Today was the day for scuba diving! I hadn’t scuba dived in a long time, probably for months now but I know what to do when I get the gear on! Yeah, this was one of those things where Intrepid doesn’t openly support or encourage its travelers to take on supposedly “high-risk activities” but it will help if needed. I got help from Lupe from the day prior in getting some scuba diving done so it was going to be an early pickup. No one else in the group wanted to go since they didn’t think being cold was going to be worth it nor were they advanced divers. Plus, they wanted to go find penguins on some safari beach watching excursion. Not for me though so basically that meant me, being a Master Scuba Diver, was going it alone.
After I got picked up by my guide, we went on a 20-30 minute drive to Faro Carona which was basically across the bay from where Ancud was. I also found out that I was the only one who wanted this trip so I was diving with just the guide. Once we drove close-by, we picked up more gear and people since these guys were the ones that were going to help us diving. Then we headed to a beach where the boats were anchored in a shallow bay to get set up. While I was putting on my gear such as the thick wetsuit, some guy asked for me to head his way motioning that he found something interested. Sure enough, there was a penguin chick all by itself just sitting there. I was wondering about the other travelers that went on that penguin trip if they would see any because if they didn’t, they just wasted their time when they could have just come along with me! Ha ha.
Once I got settled in with my gear and everyone else was ready, we took off on the motorboat for another 20-30 minutes on choppy waters with some points of the ocean having some big waves even though we stayed within sight of land.
The next thing actually surprised me because I initially thought that we were going to go scuba diving, not go old school by using an old-fashioned hose to breathe! Initially, there were some issues with getting the generator going but once the guys got it fixed, it was time to jump in with a hose connected to the oxygen generator to breathe from. Different, interesting, and yet, still cool. Just like scuba diving except no BCD (buoyancy control device – if you don’t scuba dive, you won’t know what this is but it’s like a vest to hold the tank strapped to you along with other various hoses). The initial descent into the water was not deep at all as my guide and I went down to 3-5 meters.
It was icy cold but thanks to the wetsuit keeping me warm, I could last longer underwater. My guide had been diving for years now and he told me before jumping in the water that he would be on the hunt to see if there was going to be anything to catch to eat. I helped finding and looking around for fish but I just didn’t have the underwater hunting skills like my guide did when he was going after sea squirts and octopus.
I knew somehow that the waters would get cloudy since these water currents would be from down south from Antarctica. What made it worse was that the entire Chilean coast is pretty rocky already so it makes it hard to see unless you’re wayyyyy up close to something.
The whole dive was 30 minutes of cold-freezing water at about 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit but man, there was so much to see. It was like diving in California where the waters are generally cold but a lot of marine life to see.
My favorite part about this dive was when my guide caught an octopus. He had me handle it around like a toy. Normally, you are not supposed to play with the marine life while diving but this was more like underwater hunting/fishing for food so it was okay since it was going to be a meal somewhere.
After getting out of the water, we went around the waters for a bit and then we stopped by another boat manned by fishermen since the boat captain wanted to buy some Sierras which is a type of fish. I’ve always wanted to fish and catch for one of these species but at least I got to pose with one of them. I was even more amazed at how these fishermen were doing the old school way of fishing by just using line and hook with bait. No fishing rod or reel. All by hand of reeling it in and out which requires a lot of good feeling with the fingers. That’s some difficult type of fishing as I would need a rod to get a better feeling for a fish bite.
Once we got back to shore, we changed clothes and dried up. Afterwards, we went to the guide’s mom’s house to sit down and warm up by eating some homemade soup and biscuits. Wow, that was some good stuff especially the soup which was beans and some kind of sea animal like sea squirt.
After filling up and warming up, we went to some beach to see some waves and different part of the island.
Afterwards, it was back to the hotel. While on the trip back to the hotel, we all saw this unusual thing – someone forgot to close the door on the truck filled with manure or fertilizer or something. Could have been really dangerous or messy depending on the results.
Once I got back, I asked the other travelers about their penguin trip and was told that they didn’t see any. Well, they were disappointed even more when I told them that I saw one within the first 5 minutes of being on the beach! They weren’t too happy about that at all. Should have gone diving if you have the credentials. Well, that was pretty much it for Chile as the next day we would be taking another long bus ride tomorrow, in order to go to Bariloche, back to Argentina again.
But in retrospect, the whole diving thing was awesome because I was told that I was one of the very few tourists who actually seek to go diving. This made me one of the few people that ever went diving and probably one of the first foreigners to do it giving the whole experience a lot of charm. I mean they didn’t have to go out of their way to take me to someone’s house to get fed or see a different part of the island. If I were to be diver #1598, they would never do such a thing! It definitely helped to be one of the first! Of course, it helped that my desire was great enough to pursue it as well as I could speak Spanish and I wasn’t some rookie diver, I was PADI Master Scuba Diver certified. That old school diving is probably on its way out and I got a great chance to do it. I could ask a lot of long-time divers if they’ve ever done such a thing and I’m pretty they’ve never done it. You gotta love traveling!