Once ravaged by poachers, Ilha do Fogo is now the centre of conservation on the north-east coast of Mozambique. Soon, it will be opened up as an exclusive, luxury retreat, focused on scuba diving and eco-tourism.
Since the discovery of poaching activity upon the new owner’s first visit to the island, Fire Island Conservation has set up a small anti-poaching unit, and this human presence has prevented further plundering. Now, the team is busy developing the island for exclusive eco-tourism, to subsidise the conservation and anti-poaching projects. By July 2022, the scuba diving resort will be receiving tourists.
Forming part of the Primeiras e Segundas Environmental Protection Area, it is essential that the environmental integrity of the island’s habitat remains intact. The team has enlisted the help of BOXA, a construction tech company, that has designed the buildings on the island to ensure minimal impact on the environment. The BOXA units are constructed to ‘float’ above the ground, leaving existing ecosystems and vegetation intact.
With conservation at the forefront of the development, each unit will have solar panels on the roofs and all amenities on the island will be entirely powered by solar energy. Currently, there is no fresh water on the island, but a rainwater harvesting system will be constructed, using sundomes and a small desalination plant.
Fire Island Conservation has been in talks with some renowned biologists about launching a marine research facility on the island, with the purpose of collecting data on the marine life to feed into international projects. The critically endangered hawksbill turtle and endangered green turtle were once victims on the island, and will instead be protected by the conservation and research projects.
Scuba divers can expect a unique opportunity to explore the incredible fauna and flora around the island’s 150km of flawless reef, boasting over 450 corals, turtles and countless other marine life. Ilha do Fogo is also situated on the historical passage of De Gama’s trade route, with exciting shipwrecks having been discovered nearby, that are perfect for wreck dives.
“Tourists will have the opportunity to help us to identify the fauna around the island’s unexplored reef. It is a highly unique, exclusive, bucket-list dive trip, for any marine life enthusiast. Of course, our sustainability ethos is carved into everything we do, and our goal is to connect our guests to nature, while protecting our environment.” Jan van Deventer, COO, Fire Island Conservation
Fire Island Conservation was born when Robert Koski purchased Ilha do Fogo almost a decade ago. Bob and Jan van Deventer discovered that it was ravaged by poachers during their first visit to the island, and sadly, hawksbill and green turtles were the main victims of the poaching. Bob’s dream of a resort-style development on the island was put on hold for almost a decade, while a marine conservation action plan was put in place to protect these imperilled species.
Ilha do Fogo is an essential turtle nesting site, and a turtle monitoring program was created to help ensure their nesting process is unimpeded. This is one of many projects established to empower local communities, providing an alternative income opportunity to poaching. These community and conservation projects are supported by our eco-tourism efforts, which include eco-luxury lodges across Africa. The retreat currently being developed on Ilha do Fogo has been carefully considered and planned in such a way that it will not impact the environment in any way, and will incorporate the conservation efforts.
Look out for Jeff’s interview with Esther Jacobs about Fire Island Conservation coming soon.
For more information about Fire Island Conservation click here.
Header image: Pedro Ferreira
British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive
British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.
Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.
Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.
Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.
At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.
Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.
He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.
Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy.
‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure.
‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave.
‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.’
Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.
A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.
Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.
His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.
Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.
Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’
Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.
Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.
Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.
The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.
All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)
Film Review: Thirteen Lives
Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.
On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.
The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.
I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.
Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.
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