“ No swimming required. Walk under water in the Indian ocean and discover life beneath the water. „
During my memorable vacation in Mauritius, my friends suggested Underwater Walk which I was not too keen on at first. But I must admit that when we met and discussed with the group monitor, I felt somewhat reassured about the whole experience and even started looking forward to it. I was having so much aqua fun in Mauritius that Underwater Walk was a bonus to it all! Moreover, Mauritius is internationally reputed for its wonderful, wonderful coral formation and rare fish and other aquatic animals. We paid the £16 fee and set off at Black River (West Coast of the Island). Armed with underwater equipment which included waterproof cameras, we successfully completed our beginner's course in the hotel's swimming pool, and headed out for the vast ocean. Pushing all thoughts of "Open Water" out of my mind, I followed the instructions and just climbed into the speedboat which would take us towards the large boat which awaited in the middle of deep, dark open sea.
I was a bundle of nerves as the instructors carefully re-explained the various hand signs and emergency underwater signing. Finally, it was time to go into the water and I was eyeing the huge helmet and other equipment with apprehension. When I got into the water, my first reaction was to panic and try and get back onto the boat but one of the instructors kindly took my hand and led me through the first minutes underwater. Today I have these two photographs of myself during that experience: One of me looking all wide-eyed and scared and the second one with a huge grin on my face. It was simply awesome! Once you get past the fear and nervousness, it is an incredibly rich experience. The Indian Ocean is really full of treasures and rare corals and extremely beautiful, extremely colorful fish. I have even managed to cuddle on large and sweet looking fish for a picture!
The instructors gathered us around in a circle (yes, while we were standing on the seabed wearing our bizarre masks!) and started to hand us pieces of soggy bread which we in turn fed the friendly fish. I think they must be quite used to visits from humans because they started gobbling the food at once- with no hesitation whatsoever. I have to admit that I was seriously considering giving up eating fish when I was down there with these adorable creatures!
Don't ask me how long the walk lasted- I have absolutely no clue! All I can say is that you never notice time pass by underwater. It was literally something out of a dream, as if you've been transported to Ariel's underwater kingdom! If I had to describe this experience in one word, it would simply be "Magic".
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When I found out I was going to Mauritius, I thought it would give me the chance to do one of the things that I have always wanted to do, and that is a Walking Underwater Experience. I love being in the water, and the thought of being in deep water, in an exotic island, amongst the fishes sounded like paradise to me. Therefore I was thrilled when I went to Grand Baie and they told me that they offered it as a trip! I instantly booked my place, and had to wait another week before I had the chance to go "under the sea"!
As I just mentioned above, my Underwater Walking event happened in Grand Baie, which is one of the most beautiful tourist beaches in Mauritius. It has gorgeous white sand, turqouise blue seas, and many different water sports and adventures for people to try out. A few examples of these include jet-skiing, day trips on a Katamaran and of course the Underwater Walking. You book these trips through local guides who you can easily identify walking along the beach telling tourists about their trips. They then book you into a slot for few days later provided that you have a time and date convenient for you. You have to pay an initial deposit of 400 rupees (the Mauritian currency), which is half the money, so these guides have some insurance in case you don't come back.
When I returned on the day my trip was booked for, I paid the remaining 400 rupees. Therefore overall, it cost me 800 Rupees. This is roughly £14, which I thought was an excellent price to pay for a once in a lifetime experience. They told me it was going to last roughly an hour, and that I had to take my swimming costume and a towel, that was all! I had booked to go with my sister-in-law and her husband and my brother-in law and his daughter, so in total there were 5 of us. We met the man we booked the trip with on the beach at the time we arranged and he introduced us to the 2 men who were taking us.
So, once we were all introduced, we got into a speedboat which was going to take us out to sea where we would be doing the Underwater walking. The boat easily seated 5 of us, plus the two guides so it was a fairly good sized boat. We spent about 15 minutes on the boat, we did go out about a mile and a half to sea, around the Mauritian coastline and finally out in the open sea. The further out we went, the sea became a richer turquoise blue, so much so that we could see the seabed even though the sea was about 3 or 4 metres deep, it was gorgeous!
Eventually we arrived at a boat which had "Mauritius Underwater Walking Experience" written on the side. It was just a larger boat than the one we were on, and was clearly well equipped for our trip. So, we all had to climb from the speedboat into the bigger boat...no mean feat! It was a bit slippery from all the spray on the speedboat, but the two men were really nice and helped lift me onto the bigger boat. When we all got onboard, we seated ourselves on the seat down the edge of the boat whilst the men went into the cabin below to get everything ready for us.
So, one of the men came back up and sat down in front of us and said he was going to talk us through what was going to happen under the water. He showed the VERY large helmets we would be using, and we were told that they weighed 40 kilos each...I only weigh just over that so I was a bit worried at this point about how I would cope with that on my head! Anyway, they showed us some signs we would use to communicate with each other under the water with, just basic ones for "okay", "so-so" and "pull me up now". After this, he told us how we would be lowered into the water. We would have to climb down the steps backward until the water reached our shoulders, then they would lower the helmet onto our shoulders, at which point we would have to let go of the ladder to be lowered to the sea floor. I wasn't too keen on the sound of that!
