Helmet Diving in the Caribbean

We’re getting really close to the end of my list of suggestions for your travel bucket list.

In no particular order, my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list are:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

This week I’ll talk about¬†Helmet Diving in the Caribbean.

While I have spent most of my life on the coast and have traveled extensively in the Caribbean, I have never learned how to scuba dive and even when it come to snorkeling I’m a novice. However, with so much time out on the ocean and on beautiful beaches, I had to eventually see what was going on down below the surface so I decided to try helmet diving.

Helmet diving is a super cool experience where you are given a helmet that looks something like an astronaut’s helmet so that you can walk around underwater while still breathing completely normally. No need to learn how to scuba dive or even to breath through your mouth like you must while snorkeling. You just go about your business breathing normally but are under the sea and get to see all of the amazing fish and other sea creatures.

I don’t have any pictures of myself doing the helmet dive because I don’t have an underwater camera but you can see what it’s like here.

I did my helmet dive in Grand Cayman while on a cruise so I was met at the pier by the guide and we were taken out to our dive spot on a small boat. You don’t go super deep below the surface because 1) you don’t wear wetsuits and it would be very cold if you went too far down and 2) in order to allow you to breathe normally your helmet is connected to oxygen on the boat through a tube and you need to be able to walk on the sea floor. My guess is that we were about 40 feet beneath the surface, but I am pretty bad at estimates like that and could be totally off.

One by one, all of the “divers” climb down the boat’s ladder to the sea floor. The guides don’t put the helmet on you until the last moment, because it’s heavy, but as soon as you’re under water, you don’t even notice the weight. I can be a bit of an anxious person and definitely started to get a bit nervous as I waited for my turn to descend and while climbing down the ladder because it sways quite a bit in the waves. However, once I reached the bottom it was easy to relax and enjoy the view – perhaps a bit too easy because these helmets simply rest on your shoulders, they’re not air-tight, so if you lean your head too far forward or backward to look at something, water will rush in. It’s easy to correct by simply straightening up and there are guides in scuba gear with you to correct for you if you need assistance, but it’s still startling to be engrossed in watching a tropical fish and then all of a sudden feel your breathing space filling with water.

The tour I was on gave us quite a good amount of time on the sea floor to enjoy the experience and also allowed each of us to feed some of the fish a few times so they would come right up to you and take fish food out of your hand – some actually even pinch you a bit.

This was hands down one of the coolest experiences I’ve had because, before hearing about this, I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to see the fish like this without putting in the time to learn to scuba. You can find helmet diving tours all over the Caribbean and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity.

Just one tip: the boat you go to the dive spot in is rather small and moves quite a bit in the waves so, if you’re prone to seasickness, make sure to take whatever remedy or medication works for you before you head out on this tour and ask to be one of the first ones down the ladder.