Nai'a is Hawaiian for dolphin
FreeDive training camp on the big island
It's not everyday day that a place captivates me and draws me as much as Hawaii. We have thought about flying to this special place for a while now, not only for Freediving but also for the unique combination of an island culture mixed with modern life. All but two of the world’s climate zones generate everything from lush rain forests to volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountaintops to beautiful black sand beaches. The thing that drew me the most was the ease of training- deep, clear, warm water a stone throw from the beach.
We have decided to take 6 certified freedivers with us and in a week- explore the best Hawaii has to offer.
We chose February as our date partially because during that's time the humpbacks are visiting Hawaii to calve and mate. We hoped to have a chance to see them from shore and hear their songs in the water. We were rewarded on both counts as there were whales everywhere!
We have picked up the crew and drove down to our base at Kealakekua bay where we rented a house for the week. On our way we stopped at the local food stall- "Da poke shack" where we feasted on marinated raw fish- the Hawaiian spin on ceviche
The plan was to start each morning with either a training session or with a swim with the local pod of dolphins. We have seen a few photos but nothing prepared us for the first encounter.
We arrived at the beach and saw a few other people swimming toward a pod of spinner dolphins that were displaying amazing aerobatics- they were jumping out of the water, spinning at an incredible speed. We counted 5 spins!
That day we had at least 100 dolphins around us- swimming in smaller groups and playing with leaves (a common game among dolphins)- a dolphin would "catch" a fig leaf with his fin and swim with it for a while. At some point he will release it and another dolphin will catch it. Dolphins will sometime try to make other dolphins drop the leaf and then they would grab it with their tail and carry it with away. Some of the dolphins actually dropped their leaves near our group as if expecting us to engage in the game. When we would grab a leaf they would circle us- waiting for the leaf to be released. As we released the leaf- one dolphin would pick it up and swim with it for a while before dropping it near us again. We could have done this for hours but decided to swim out and go training.
Some of our group have only freedived in Australia which meant that they have never trained in 30+ meter vis'. The water was warm, no current and we have set ourselves up at a spot where we had 46m under the float. The first session was an orientation session and we have worked on basic skills.
As the week progressed we continued to work on individual skills and have worked out what each diver needed help with. We conducted breathing sessions, equalisation workshops and talked about psychology.
Although the camp was originally planned as a "serious" training camp we soon realised that this group of divers wanted to have fun more than anything else.
We spent a day driving around the island- watched an active volcano, saw the steam rising and smelled the sulphur. We even drove past a farm that had a zebra and buffalo.
One of the highlights of the trip was a night freedive with the amazing Manta rays. We anchored at a manta feeding station and waited for night to arrive. As the sun set strong lights were activated and within 10 minutes the first manta ray arrived- gliding gracefully through the water- appearing out of the darkness. The ray didn't waste time and began performing barrel rolls below us. It would open its mouth and roll continuously- sometimes within less than half a meter away. Within minutes we had 7 fully grown rays circling us. Our guys would dive down to the bottom and watch the silhouette. It was an incredible experience! We finished of the evening with pizza :)
Hawaii offers very good freediving- drop-offs, great coral, colourful fish, dolphins, whales and lots of turtles! At one point we swam with around 20 of them in one session!
At the end of the week everyone have achieved their goals and have improved their diving substantially.
We would like to say thank you to all the people in the group and to the local FreeDivers that shared a great Sunday session with us. We are already planning the next trip at the end of the year and are looking forward to seeing you again in another one of our adventures.