Walking three metres under the surface of the ocean with an aqua helmet on my head is the weirdest experience I’ve ever had. I’m part bobble-head doll on Neptune’s great undersea dashboard and part astronaut walking in slow motion around the moon.
I’ve joined a tour with AquaBlue, based at the InterContinental Resort and Spa on Moorea, Tahiti. On the way out to our dive spot, AquaBlue owner Vincent Lelong explained why we won’t die under his Russian head gear – long rubber hoses hook the headgear to oxygen tanks back on the boat. He hasn’t explained how we’re meant to walk. So, like a baby foal I stumble around in the big blue, totally in awe of the beauty of life from this angle.
My heavy head is making me veer off in all directions. The helmet is so heavy it was lowered onto my head via a pulley system. I stood waist-deep in water, clinging to the boat ladder, as assistant Stefan lowered it onto my shoulders.
There was a hiss of oxygen filling my helmet and then I was slowly drifting to the ocean floor. Vincent held onto my hand lest I drifted into the ether. Once my ears were cleared with a swallow, I gave him the A-OK hand signal and he headed back up to fetch the next of our party of four.
When we’re all standing underwater and breathing as if this is quite normal, he signals for us to follow him over to a rock. We waddle over and use it as an anchor so the currents don’t push us around. And then the show begins.