Last year, before leaving on our travels, I was commissioned by Coast magazine to do an article on a weekend learning to free-dive. This was a wonderful opportunity being something we really wanted to do whilst surrounded by the South Pacific Ocean. The article is due to come out in January 2015, and I have copied it below.
Putting what we learnt with Ian Donaldson in Cornwall into practise out here has been relatively simple. The waters are warm and clear and reaching depths of 15 metres is so much easier here than in freezing Cornish quarries, however I still have a long way to go in learning to extend my breath hold so I can stay down longer, and in learning to move more calmly and efficiently underwater. Its good to have this challenge to work on and has encouraged us to get into the water, under the water, more regularly.
We often take a kayak out to the middle of the lagoon, have a pootle about snorkelling, and practise diving down. I love the feeling of being under water. I feel so much safer down there than clumsily splashing on the surface. Its exciting to be able to take a closer look at the many mysterious creatures; to follow a graceful spotted eagle ray fly, watch the shimmering cuttle fish line dance, or peer into a coral to be startled by a guarding moray eel. We’ve spent enough time in the water now to know where the lion fish live, where the delightful spotted box fish flutter, and where to find our favourite; Marlon the leopard shark. Though we have been told he is perfectly harmless, it still feels heart stoppingly exciting (and useless for my breath hold) to be able to dive down and hang near this beautiful fish, close enough to see his incredible markings and his waving gills as he sleeps.
There is a magical cave nearby called Mariners cave. The entrance is under water and you have to dive down and swim through the submerged mouth before surfacing into a gaping cavern of dancing watery light. It was not a hard swim but exhilarating to try as you are swimming into inky darkness. We have found other small tunnels and coral arches to play in on other reefs, and I love the freedom and fun of having mastered just the simplest of free diving techniques. It is has none of the cumbersomeness of scuba diving, and where the advantage of scuba is length of stay, these quick visits to the underworld feel so much more thrilling and nimble. One lucky day in the lagoon we spotted a large green turtle resting on the sandy bottom. He seemed undisturbed by our presence and slowly lifted off the ground and began swimming in slow circles around us. When we finally decided to move on with nonchalant grace I dived down to swim with him. Like all these good experiences it was probably vastly quicker than it felt, but I was in my watery heaven. Swimming deep in the water, sunlight dappling through I swam alongside the turtle until my need to breathe grew too great and I had to wave goodbye. Motivation indeed to try and improve my apnea ability, I’ll keep practising.