Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Lake Diving Lake Ilopango, El Salvador, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 6:15pm

We got up early and hopped in the car to drive down to Lake Ilopango for our first freshwater dives. The drive went well until we hit the dirt road, at which point we missed all of the supposed landmarks. Eventually we found a road leading down to the water that looked promising. Since it seemed pretty iffy for the car, I hopped out and went down to the waterline. Sure enough, there were a pair of boats at the beach with the dive shop's name on them. As we were parking the car above, where the road was still marginally passable, a Jeep showed up with Nick, the divemaster in it.

The dives were interesting. The lake has a 20 foot thick layer of warm water at the surface. The water is green and soupy, and visibility is terrible. However, once you descend below the algae, the temperature drops a few degrees and the water becomes clear. It's neat to look up and see green instead of blue and to watch the silhouetted fish eating the algae layer.

The first dive featured some steps that may be Mayan ruins. There are large stones that look like purposely cut blocks, rather than a natural formation. They form one slope of a hill that might be a step pyramid, if more blocks are under them. However, they haven't been investigated by a qualified archaeologist, so for the moment they're officially still a mystery.

There were also areas of sulphur deposits surrounding cracks in the floor of the lake. While swimming by, we could feel warm water rising out of them, and in one case could see the different temperatures of water interacting. It's pretty neat to know that we were diving in the crater of a volcano that's still at least a little active.

The second dive followed the sides of a pair of volcano cinder cones down. We could see huge rocks formed by lava flows and then cracked. The lines of each flow were apparent in the broken cross sections. These cones were used for target practice by helicopter gunships during the civil war, and the divemaster found a corroded bullet casing on the sandy bottom. There's also a story about some thieves who robbed a farm on one side of the lake and managed to sink their boat on the cones while making their getaway. We found a number of old metal coins down there.