When we won our trip to Aruba back in December last year we vowed to make the most of our time on the island. We’d never won anything like a holiday before so were determined to take everything Aruba had to offer, especially since it was a place that we wouldn’t have picked to go before now. I guess the kids are calling it YOLO now – so one our YOLO moments was the Sea Trek Aruba on De Palm Island.
Sea Trekking involved wearing a large fishbowl style helmet, much like the original copper diving helmets, and walking along the Caribbean seabed to see the fish up close and experience a different kind of diving. As someone with no diving experience at all, and with my first snorkeling trips being right there on Aruba, I was a little worried (read – fracking terrified) about heading straight into the sea and being under there for 20 straight minutes.
Signing the waiver was probably the scariest bit actually, simply because when you see the word ‘death’ typed out so many times it starts to raise the heart rate a little. Actually lining up and getting the helmet on felt great and I suspect it was some sort of burst of adrenaline that got me into that water in the end.
Under the sea…
First off, we were all told the safety warnings and what signal to make if we didn’t feel quite right. Then we practiced our ‘equalising’, where you remove the pressure from your ears – whether that’s yawning, holding your nose and blowing, or wiggling your tragus to pop your ears.
I opted to wear a wetsuit over my bikini, just for the added comfort of feeling a little warmer under the sea, and it did feel less harsh. One-by-one we stepped onto the ladder and stood with our shoulders just above the water, ready to be taken down to the sea floor. As the leader put my helmet on, I instantly felt the fishbowl effect and calmed myself down by thinking about the experience I was about to undertake. How many times in my life would I get to walk 20 ft below sea level? Rung by rung, I lowered myself under the water and told the diver assisting us when I needed to equalise or go back up a step. I didn’t feel rushed by any of the diving team and they were really attentive, even though they could only communicate through hand signals.
Walking in slow motion
Everything, apart from the fish, goes in slow motion underwater. We walked along a 375 ft walkway, watching all the fish swim about and even getting to stroke a few of them! The divers would squirt some fish food in front of us and the fish just wriggled between our hands. As we had to keep hold of the hand bars along the way, it was a single file walk all the way through. That meant the divers could focus on each person one at a time to take photos and let us interact with the fish. There was even an underwater ‘cafe’ for a photo opportunity, where we’d sit at a table and pretend to drink from a bottle as the fish swam between us!
Coming back up for air
The twenty minutes underwater went by in no time at all. Arriving back at the ladder, we had to equalise on the way back up too. Taking it step by step, and stopping when my ears started to feel like they were squeezing inside out, I climbed back up the ladder and felt so proud of myself for doing it. Breathing the sea air felt so good after being compressed for so long! Walking back to the hut, I kept playing the experience over in my head and could not stop smiling. Then when the photos and video had been burnt to a CD and we were shown them on the screen, I felt like I’d really done something I never thought I’d have the guts to do.
Here’s our video from the Trek in May 2012.
Here’s something about me – I’m a bit of a wimp. I don’t like heights, small spaces or roller coasters, I don’t drink or smoke, and anything that makes me even remotely feel a bit nauseous you can count me out on. So walking 20ft below sea level with a fishbowl helmet on for 20 minutes and no real way of escaping quickly – that’s a real feat for me.
How to Sea Trek
On Aruba, the Sea Trek is only available as an additional fee when you book to go on a De Palm Island excursion. Trips to the island start from $99 per adult for a half-day ($119 per adult for a full day) and the Sea Trek is an additional $47 per adult. Book a day on the island with Sea Trek here, and learn more about the experience through International Sea Trek.please note: some header images are from unsplash.com