We were given some wet shoes to put on our feet, as the bottom of the sea bed would be very corally and dangerous to tread on with bare feet. Before we began our dive, they told us of an optional extra which was to have a photograph and video package taken whilst we did our walk. It would cost a further 1500 Rupees, around £25 but between 5 of us, that was only £5 each so we decided to go ahead. They then took a group photo of us seated on the boat before our dive which was a nice touch. Then they told us we wouldn't be able to go down as one big group as there were only three helmets, so we divided ourselves into 2 groups. I was going with the first group, but I didn't want to be first down there so I volunteered Sean, my sister-in-law's husband! Just before we went down, they fastened a weighted belt around our waists just to ensure we would stay on the sea floor as the pressure in the helmets would try to send us up to the top! They weren't too heavy but enough to feel a bit of pressure on your hips where they sat.
He went down okay, and so did his wife, then it was my turn. I stepped down the ladder into the water, and I was very surprised by how cold the water was! As I was holding on to the ladder, they took a photo of me, as they did with everyone who went down. So they lowered the helmet onto me, and the sheer weight of the thing made me let go of the ladder and fall to the seabed. The coldness of the water took my breath away for a minute but you soon get used to it. The helmet itself is like a big glass dome over your head which is pumped with air. The pressure of the air stops the water coming in so your whole head remains dry, and you can talk, although no one will hear you! You have to hold two handles at the sides of the helmet to keep your balance and to make sure it doesn't fall off you. It did feel very heavy, you could feel it pushing down hard on your shoulders, and by the time my time under the water was up, my upper back and shoulders were really aching!
Anyway, under the sea. The man who came down with us took a few group pictures of us and then a couple of individual ones. Then he proceeded to swim ahead in front of us, directing us to follow. Walking was incredibly difficult, what with the weights and the helmet, and the pressure in the helmet trying to pull you up, you really had to go slowly and with exagerated movements. There were small black and white fish everywhere, you could feel them brushing past your legs which was an odd sensation! We walked around for about 5 minutes, just being able to look around where we wanted. The seabed was covered in coral, and we often tripped up as you couldn't look down far enough to see where you were walking as the helmet blocked your vision. I saw many fish, small ones, big ones, even green ones which looked like eels (I nearly had a heart attack at that point) but were actually trumpet fish! It was amazing to be down in that environment, looking around you and seeing nothing but clear water, coral and tropical fish, it's really relaxing and a sight I shan't forget for a long, long time!
After a while, we had walked around, had a video of ourselves walking about taken and had gone in a circle so we were back underneath the boat. The guide went back to the surface and quickly came back down. He had in his hand lumps of bread, which he proceeded to divide between the three of us. Immediately, the fish swarmed up, going made for the bread. You could feel their mouths sucking at you, which I didn't like the feeling of, hence I dropped my bread. This made all the fish go to the seabed and fight each other to get a piece. Bravely, my other two groupies kept theirs and the fish went mad around them, so much so that I could barely see them! When all the bread was gone, the fish quickly left us again and we were told we would now be going to the surface. As I was last down, I was last to go up, so I had to wait a few minutes for my turn. I had to walk underneath the ladder, but as I am only tiny, I couldn't reach the bottom rung! So the guide lifted me up easily so that I could get my feet on the rung. I then climbed up and as my head reached the surface, the guide on the boat grabbed the helmet off me and I climbed back onto the boat. Then it was the turn of the other two people in our group, so myself, Sean and Sandra had to sit on the side, but luckily the boat was bathed in sunshine so I couldn't really moan!
When everyone was done, we all got back onto the speedboat and went back to the beach where we originally came from. No one had a watch so we presumed that we had been the hour we were told we would be. But when I rejoined my partner and Harry, they looked at me with a shocked look and told me we had been over 2 hours! I couldn't believe it, it only felt like about an hour! But I think we had been underwater for around 25 minutes each, plus the travel, and our talk, so I suppose it must have been 2 hours, which is fab value for money! Back on the beach, we paid the guys for our photos and videos, which they told us would be with us within the hour, and they certainly were, on a CD which was handy. They said goodbye, and that was that!
So would I recommend it? Most definitely! It is a real once-in-a-lifetime experience, and such a special one. It is great value for money, £14 for 2 hours of fun and something you can't do over here. You are well taken of, everything is explained to you so you have no need to worry about anything but most of all it is amazing to get to be so close to the fish, in another world almost, and it is really breathtaking. The pictures came out beautifully and are a great reminder of what I did. They are also great to show everyone else what it was like as obviously I was the only one in my little family to experience it, so it was nice for my partner to see what I saw. I had such fun, and I am so glad that I took the chance to do when I had the chance. If you ever get the chance, make sure you take the opportunity too!
Please note: this walk is only suitable for those over the age of 11 years old
Thank you for reading!