We arrive at Nha Trang harbor bright and early in the morning and it is already buzzing with activity. Hawkers are selling hats, sunglasses, cigarettes and ice cream while groups of tourists from around the world mill about, waiting to set out for the many different island tours available. Despite the surface appearance of chaos, there is an undercurrent of order and efficiency which is evident by the way in which the tourists are systematically shepherded onto the boats without incident.
Our adventure today starts on a speedboat made for no more than 10 people. Our guides greet us with friendly smiles as they help us aboard, hand us our lifejackets and make sure we are seated comfortably before they back the boat away from wharf and turn towards Nha Trang Bay. Soon we are speeding along the water, salty mist splashing in our faces and the wind blowing in everyone’s hair. I’m bald so I can only imagine how great that feels.
We rocket past small fishing villages perched on islands and large anchored container ships and we all scramble to capture photos with our phones to post on facebook and Instagram. The photos are out of focus and blurred because we are travelling so fast, but no complaints. We’re excited to reach Hon Mun Island, operated by Viet Asian Nha Trang’s famous sea walking company. We reach our destination and eagerly make our way onto the jetty, watching with fascination as a group of visitors climb out of the water wearing large transparent sea walking helmets, like astronauts emerging from the ocean’s depth. As the helmets are lifted from their shoulders, they begin chattering excitedly amongst themselves and taking selfies together.
After changing into our swimming suits and storing our belongings into the lockers, we gather again at the edge of the jetty where we receive a safety briefing from the professional staff of Viet Asian. Then comes the question:
“Who wants to try first?
Call 0903504142 for advance booking”
In hindsight, perhaps I was overly aggressive in the way I pushed past my friends, my wife and my children to be at the front of the line. But I was excited. The helmet weighs about 40 kg and they put it on my shoulders as I descend the ladder into the water. Once I am submerged it is light as a feather. There is a steady flow of oxygen supplied to the helmets via tubes that lead to an oxygen machine on the surface and scuba divers employed by Viet Asian hover nearby, guiding us to the coral reefs and providing a welcome sense of security. The helmet is not designed to be sealed shut – my chin is bobbing in water – but somehow it remains a bubble of breathable air. The mysteries of science.
I continue down the ladder until my feet are firmly on the seabed. Then I turn and walk outward. One of the divers hands me a plastic bottle full of bread crumbs. As I squeeze it, dozens of fish surround me and nip at the bread. It’s truly incredible. The view from the helmet is crystal clear and the sea-life around me is up close and personal. The water is pleasant and warm.
There is much to explore underwater. The divers direct us to the incredible corals and we gather around for a group photo that we will certainly treasure. Schools of fish swim around us as we smile and hold hands and share an unforgettable experience together. The time passes by very quickly and when we return to dry land, one thing is certain: We will be back.