For many years I have dreamed of attending a freediving course. That’s where they teach you to transition from man to fish (and back to man again when you run out of breath! Haha!) I have spearfished all my life and after a very scary experience a few years ago I swore it was time to learn some safety and technique. Eventually the time was right and I decided to learn to Freedive in Dahab, Egypt.
Dahab is one of the very best freediving destinations in the world. After walking down the main street that has over 50 scuba and 4 freediving schools, I knew this was the place! I made a few phone calls and decided to do my course with Desert Divers.
The next morning I met Renee, my instructor and we began! Graceie also did the first day of the course just to learn how to equalise her ears.
The first lesson was in breathing techniques with some theory. Then it was wetsuits on and into the harbour for some Static Apnea. This is lying face down in the water holding your breath as long as possible. Fun fact: the record for holding one’s breath underwater is 11:54 minutes set by Branko Petrović of Serbia!
Later in the afternoon we went to Dahab’s only swimming pool for Dynamic Apnea; that is, swimming underwater as long as far as possible along a swimming pool.
This is where I got my biggest shock! On my last attempt, after a few 60m swims, I decided to turn and go on further. I badly wanted to breathe but pushed myself and made it to 70m before surfacing. Unknown to me, I was dangerously close to blacking out. On resurfacing, I didn’t start breathing properly for several seconds. This is known as a Lack of Motor Control (LMC) or a Samba. Seeing this, Renee leapt into the swimming pool fully-clothed, to hold my head up and get me breathing properly.
Having an LMC is no problem with a buddy or an instructor watching you as I did, and freedivers sometimes push themselves to get to greater depths. However, I know I have done this myself before while spearfishing alone. It made me realise that I am very lucky not to have had an accident already. This lesson alone was worth far more than the course fees of a couple hundred Euro.
For anyone out there who, like me, has been spearfishing without first learning safety and techniques, I strongly recommend you take a freediving course. It may just save your life.
The next day we had 2 sessions in the water at Lighthouse, one of the very popular dive spots, and had our first time going down the rope.
First up was Free Immersion to a depth of 10m, where you simply pull yourself down the rope with your hands. And secondly, Constant Weight to 16m using your fins to swim down next to the rope. (Note; 16m is the maximum depth for the Padi Beginner Freediving course.)
Graceie had never been able to dive more than one metre before because she had never understood how to equalise her ears.
With awesome help from Renee, she learned to equalise in her first session and got all the way down to 10m!
My previous personal best (when I almost had my accident) was 14m and on this day I comfortably went to 16m.
After a relaxing morning with some meditation, my last session worked on really improving my technique. I dived to 16m several times, becoming more and more comfortable with it.
Some of the other people I met at the Blue Hole were diving to 40 or even 70m! So cool!
A couple of days later I returned to the Blue Hole with Renee for 2 more sessions, diving to whatever depth I felt comfortable. There were no more restrictions as it wasn’t a course.
For the first session she put the rope down to about 24m. Over the course of 10 dives I was able to get there! Then in the second session I managed to get a personal best of 27.4m!
Each dive, I would usually be limited by not being able to equalise, and I would then return to the surface. On the next dive I would be able to go another 1-2 metres. And that is how I comfortably increased my depth to 27m without ever running out of air. While I had Renee as my safety diver, I wanted to really push myself and learn my limits. That way when I return home I can keep myself safe even without a diving partner.
The team at Desert Divers are a really good bunch of people. Renee, my instructor, was really skilled and ran a great course.
I also spent an afternoon with them on some really cool rock climbs in a canyon just 15 minutes drive from Dahab.
They offer cheap accommodation, scuba diving trips and courses and I have heard that their range of desert trekking trips are pretty awesome too!
Located on the Sinai Peninsula between the main part of Egypt and Israel. It is very popular for tourism because of the surrounding Red Sea and its relative stability compared to other parts of Egypt. If you come through from Israel at the Taba border crossing you get a free 15 day visa and if you fly you can buy the 30 day visa on arrival according to your passport.
Dahab is famous for its diving and desert/mountain treks, but most of all for The Blue Hole, an 80-90m deep hole surrounded by 1m shallow reef. Amazing for snorkeling, freediving and scuba diving. It is just a few metres from shore and literally anyone can snorkel here and enjoy!
The Red Sea is perfect for diving because there are no ocean swells. It is so different to my home in New Zealand where the waves are hardly ever smaller than 2m. Learning to Freedive in Dahab is absolutely perfect because the water is usually flat with only occasional wind chop.