IAMWATER Ocean Travel offers intimate wildlife encounters with the ocean’smost majestic creatures from dolphins to seals, humpback whales andmanta rays to bull and tiger sharks to name a few. Our team consists ofworld class freedivers and marine experts who will take you on aonce-in-a-lifetime journey into the ocean - mind, body and spirit.
IAMWATER is at its core an ocean conservation organisation. Not only do weadhere to the highest standards of responsible marine megafaunainteraction, but through I AM WATER Ocean Travel we generate funds tosupport the projects of our Ocean Conservation Foundation.
When you were a kid, did you sometimes take a really big breath in the bath, pinch your nose, close your eyes and sink in under the water? Do you remember the quiet as sounds became muffled, the shifting colours and shapes inside your eyelids, that feeling of being quite contained... You were freediving!
When I was nineteen I decided to become a kid again and never grow up, to step back into water and live for that silence. Freediving as a competitive sport is about diving as deep as far or as long as possible on one single breath of air. Pushing their bodies far beyond what researchers thought was possible, freedivers have made one breath be enough to below 200 meters when assisted and breath hold beyond eleven minutes.
For me, freediving is the perfect expression of my love affair with the ocean. Just like a whale or a dolphin or a seal, I take one breath, kick down and explore the magical fairyland that lies beneath the waves. The human body is perfectly created for diving on one breath. We share an adaptation called the Mammalian Dive Response with all aquatic mammals, we have a small seal living inside us waiting to come out and play. As your face touches the water, your heart rate slows down, blood gets shunted away from your arms and legs to make sure your brain has enough oxygen, your spleen constricts flushing new haemoglobin rich blood into the system and more as the little seal sits up, shakes out it’s fur, yawns and gets ready to dive!
For deep dives I wear a monofin that is like a mermaid tail, where my feet are together and a large fin propels me down… one two three four… twenty kicks until I pass my neutral buoyancy and start falling. Letting go of light, air, doubt and fear I let my body fall into the ocean. It is so still here. I close my eyes and let my fingers glide along the rope. Equalise, equalise… relax. A small mantra I play over and over in my head. Below fifty I feel the pressure increase, like a vast ocean embrace my chest gets compressed, my equalisation is key now, don’t miss a beat. Then I’m there, the bottom of the rope. I open my eyes, give one pull to start my ascent and let my safety diver at the surface know that I have turned and start kicking up. I am heavy down here. Kick kick kick, relax, I am strong, I can do this. I love this. The water gets brighter, I get lighter and there she is, my friend meeting me at twenty, she smiles at me and swim the last bit up together. Break the surface, deep breath. I want to go deeper!
For every training dive, for every hour spent in the water I become more aquatic. I practice on a rope so that I can easily play with the majestic creatures that live in this big blue that covers out planet. How not to bore a spinner dolphin, how to meet and greet a great blue whale, how to entertain an acrobatic seal, how to glide with a manta… get back in, pinch your nose and sink below
It's really quite simple. Our planet is blue. All over the green and brown bits we draw lines, we claim nations we speak languages that differ wildly from land mass to land mass. We misunderstand, we hurt each other and we redraw the lines. Mine! Yours. Back off! We stakeclaims and we feel threatened. The heaving, churning flowing mass of blue is unkept, untamed and unlined. You cannot own an ocean. Where borders divide us, oceans unite us.
I swim in Mozambique... yes, it's another country, but the ocean is transfrontier. I meet with pods of dolphins... who carry no passports, have no allegiance and look pretty damn happy for it.
I am a blue water uniter, I am a believer in what brings us together- of what unites us and makes us similar. Water. Oceans. The wombs we are born from. The worlds beyond language where we can be silent and agree. I am an oceaner.
"Do you know what the cure for seasickness is?" asks Jacques, our underwater cameraman. "What?" slurs our pale green puking producer Emil, "sitting under a tree" Jacques laughs.
