Hold your breath – this ones for the deep divers and seabed explorers among you…
Starting out, freediving seems a little like advanced snorkelling. You stay under for as long as you can. Then resurface and blast the water from your snorkel, like a broaching whale. As freedivers progress they develop a level of understanding, technique and ability gained through methodical training. They are able to push their limits by small increments, whether this is to spend longer hunting among the coral while spearfishing, or as part of a competitive event. It's also a fantastic activity for weight loss, cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength and flexibility!
Of course, freediving education is essential. It is never advised to dive alone and performance training has largely become a social endeavour, with specific groups and organisations for the various different disciplines. There are pool disciplines, in which participants test how long they can hold their breath without swimming, or while swimming a horizonal distance underwater on a single breath. Then there are also depth disciplines testing how deep divers can go on a vertical line.
The latter style of freediving is performed in open water at various stunning sites around the world, like Dean’s Blue Hole (and many other water-filled sinkholes) - a very popular place for recreational divers, since 1982. The Blue Hole is found in a bay west of Clarence Town, in The Bahamas, and it is the world’s second deepest sinkhole, after the 202 metre-deep Dragon Hole in the South China Sea.
Freediving skills certainly aren't required, but they do offer ways to enhance our SwimTrek trips. And many of our locations are closely linked to areas of natural beauty where freedivers are often found in abundance, like the waters off the beach of Cala D'en Serra in Ibiza.
SwimTrek offer chances to develop your freediving skills in the Maldives, with deep blue waters around scattered atolls, stunning seabeds and even a few shipwrecks to explore. The balmy warmth of the Indian Ocean also attracts a host of wildlife - so you can keep a look out for rays and turtles in the depths!
Other trips offer new and exciting places to dive and plunge over coral reefs caves and seamounts and archways. It seems that many of our trips draw from the same wells of inspiration that freedivers plunge into. In fact, one documentary often cited by freedivers as an all-time favourite is Luc Besson's Le Grand Bleu, which is based in Amorgos, Greece, very close to where we run our Cyclades trip.
In this blog, we've selected several unique experiences that freedivers can have on our trips - a few ways to expand your adventure above and below water:
Explore sunken aeroplanes on the Lycian Way
While island-hopping the Canyon archipelago, we retreat to Limanağzi Bay and moor our gulet for lunch above a sunken C47 Dakota aeroplane. Before moving on to coastal swims and chances to see ancient Lycian tombs embedded into the cliff face. Swimmers have an opportunity to swim down to see the Douglas Dakota DC-3 on the seabed - an incredible sunken wonder in the waters of the Mediterranean! The fighter plane did actually crash into the sea and wasn't cunningly planted there for the scuba divers to enjoy.
...we retreat to Limanağzi Bay and moor our gulet for lunch above a sunken C47 Dakota aeroplane!
Experience submerged swim throughs in the Philippines
Free dive over brightly coloured coral reefs and enjoy the company of endless variations of tropical wildlife in their natural habitat (including dugongs, long nosed dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles and hundreds of different types of fish). The Bacuit Archipelago, northwest of Palawan, features 45 jagged limestone outcrops, clear aquamarine waters and idyllic reefs. It's an incredible place to spend long periods underwater, viewing plunging sea cliffs, sinkholes and even attempting swim throughs. The Philippines is a favoured destinations for all kinds of divers and when you visit places like the lagoon of Cadlao Island and descend down to see the coral - you'll know exactly why! Also, if you’re very lucky you might share the water with passing whale sharks, manta rays and even Bryde’s whales which roam sporadically in the surrounding waters.
Do as the turtles do in the waters of Big Island, Hawaii
Sea turtles, manta rays, spinner dolphins and monk seals all show divers how it's done on the sunny western coast of Hawaii's Big Island. The waters are shielded from strong winds by Mauna Loa and so swimming and diving here is enhanced by near-perfect conditions. Descend among sheer volcanic rock and enter a limitless aquarium of marine life, along the Kona coast. You'll even have a chance to explore a flooded lava tube and match your pace with the resident honu (green sea turtles) who feed in the shallow pools!
Discover the sunken Ulysses in the Red Sea, Egypt
A freediver's playground - the Red Sea has an endless array of colourful coral and marine life connected to numerous islands and reefs. Divers and snorkelers have long travelled to inspect more than 200 types of hard and soft coral and all kinds of fish species, sponges and crustaceans. The underwater vistas feature caves and drop-offs and countless shipwrecks that are truly the stuff of diver's dreams. For our first swim, we plunge over Sha’ab el Erg, a horseshoe shaped reef, with blue spotted rays and Napoleon wrasse, as well as turtles. You'll also have a chance to visit the slumped wreck of the British steamship Ulysses, which sank in 1887!
Sink down to historical shipwrecks in Bali
During our recently released Bali Escape, swimmers will have multiple opportunities to test their freediving limits, descending down to reefs and the associated freediving sites of Ghost Bay - one of the go-to places for freediving, due to the fantastic visibility just off the shore. The nearby scuba diving hotspot of Tulamben is also home to an incredible beached cargo boat brought down in WW2 (1942) by a Japanese torpedo.
The nearby scuba diving hotspot of Tulamben is also home to an incredible beached cargo boat brought down in WW2 (1942) by a Japanese torpedo.
To fully explore the topographical features of the underworld, freedivers use a variety of different techniques and equipment. A mask is of course essential for vision and to help with equalisation, fins assist with propulsion and a snorkel can be used to help efficiency of breath between dives. That is all the most basic equipment. Weight belts, sun exposure protection and protection against the extremities of cold depths also appear on longer equipment checklists, for more experienced divers.