Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Solve Equalization Problems When Diving

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one having equalization problem when diving.  I've had 2 barotrauma incidents, good thing my EENT doctor is also a diver so he understands the sport.

Using ProEar diving mask helped a bit.  Let's say if it takes me 20 minutes to descent to 40 feet, using it takes 10-15 minutes to descent.  For me, taking decongestant doesn't help much and risk of reverse block is high with multiple dives.

I read the Diver's Guide to Ears and understood it by heart.

These tips helped me pull it through:
  • Keep eustachian tubes open. Pop ears several hours before diving, equalizing every few minutes above land. (i had to keep it open for a week to make sure)
  • A dose of Claricort 250mcg tablet (anti-inflammatory drug) a day, taken an hour before the dive.
  • Two sprays on each nostril of Drixine an hour before every dive.
  • Avoid dairy products since it increase mucus production.
  • Fresh clean air helps control rhinitis or other allergies.
  • Use descent line to control descent rate.
  • Try several equalization techniques.  When blowing through the nose with pinched nose doesn't work, try Toynbee Maneuver. With your nostrils pinched, swallow. (yes it works! previously, i don't pinch while swallowing)
  • Most importantly, equalize at 1 foot below surface, then at 4, 6, 8 10 feet. (consciously equalizing at 1 foot below surface did the trick!)

My dive buddies all noticed I descent faster than usual nevertheless, after fourteen dives in four diving days I felt some pain on the outer ear canal.  A dose of claricort for a day or two helped.

These tips helped solve my equalization problem during our diving trip in Palau and Peleliu, Micronesia.  Hope this post will help you too.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Diving in Palau & Peleliu with Maml Divers

I was resigned to the fact that I'd stop diving with recurring ear problem.  But I could not pass the invite to dive in Palau.  Our dive buddy E arranged full board and lodging including transportation and dive trips in behalf of the group with Maml Divers, it was a hassle free trip sans the fraudulent transaction with our  airtickets booked with Space Travel Ent, see my story here.

Limited number of airlines fly to Koror, Republic of Palau.  Continental Airlines is the only airline that flies to Koror from Manila, Philippines.  Taking advantage of monopoly, airfare was pegged at $725.  Starting April 2010,  Pacific Flier now flies from Clark to Koror for $399++.

Preparing for a dive trip

This is my first diving trip outside of the Philippines. Since will be staying in Peleliu, an island off the mainland Koror, Palau I made sure all essentials are brought in. I prepared a checklist to make sure I don't leave anything I need.


1. Hat
2. Sunglasses
3. Rain jacket
4. Shirt
5. Shorts
6. Underwear
7. Swimsuit
8. Slippers
9. Rash guard and leggings
10. Sunblock
11. Sarong
12. Towel
13. hair clip/tie
14. contact lens and solution
15. toiletries


1. BCD
2. fins
3. snorkel
4. mask
5. booties
6. reef hook
7. balloon
8. ting-ting
9. Underwater camera, strobe and charger
10. dive computer
11. UW flashlight and extra batteries
12. shampoo or toothpaste for mask clearing
13. dive bag / dry bag


1. Betadine for Coral bruises
2. Spirit of Ammonia for Jellyfish stings
3. Bonamine for travel sickness
4. CERC for anti-vertigo
5. Calmoseptine for rashes
6. Mopidic for itch & jellyfish
7. Decongestant
8. Paracetamol
9. Vitamins
10. Imodium for loose bowel movement

Arriving in Palau & Peleliu

After two and a half flight from Manila, we arrived in Koror airport past two in the morning.  Queue at the immigration is moving slow.  We've learned that the locals are generally laid back ergo, lazy.  They get subsidy from the US government and goods are imported from US free of tax.

We were met at the airport by a Filipino driver.  Reality is, there are now more Filipinos in Palau than the locals sweating for a living.  Our dive master, the cook, the receptionist, the sales lady are all Filipinos.  We felt at home, speaking our own language sans spending US dollars.

