Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is known for being one of the most stunning and picturesque cities in the world (we think so, we live here!): from the impressive Table Mountain Range, the beautiful Cape Winelands, the majestic Cape Point to the endless beaches, great surf and incredible culinary scene. But very few people come to this Peninsula to explore the spectacular world beneath the waves… our “blue backyard”.
The famous tip of the vibrant Cape Peninsula has various names: Cape Point, the Cape of Storms or the Cape of Good Hope… and now also the home of ‘My Octopus Teacher’!
Here one can experience two very diverse ocean currents – the warm Agulhas coming from the east and the cold Benguela coming from the south – resulting in an abundant and very unique marine ecosystem and home to some of our favourite landscapes and creatures.
On top of acquiring the skills to deepen your freediving practice you can discover the wildly delicious world of coastal foraging – ideal for chefs and foodies wanting to explore foraged and local food and discover new ingredients – you can also learn about the marine ecosystems of False Bay and the challenges and success stories along our coastline.
KELP FORESTS are like mysterious old growth forests just below the surface. A dense aquatic woodland area full of life! On dives you can explore the kelp and their inhabitants (small species of shy shark, octopus, a myriad of reef fish, tiny nudibranchs and colourful urchin beds to name a few) but purely as a landscape the kelp forests are inspiring and beautiful.
The AFRICAN PENGUINS play an integral part in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area story. Listed as critically endangered, these small characters deserve all the appreciation and support they can receive. We can visit several of their nesting, bathing and playing sites (with official permits) and learn about their fight for their survival, life cycle and unique adaptations. If you’re lucky you will see how their clumsy land waddles turn to underwater agility!
Niue South Pacific
HUMPBACK WHALES, CORAL REEFS AND WILD SEAS IN NIUE, SOUTH PACIFIC
This small island of around 1500 inhabitants is not widely known – flung far out into the vast Pacific Ocean, Niue is an upraised coral atoll – a small green dot that is a standalone land mass in the centre of a triangle of Polynesian Islands – the others being; Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. Here the blue blue water around the island is still wild, respected and teeming with life. It’s in these waters that the beautiful humpback whales come to deliver their young and nurse them to be strong enough to join in the yearly migration. There are few places in the world where it is legal to swim with whales, and fewer still where the codes of conduct and regulations are well enough enforced for these interactions to have no negative impact on the well-being of these gentle giants.
We recommend this destination because in supporting the responsible local ecotourism operators who will guide you to the whales we hope to be a part of the continued economic growth of Niue Island and lend our voice (and dollars) to the continued regulation and strict management of in- water meetings with whales.
IMPORTANT NOTE on whale interactions & freediving: In Niue it is not allowed to freedive down with the Humpback Whales as this can disturb them.
Niue is surrounded by wild oceans and diving days are ‘ocean safaris’ where you can expect to find pelagic fish, various kinds of dolphins as well as sea snakes and sharks. With an average water temperature of approximately 80°F (27 °C), you will be able to spend plenty of time in and underwater.
There are also numerous spectacular low-tide hikes around the island, where coral reef snorkelling and hiking can be combined to have a truly adventurous day of exploration. Niue is also known for several underground caves harbouring beautiful fresh water pools which can be explored on days off from diving.
DOLPHINS, CORAL REEFS AND DEEP BLUE FREEDIVING IN SOUTHERN MOZAMBIQUE
Mozambique is famous for endless white beaches, warm blue water and a teeming diversity of marine life. Easily accessible from South Africa, Southern Mozambique offers the intrepid traveller a treasure trove of ocean experiences, including getting to know the finned residents – the bottlenose dolphins! With crystal blue, warm water (average water temperature of 25 – 28º C) this is a great place to learn freediving and to practice deeper dives, while being inspired by the daily animal encounters with the dolphins.
We recommend this destination also because Mozambique is grappling with declaring and enforcing its network of marine reserves; dolphins are ambassador nomads who cruise the waters between reserves and show us all how interconnected the oceans truly are.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to swim with WILD DOLPHINS, this is a must do! These bottlenose dolphins are semi-resident to the Southern Mozambique area and as the handful of operators in the region follow strict codes of conduct with regards to responsible eco-tourism, this is a great place to meet these playful curious creatures.
The CORAL REEFS scattered along the coastline are known for the diversity of brightly coloured fish and still pristine coral formations. Juvenile GREEN TURTLES are a common sight on the reef explorations, slowly cruising along the bottom or circling a freediver out of curiosity. Gentle and beautiful, these shelled friends are always a pleasure to observe in their natural habitat. Mantas, moray eels, clown fish, dolphins and whale sharks are all possibilities along this remarkably pristine stretch of coastline, so keep your eyes open for fins, wings, flukes or shadows!
