Sunday, December 01, 2013

Travelogue: Underwater walking

After everyone completes para-sailing from the group they will push you back on the speedboat you came in and drive to the next location which is on another floating platform built in the sea. There will be many speedboats dropping people for the activity but every boat has one guide who keeps track of people in their group – and you can’t really get lost in the middle of the sea!
(the pic is the parasailing event)

There were two screens showing what happens here; this activity can be a little frightening for those who don’t know swimming or are scared of putting their head underwater. It’s called underwater sea walking; you change to a swimming costume if you have one – else you can just go in with your normal dress as well. All bags and shoes will have to be left on the platform. We were a little worried of leaving our stuff but there’s really no choice unless you want to split up your group to safeguard belongings. Since our main valuables were in the hotel we left our bag and went together. If you want to get snaps + a video of you/your group taken underwater then there is an extra charge for that of 500 Bahts or so; otherwise the activity costs 1200 Bahts.

You walk to the edge of the platform, you turn around, put your foot on the ladder that goes downwards from the platform into the water. When you are half immersed and holding to the ladder, the organizers manning the platform will put a large helmet on your head. The helmet is connected by a hose to some cylinders on the platforms.
This isn’t your bike type helmet – it’s like a helmet made by chopping a large plastic ball at a 75% height; like a spacesuit helmet. The bottom is not sealed – it’s open and that is frightening because you will have open space between your neck and the bottom of the helmet and it will feel as if the water will flood your helmet. 

The one instruction they give you is “You will have some ear pain but that will go. But if you find it is too much then signal with your hand.” Once the helmet is on they will push you into the water where someone down will pull you and midway on your downward descent he will pause and ask if you are ok – ask with a thumbs up sign and if you are fine then you respond with a thumbs up. It is very likely that you won’t be fine because of the pain in your ear – it is a lot worse than what you feel in airplanes. I did show the thumbs up because I felt it was bearable for now and hoped it will disappear. The fear of water gushing in is constantly there.

Once dragged to the ocean floor they will hook you up with some other tourist and tell you to hold their hands – they bring people one by one and form a small group of people holding hands in a circle. While holding hands you will sway a little as you struggle to remain straight; and as you sway you will drag the rest of the people – the idea with the circle is that others will help you hang on! The organizer who dragged you will then return once the circle is formed and he will lead the way – from a circle we break up into a line; it’s a little fun walking but the ear pain didn’t go away. It was still bearable. You can watch the fishes up close; the organizer guy will give you some bread crumbs – the minute you hold them in your hand, fish will attack your hand to nibble at the bread crumbs. The experience is fun and a little frightening – you feel you will get washed away under the sea; there are times when you feel you have no control on where you are moving; times when you feel the helmet will pop off and what not!

Our expert photographer had the best fun in the group! More on that later…