NEW YORK — A growing number of travellers want to master freediving, the practice of diving on a single breath, to explore the underwater world.
Resorts around the world are offering guests a chance to get beneath the surface without bulky scuba equipment through on-property certification courses and guided dives throughout the year. The increase in demand has also prompted the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (Padi) to establish a freediver instructor certification programme, making freediving (also known as breath-hold or apnea diving) a more accessible recreational activity.
Travellers interested in getting their feet wet can head to Mantaray Island Resort in Fiji (rooms from US$130/S$180, including meals), where two-day beginner Scuba School International freediving courses can be arranged upon arrival (from US$250).
“Freediving is part physical and part mental in that it involves understanding the body’s signals and remaining calm when the urge to breathe develops underwater,” said Eric Albinsson, a programmes specialist with the professional diving instructors’ association. “The body can still go for quite some time before a breath is required.”
Upon certification, guests can explore Fiji’s clear waters and see coral reefs and colorful angelfish, clown fish and parrot fish, turtles, dolphins and reef sharks. From May through to October, guests can also freedive with the island’s massive manta rays, which have wingspans stretching up to 20 feet.
In the Maldives, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa (rooms from US$567) offers Padi freediving classes at its dive centre (from US$210). Graduates can dive into Dhonakulhi Island’s reef channel, home to exotic sea life, and 48 nearby dive sites including one known as the Aquarium, where they can spot moray eels, lion fish and seasonal manta rays.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru arranges for guests to shadow a manta ray scientist for a day, freediving with marine biologists from the Manta Trust on board a research vessel. (Room rates from US$1,400/S$1,936, plus taxes and fees.) From June to the beginning of November, lunar tides and monsoons increase plankton levels in areas of the Baa Atoll, attracting manta rays, whale sharks and other sizeable fish. Freedivers learn to improve their diving technique while taking identification photos and helping record environmental information essential to manta ray conservation.
For freedivers willing to brave colder waters, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada, takes guests on guided freedives to see box crabs, starfish and edible sea urchins. The resort also offers alpine lake freediving; travelling by helicopter, divers can immerse themselves in pristine glacial lakes to see huge underwater cliffs. Wilderness and wildlife freediving packages start at US$3,645 (S$5,041) and include accommodations, meals, floatplane transfers and some excursions. Freediving certification is an additional US$1,000 (S$1,384), based on a group of five. THE NEW YORK TIMES