If you think what roams above the earth’s surface is mind-blowing, you won’t believe what you’ll find below.

World-class freediver Hanli Prinsloo from Cape Town, South Africa has made it her mission to get people to fall in love with the ocean and all its inhabitants. It’s not too different from how we’ve been unabashedly championing Africa. Her main goal, much like ours, is to get people to care about this special environment and all its creatures so deeply that you’ll want to experience it firsthand, and, more importantly, fight for its preservation.

Swimming with schools of Jackfish in Mexico. ©I Am Water Ocean Travel

Prinsloo’s path to conservation and becoming a uniquely qualified “seafari” guide is a roundabout one. She first discovered freediving—the age-old practice of exploring the ocean in one breath—as a film student in Sweden when a classmate convinced her to tag along on a water adventure. Her inaugural plunge in 2000 led to a remarkable career as a competitive freediver, during which time she smashed 11 national records across six disciplines and even served as Halle Berry’s underwater body-double in the shark movie, Dark Tide.

In 2012, she turned her full-time attention toward her new nonprofit, I AM WATER Foundation, launched two years earlier, to introduce underprivileged youth living in coastal communities in South Africa to the wonderful world under the sea. Four years later, she co-founded with her long-time partner, Peter Marshall, an American world champion swimmer, I AM WATER Ocean Travel to support the nonprofit and spread their infectious enthusiasm about all things aquatic in a sustainable way.

Snorkel lessons. ©I Am Water Ocean Travel/ Photographer: Charlie Dailey

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Freediving

“Conservation needs well-balanced, empowered humans who care. I AM WATER Ocean Travel works on the same ethos, while offering unusual ocean adventures in pristine environments, teaching freediving and responsible interactions with big marine animals,” Prinsloo says.

EJ is so proud to be I AM WATER Ocean Travel’s exclusive U.S. tour operator. We’re excited to bring to Americans the incomparable experience of these ocean adventures, complete with yoga and freediving lessons, plus private villas with personal chefs.

Hanli diving in Cape Town. ©I Am Water Ocean Travel

Part of your time with Prinsloo and her crew is spent learning how to breathe properly for freediving so that you can come face-to-face with incredible animals, like dolphins and whale sharks, and unique environments, like dense kelp forests, without oxygen bubbles interrupting your view or disturbing the serene surroundings. How does it work? You start by learning how to increase your lung’s volume. Prinsloo’s is an impressive six liters—as much as most men and higher than the average woman’s, which is closer to four. When not moving, she can go six whole minutes with no air.

Breathe easy, Prinsloo won’t expect six minutes from you. However, she has seen guests improve their breath-holding on land, where you practice beforehand, from a little over 60 seconds to four minutes during a single trip. Even if it’s impossible for you to hold your breath for very long, you can always strap on a snorkel and enjoy many great ocean encounters in some of the world’s most beautiful destinations, including Cape Town, Mozambique, Mexico, and Madagascar.

©I Am Water Ocean Travel

Plan Your Visit

Even if you only have time to spend a single day with the I AM WATER team, we have a plan!

Set off with your driver to Kalk Bay to explore the underwater world of South Africa’s famed kelp forests. Meet the I AM WATER team, your guides for the day’s adventure at their headquarters overlooking the ocean. Here you’ll be fit for your wetsuit, collect your gear, and get instruction on freediving basics and techniques before heading to one of the pristine Marine Protected Area beaches to jump in with your guide (the precise location of your dive will be based on ocean conditions). Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at any of the lovely restaurants and cafes along the way to give you a full introduction to the community in Hout Bay, above and below water.

Note: A portion of the proceeds from your kelp forest freediving day will go to the I AM WATER Ocean Conservation Foundation that ensure children from underserved coastal communities in Cape Town get to experience the ocean through immersive workshops.

Call or email us to learn more about these sea-fari adventures or how to book your private ocean guide.

Banner image ©I Am Water Ocean Travel/ Peter Marshall