May 12, 2012

Undersea helmet diving in Moorea

Helmet dive

Happily breathing underwater

I look like a bobble-head doll walking in slow motion. Like an astronaut in togs across the ocean floor I jump with a Russian helmet puffing oxygen around my head.

We’d set off from the Intercontinental Hotel dock on Moorea with AquaBlue Helmet Dives or Plongee Casque.

Aqua Blue

All set to plongee!

Vincent is the French owner of AquaBlue having started the business planning old fashioned history dives to take us back in time with a dive suit and brass helmet. But being restricted with only the one suit, business was hardly going to boom. That’s when the blonde surfy-looking entrepreneur found these yellow Russian dive helmets, bought 5 (at a cost of about US$2500 each) and thus began his unique business.

He has 4 adult helmets and 1 for children aged between 6 and 9 years and oxygen tanks that line the boat with hoses connected directly to our helmets.

“Listen for the music,” he says as I stand on the ladder from the boat climbing into the warm(ish) waters off a tiny motu (island) about 10 minutes ride from the Intercont. The music he’s talking about is the hiss of oxygen. This music stays on throughout the dive and is essentially comforting.

Once the helmet is lowered with a pulley (they’re flippin heavy!) onto my shoulders I climb the rest of the way down the ladder with Vincent holding my hand. He has a modern-day dive tank and regulator to easily flap around us. He checks my ears are ok with the diver’s signal – the A-OK hand signal rather than the thumbs up which would mean I want to surface. I swallow and they unpop easily. OK.

He leads me around the coral rocks and gets me to kneel down and twiddle my thumbs until the rest of the our party of four assemble on the ocean floor. We’re only about 12 feet down and snorkellers are bobbing above us, but 1 of our party freaked out and couldn’t handle the claustrophobia. If you’ve scuba dived, or even if you’re used to the sensation snorkelling creates of breathing under water, you’ll love this.

Helmet dive

Tip toeing across the ocean floor

“Follow me,” motions Vincent and we set off like one of those dreams where you can’t actually get your walking rhythm. A couple of stingrays glide around us and there’s plenty of colourful fish that are enticed by a canister of dead fish for lunch (theirs not ours). We have turns shaking it and they come to the banquet in our hands.

Feeding fish

My piscean friends love me so much

There’s a moray eel down here too, but alas she’s keeping her nasty face in the rock during our dive, although the group who just dived while we snorkeled and waited our turn saw her.

It’s an amazing experience and the whole thing is captured on DVD and photos. The cost of the dive is also very reasonable I thought. CFP6500 or about US$70 for the 2 hour round trip which includes snorkeling around the coral.

As a comparison to adventure prices in NZ, a very pretty Bollywood-looking Indian couple on honeymoon had just spent 2 weeks in New Zealand and were surprised how expensive it was. Compare this to the Nevis Bungy Jump at NZ$260 or Kawarau Bridge for $180.

 

If you are looking for more info on Tahiti or tours on Moorea, jump here to about a dozen different blogs on things to do, places to eat and stay.

 

I flew Air Tahiti Nui to LA via Tahiti and stayed at the Intercontinental courtesy of Tahiti Tourism. Check them out for more info on staying in little piece of French Polynesian paradise.

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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