Freediving has to be one of the most challenging sports, as its practitioners plunge into the ocean without a tank of compressed air with the aim of reaching the farthest distance possible below the surface. Their achievements are extraordinary – the world champion, Austrian Herbert Nitsch, can hold his breath for more than nine minutes, and set the record by reaching 831ft beneath sea level in 2012 in just one puff.
To teach novices the skills needed, Soneva Fushi – the barefoot luxury resort in the Baa Atoll, Maldives – is offering two experiences called The Last Wilderness, where a maximum of five participants will learn the art of freediving (October 5 to 10 and November 25 to December 2).
The classes will be taught by Hanli Prinsloo, South African freediving champion and founder of the I Am Water Ocean Conservation Trust, along with Peter Marshall, an eight-time backstroke world record holder. The timings of these adventures will coincide with some of the best wildlife conditions in the Baa Atoll, attracting vast fevers of feeding manta rays and, if you are lucky, whale sharks. Soneva Fushi also boasts a pristine biosphere, Unesco-protected reef and 57 villas, each with a private beach.
A huge philanthropic venture is at the heart of the trip. In partnership with I Am Water, of the $150,000 cost (per group, all inclusive, including freediving kit but excluding flights), $100,000 will go to the charity.
The Last Wilderness is not only for the ultra-sporty or existing divers. “We have had students go from holding their breath for 30 seconds to between two and five minutes,” says Prinsloo. “At the end of this course, participants will go from being surface snorkelers to 50ft freedivers and experience the ocean in an entirely new way.”