We checked-in West Plaza Hotel Malaka for the night.  Left in the morning aboard a 225 suzuki twin engine speedboat, from Maml Dive Shop in Koror heading to Peleliu Island.  Peleliu Island is about 15-30 minutes while Koror, Palau is about an hour away from the dive sites.  It was wise to stay in Peleliu Island for the rest of the diving days.  Peleliu Island is quite remote,  there's no mobile phone roaming signal.  Local sim is available though.

Diving in Palau & Peleliu

We had fourteen dives in four diving days. More popular dive sites are as follows:

  • Blue Corner - there's a Blue Corner dive daily,  you can't just get enough of it's beauty.  This is Palau's most famous dive site. Blue Corner has every thing a diver could wish for.  Strong currents whip over the top of the plateau bringing with it a plentiful supply of food.  White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks cruise up and down the currents providing great close ups for divers hooked in along the edge of the wall.  Napolean Wrasse, Bumphead Parrotfish, Giant and Blue Fin Trevally is plentiful.  Out in the blue for a safety stop, is usually accompanied by a large school of Black Fin Barracuda and more sharks.
  • German Channel - is famous for Manta Ray. Luck wasn't on our side, we had to go back everyday, not until the fourth day did we spot the Manta Ray and it was just in a blink of eye.  It was totally a waste of time in search for that elusive manta ray.  If you're lucky, you'd see 2-4 of them.  Visibility is bad due to planktons and sandy bottom, where a Manta Ray cleaning station is located. What I liked about German Channel is when the speedboat is cruising through it's channel, it looked like a runaway.
  • Big Drop Off is much like Blue Corner.  A vertical wall is covered with soft corals and sea fans, divers can expect a pleasant drift dive at some point. As we hooked on the reef, it was interesting to see fish behavior fining against the current.
  • Blue Hole - descend down a hole, on top of the shallow reef, into a huge cavern, 28m / 92ft deep. Natural light filters down from the vertical shaft above, providing excellent silhouette shots.  The electric clam is a resident here.
  • Peleliu Express is for those experienced divers looking for some adrenalin rush.  Raging currents with sudden down and up current can be experienced here.  Four of our buddies was up for the challenge for an early morning dive here.  According to them, the bottom wall is generally flat which makes it harder since there's nothing to hold on to. Drift dive with the strong current, stumbling and rambling in between until you find shelter behind a cliff, just make sure you won't miss that otherwise you'll be thrown into the blue.
  • Peleliu Corner to Cut is close to Peleliu Express.  The cut is a popular hook in point for divers to stop and watch the action. Unhook and the current takes you up and over the plateau.  After 40 minutes fining against the current, I was low on air and eventually had to share air with our DM.  Sharing air is stressful, I had to bite as hard as I could on the octopus (spare regulator) or risk of losing it with the strong current. ascending with barely 200psi left.
  • Yellow Wall and Oolong Wall are also must visit, a dive buddy says.
Surface Interval
    Aside from diving, I look forward to each surface interval.
  • Peleliu South Point - we often have our bento picnic lunch here.
  • Ngemelis Island - lovely sand bar.
  • Dolphins in the wild - it's my first experience with the dolphins in the wild. They appeared in the middle of the sea, playfully chasing our speedboats
  • Jellyfish Lake - it's lovely to swim with stingless jellyfish sans the plankton rich lake.
  • Shark point - feeding of sharks is no longer allowed, thus they no longer circle around you while snorkeling; but you can see them at the bottom of the sea while snorkeling.
  • Milkyway - very fine white sand perfect for exfoliating
  • Giant Clam City

Post trip accounting: $1:P45.6
$725 airfare - Manila - Koror - Manila on Continental airlines
$630 dive fee, inclusive of full board and lodging
$50 sanctuary fees
$40 rock island hopping tour
$50 tip
$35 Koror airport tax
$6 ($1.5 1L bottled water at the store, $1.5 500ml at the restaurant)
$40 2 souvenir shirts
P750 Philippine airport tax
P1200 balloon
P300 reef hook

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