This joke is hardly funny when you're 56 km south of Cape Point where land is a distant memory and the heaving, thrusting, splashing ocean is all around you. We have bounced out here on EXPLORER 1, a sturdy and fast rubber duck to find the blue water known as 'The Canyon'.
We are a team of five ocean loving adventurers; two Americans, one Swede and two South Africans- and we are freezing! We have been diving with Blue and Mako sharks for the last two hours and we're dreading the 2,5 hour run back to Cape Point. With her diverse sea life and wild seas, Cape Town is one of my favourite places to dive in the world. In one week we have dived with Cape Fur Seals, Mako Sharks, Blue Sharks, Seven Gill Sharks and in magical kelp forests. But you have to have a certain kind of toughness (and wetsuit!) to really love diving in Cape Town. It's not called the Cape of Storms for nothing... and the water is between 10 and 22 Celsius. Never more. Yet most Capetonians hardly know the aquatic riches on their doorstep! We are shooting a 6 part mini series for EPIC TV, and each episode is freediving with a new marine creature and we've clocked four already!
But we want blue warm water. We want to take off our wetsuits and feel the water on our skins. We are freedivers, the less equipment we wear the closer we feel to the ocean.
Every South African winter the Wild Coast comes alive in a boiling churning crazy happening known as the Sardine Run. Millions of small silver fish get trapped and herded by unusual water temperatures which kickstarts the greatest feeding frenzy on earth. Dolphins, whales, sharks and birds launch a synchronised attack on the small running fish. If you’re very very lucky and if you’re in the right place at the right time… you might just get to witness the madness.
With a wild and expansive coastline, being in the right place at the right time is a difficult endeavour. When I heard about the possibility of experiencing this great event from my friend David’s beautiful 82 foot Catamaran, Ocean Adventurer II, I cleared my diary and booked my berth. If the Sards are running, we’ll find them.
I have been in love with the ocean for many years now, and I have experienced amazing meetings, creatures and made my best friends in and on the water. Human and aquatic.
A couple of days ago I had the great joy of making a new magical ocean friend.
Animal Ocean Steve and I launched out of Hout Bay to take some of our friends and freediving students to freedive with the seals around Duiker Island. The Cape Fur Seals with their large saucer-eyes, underwater acrobatics and curious nature are always so much fun and you can put anybody in the water with them and you know they will come out smiling.
It was a perfectly calm day, and we decided to do the short run to Maori Bay to show the guys the eery wreck and pretty bay at the far side of the Sentinel.
I always suggest these quick rides down the cliffs as I am constantly hoping and wishing for some dolphins to come and say hello. But today the ocean had something unusual in store for me.
As we sped over the cold atlantic water, me sitting in my favourite spot in the very front of Steve´s boat, I saw the ghost-like shape under the water and shouted STOP!!! just as Steve threw the boat into reverse causing kit and guests to clatter around. Steve and I shared a look, hoping.
Yes! There it was! Our fast approach and quick stop hadn´t scared it away. The flat flank of the Sunfish glowed white in the green water and Steve told our guests about this incredible fish. The largest of all bony fish, this strange looking creature hangs just under the water surface, often with one fin protruding, sunning itself. Thus the name Sunfish. They are jellyfish experts and hunt deep in the cold depths for their squishy food needing to then spend hours at the surface recovering from the cold and dark, sun-worshipping. We ooh and aah, and I look at Steve. This is one very comfortable fish. We throw on fins and masks and quietly slip into the water. As I approach this funny looking new friend, I am once again overcome with gratitude for the time I get to spend on the sea. Always changing, always sharing- this vast ocean wilderness sustains me.
The sunfish looks at me with it´s large dark eye, something between the eye of a horse and a human. Spooky still and so big. I expect it to dive any minute, but the beautiful animal stays at the surface with us, gently finning around, seemingly as interested in us as we are in it. We spend about ten minutes with it, the most unaffected fish I´ve ever met.
Magical creature more at home in a storybook than our cold and sometimes violent Atlantic ocean, happy to meet you!