With Scuba Diving rising in popularity, UK-based Tour Operator Dive Worldwide is adding three new destinations to its programme to excite travelling divers. Newly introduced are: St Helena, an untouched divers’ paradise in the South Atlantic, newly accessible thanks to the completion of its airport; Lanzarote, a sunshine island perfect for year-round diving; and Norway, a land of mystery, wrecks, and unusual marine life.
Known as the ‘Galapagos of the Atlantic’, the remote island of St Helena offers one of the world’s last remaining pristine diving locations. Until recently, the island could only be reached by postal ship making it expensive and inaccessible, but the advent of a new flight service from Johannesburg has opened up St Helena to the adventurous diver. Here, the waters teem with marine life, with over 750 species to discover. The highlight though is the aggregations of whale sharks between December and March each year – a recent phenomenon that has attracted the attention of scientists the world over.
Price: from £2,795pp sharing, including 8 nights’ accommodation, transfers, 5 day-10 dive pack, tanks and weights and return flights from the UK.
With year-round sunshine, interesting marine life and offering excellent value, Dive Worldwide considers Lanzarote to have the finest diving in the Canary Islands. This new trip, ideal for recently-qualified divers or families (children from 10 years), is based among the fascinating volcanic landscapes in the south of the island. Divers will see volcanic reefs, swim through small caverns, and have the chance to visit Museo Atlántico, an ethereal collection of underwater statues and sculptures.
Price: from £1,195pp sharing, including 7 nights’ all-inclusive accommodation, 5 day-10 dive pack, tanks and weights, transfers and return flights from the UK.
Perfect for groups or dive clubs, this new trip to the fjords of Norway, uniquely offered to the UK market by Dive Worldwide, offers wreck diving, bizarre marine life and otherworldly kelp forests. Based on the mighty Sognefjord, guests will spend three days diving among the chilly, yet clear, waters. They will visit some of the 30 wrecks in the area many of which were sunk during WWII, and see unusual marine life including thorntail stingrays, wolf fish and monkfish. The holiday ends with an included tour of Bergen, a charming and colourful city two hours’ down the coast.
Price: from £1,595pp, based on a group of 8, including 4 nights’ FB accommodation, 3 day-9 dive pack, tanks and weights, Bergen city tour, transfers and return flights from the UK.
For more information visit www.diveworldwide.com or call 01962 302087.
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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