, I was learning to love the ocean. I’ve always been intimidated by swimming in the ocean since so much of it has been left unexplored by humans, but little by little, that fear is vanishing. I even left with a souvenir. While snorkeling, I scraped my foot on coral, and it has left a permanent scar on my left foot. Some people collect postcards or trinkets from their travels. Maybe minor body scars will be my way of remembering everywhere I’ve been.

Cost: 1,500 PHP ($30 USD) for helmet diving and 2000 PHP for the island hopping tour which included snorkeling. Price is subject to change based on season and your personal negotiating power.
Notes: Wear your bathing suit and flip flops. Bring your own towel and leave behind any valuables you don’t want to get wet.

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