WHALE SHARKS, LEMURS AND PRISTINE CORALS ON NOSY BE ISLAND / MADAGASCAR
Madagascar is a country full of unimaginable biodiversity, fascinating history and breath-taking landscapes. In fact, the island nation of Madagascar is so diverse, that naturalists lovingly refer to it as ‘the eighth continent.’ On the north-western side of Madagascar lies the small island of Nosy Be, which ironically means ‘Big Island’ in the local Malagasy language. The island itself is a beautiful mix of seven volcanic lakes, fragrant ylang ylang groves and gentle hillsides covered in vanilla and frangipani. Even though Nosy Be is Madagascar’s main beach destination, the island is still quiet and in many parts, very rustic. Several nature reserves on Nosy Be and the surrounding islands offer you the opportunity to see lemurs, chameleons and other key Madagascar fauna and flora, not to mention the incredible life below the surface…
In the quiet waters between Nosy Be and Madagascar main land (called Grand Terre by the locals) whale sharks come to feed during the months of September to November. These gentle giants have been observed by local dive operators and fishermen for several years, but it is only recently that a research project has been initiated to understand the behaviour of the Madagascar whale sharks.
We recommend this destination because there is such incredible biodiversity of life above and below to be explored and we want to support the invaluable research being done by the Madagascar Whale Shark Project. We advocate diving with a well established local operator who has the highest standards of responsible marine encounters to be secure in the knowledge that you will be receiving truly sustainable animal interactions.
WHALE SHARKS are the largest cartilaginous fish in the sea. They are gentle filter-feeders, feeding on tiny plankton while migrating around the great oceans, sadly they are listed as endangered globally. As they feed by opening their large mouth and sucking plankton in while swimming along, freediving is the best way to meet them! With their iconic white spotted backs they are called Marokita in local Malagasy language – meaning milky way, alluding to the galaxy on their broad backs.
GREEN TURTLES are some of the wisest looking creatures in the sea, one of the largest of all the sea turtles and in fact the only herbivore in the family. Off the island of Nosy Sakatia, you can spend hours drifting in a shallow bay observing the turtles eat their salad seagrass, interact and relax.
On land you may have the opportunity to see various species of lemurs, colourful geckos, the fantastic panther chameleon and other unique animals.
WHALE SHARKS & SEA LIONS FROM A DESERTED ISLAND IN BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO
Baja California is best known for its incredible surf with hundreds of surfers flocking to the pristine white beaches for warm water and perfect waves, but right below the surface awaits a diversity of life that has been called ‘the world’s aquarium’ by Jacques Cousteau and remains a treasure trove of life today. The Baja Peninsula boasts the northernmost reef in the Eastern Pacific.
We recommend the beautiful Espiritu Santo Island – where giant cactus meet blue water in the Sea of Cortez. Enjoy freediving into ‘the world’s aquarium’ – still beautiful today in its diversity and a true place of hope for conservation. You can swim with gentle giants, the whale sharks and visit the sea lion rocks to meet the playful pups, see the silvery females and marvel at the vast array of marine life that flourishes in this marine protected area.
We recommend this destination because supporting the responsible local ecotourism operators who can guide you to whale sharks (recently listed as Endangered on the IUCN RedList) makes these animals worth more alive than dead, incentivising protection rather than consumption through simple economics.
WHALE SHARKS are the largest cartilagenous fish in the sea. They are gentle filter-feeders, feeding on tiny plankton while migrating around the great oceans, sadly they are listed as endangered globally.
SEA LIONS are super playful and fun. We will have a blast spending time watching, interacting, swimming and diving with these intelligent creatures, getting inspired by their agility and entertained by their antics.
We would highly recommend staying at the exquisite Camp Cecil on Espiritu Santo Island. Owned and run by unwavering nature lovers, this real-deal eco site has won numerous awards and stands out as a true sustainable ‘barefoot luxury’ experience, offering a unique opportunity to be immersed in nature, the ocean and be wonderfully secluded. You get your very own luxury tent, complete with a real bed, comfortable finishings and of course the ocean right on your ‘doorstep’. Camp Cecil has a fantastic team that services the camp daily, cook healthy and sustainable meals and their resident naturalist tells you all you wish to know about this remarkable island and it’s fauna and flora, above and below. Camp Cecil is a seasonal leave no trace camp, so all ablutions are nature friendly – from solar warmed showers to compost toilets – thanks to the team on hand everything is spotlessly clean and comfortable even though it is simple.