Rapa Nui – “Under da Sea”

My two previous posts about Rapa Nui have explored our experiences with the people, music and culture of the island and the natural wonders to be explored and enjoyed. You would think then, that my final post would be about the most obvious attraction, the Moai. But no, I have decided to not write about the moai and their mysterious story – you will just have to visit the island yourself one day to see these incredible statues first hand.

This blog, instead explores a different environment, a rather wet and cold one, and one where I didn`t feel at all sure of myself. Yup, you guessed it, we decided to go diving!

I had heard from friends before going, that the diving conditions on Rapa Nui are some of the best in the world thanks to very little plankton which makes for very clear water. The downside of that, is the lack of much ocean life to feed on the plankton. I wasn`t considering diving as an option for us on the island, for a few very good reasons:

1. For those of you that know me well, I am always up for an adventure and have not thought twice about bungi jumping or skydiving in the past. But, water is a whole different story and underwater adventures, even more so.

2. Diving to me is an activity you should only undertake once you have passed a diving course and have your diving license. But apparently this is not necessary, at least not in Rapa Nui.

3. I have been lucky enough to have amazing snorkelling experiences in Zanzibar and Jordan`s Red Sea port of Aqaba and so did not really feel the need to try diving.

But, on our first afternoon on the island, we wandered past the small harbour and the two main diving companies. We walked into the Orca Diving Centre more out of curiosity than anything else. We were greeted by one of the employees wearing a paint stained overall. Diver turned handyman in between dives it seems. In just a few minutes he had put my fears at ease and had me hooked on the idea of trying out diving. Rodrigo, also nervous was won over by his charisma and we found ourselves booking a slot for a few days later.

The Orca Diving Centre, Rapa Nui

The Diving Centre has an interesting claim to fame – it was started by Henri Garcia, a Frenchman who was part of Jacques Cousteau`s scientific expedition on the Calypso that visited the island in 1978. He loved it so much that he returned in 1980 and started the centre. For those of you that may not have heard of Jacques Cousteau, he is like the French version of David Attenborough and National Geographic.

Getting ready for the adventure…

I must admit I was very very nervous about diving. I am just not confident in or under water. But I thought that this experience would help put some of my fears to rest…

We had a 10 minute briefing about the equipment, the process of descending and the hand signals to use. I was a little bit more relaxed knowing that there was going to be an instructor dedicated to me the whole time.

Nervously waiting to kit up and jump into the water.

Sadly, my fears of diving were not overcome with this experience. After jumping into the water, my instructor (this time in diving gear and not handyman overalls) helped me get used to the regulator and goggles and had me float on my stomach looking down at the ocean floor. Then gradually he started guiding me downwards. The first time, after only about a metre or so I started panicking and signalling that I needed to resurface. After calming me down we started descending again. During our briefing we had been told about needing to equalise when we started feeling pain in our ears. The same way you equalise in a plane during take off or landing. Sounded straightforward. But somehow for me, it was anything but straightforward while under the water, trying not to panic and trying to focus on what to do and when. I just couldn`t equalise with the regulator in my mouth and every time I tried to breathe out hard from my blocked nose, I ended up breathing out through my mouth. After a few failed attempts and the pain increasing in my ears, we ascended and I gave up on the diving experience. I was very disappointed.

During this time, Rodrigo was with another instructor and besides one panic attack and need to resurface, he made it to the ocean floor and was captured in some amazing photos…

Playing gently with a Balloon Fish which the instructor had roused from the ocean floor

Exploring the coral and coming across some interesting fish

Rodrigo and some other fish

After what felt like an eternity of waiting in the boat for Rodrigo to surface, he finally emerged so ecstatic and happy with his experience. He couldn`t stop describing everything to me on the short ride back to the island. Part of me felt sad that I had missed out on the experience, but another part of me was super happy that at least one of us had been successful. I guess I will just have to stick to snorkelling…

Returning to the island

 I may not have got to see all the amazing fish that Rodrigo did, but back in the harbour I did get to see this beautiful turtle.

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2 Responses to Rapa Nui – “Under da Sea”

  1. scubadevon says:

    Looks like good diving over there! In the picture, “Rodrigo and some other fish”, the pretty bright one is a type of Wrasse fish, which we see here in Australia as well.

    Don’t give up on diving! You should try take a course which takes things slow with instructors willing to help you work though any challenges you encounter. It doesn’t take long for even the most novice diver to become comfortable underwater and really start to enjoy the experience.

    • ingridckoch says:

      Hi there. Thanks for the information on the fish. And also for your advice on diving. We have actually been thinking about finding a diving course here in Santiago as I would like to try and give it another go…as you say, with patience and the right instructor, I am sure I can do it.

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