I don't do well under water. I've said here before: while I'm always happy to jump out of an airplane, bungee, or fly an ultralight, if you throw me in the deep end of a pool, I will die. I've never been able to master the art of regulating my breathing underwater. As soon as my face is covered and I can't breathe normally, I panic. Even a snorkle mask makes me gag; I made yet another attempt at snorkling on this trip, without much success. (My guide told me I'm an "obligate nose breather." Whatever that means; isn't that what everybody's noses are for??)
I've always wanted to have the underwater experience, and have been jealous of people who can dive or snorkle easily.
On this Aruba birthday adventure, I finally found a way to get my head underwater without the terror part: the Sea Trek helmet walk.
Instead of snorkeling gear or a dive tank, you wear a giant helmet with an air line attached in the back. Strangely enough, the helmet is open at the bottom (you can stick your hand in and scratch your nose if you needed to), but the air bubble never gets filled with water. Basic physics, I'm told, but amazing to me nevertheless. I got the full colorful-fish-swimming in-my-face-experience, without worrying about where my air was coming from.
The helmet is quite heavy and confining, so if you have any claustrophobic tendencies, this might not be for you. The only discomfort I felt was from pressure building up in my ears during the 20 ft. descent. At one point I thought I might have to abort the descent because my ear was hurting a lot, but then it seemed to equilibrate itself and was fine for the rest of the time I was on the ocean floor.
This is the way to view Caribbean marine life: drinking a toast to my birthday adventure at the Underwater Cafe.
Check out these videos of our group, taken by our scuba-diving guides. I'm at 28-35 seconds.
Below, I'm at 41-47 seconds.