The Best Diving Spots: Central America Edition

It would be a total disservice to Central America to place it in the same category as the rest of North America for diving. They are almost two different worlds. This short little band of land which millions of years ago connected the two Americas has its own climate, and lively, rich coastal activity. It’s long been recognised as a hidden gem for diving, and in recent years it’s only grown more popular.

The Big Scare – Costa Rica
The Bat Islands sit some 45km north-west of Playas del Coco on the north coast of Costa Rica. They are part of a sizeable marine reserve, and the diving season runs from May until September. The dive site itself drops to about 30 metres and there can be a strong current, so beginners may want to reconsider, but for those bold enough, it’s an incredible dive. The coral is minimal, and fairly unremarkable, the real draw is the group of massive bull sharks which frequent the area. These huge predators are a marvel to dive with, and on a good day you’ll likely also encounter manta rays, sailfish and perhaps even a whale. 
Mary’s Place – Honduras
The Bay Islands offer the best diving of anywhere in Honduras. Utila has a number of beautiful spots, like the Black Hills seamount and Duppy Waters, but it’s Roatan which hosts the crown jewel. Mary’s Place can be identified by the huge rift in the coral wall, caused by volcanic activity. As well as diving into and through the chasm, you can swim around the perimeter, which is teeming with big sponges and fan coral. When the sun hits the chasm, it lights up in an unparalleled display of marine colour. Your typical roster of coral fish are in residence, as well as groupers, stingray, octopus, flutemouth fish and various weird and wonderful nudibranchs.
Hannibal Bank – Panama
Until 2004 Coiba Island was home to a prison with a rather nasty reputation. Tales of murder, torture and general awfulness kept locals from venturing anywhere near the island, but since closing down, the area has become one of the most verdant national parks in all of Central America. There are numerous dive sits around the island perimeter, and it’s one of the best places in Panama for diving with pelagic fish. This is especially true of Hannibal Bank, a 46 metre deep drift dive through one of the most popular mating grounds on the pacific coast. Huge schools of jacks, snapper and eagle ray are in abundance here, and as such, they attract predators, most notably hammerheads and black tips. You may even see a tiger shark, on a good day, and if the waters are calm, you can sometimes hear the distant singing of the humpbacks.
Blowing Rock – Nicaragua
Slowly but surely, the Corn Islands are becoming one of the most desirable diving destinations in the Caribbean. The reefs are unbroken, coated with rarer corals like elkhorn and staghorn and a remarkable abundance of larger fish like grouper and sharks. Little Corn is the more popular of the two for diving, despite being relatively underdeveloped on the land. There are numerous spots to see eagle rays, nurse sharks and hammerheads in the shallows, but about 17 miles offshore lies Blowing Rock, a volcanic pinnacle which plays host to all the life you’d find back towards the coast, but almost universally in greater numbers. You’ll see lobsters traversing the sea floor in little groups (or ‘risks’), sea turtles, barracuda and the occasional bull shark.
Lake Coatepeque – El Salvador
There are plenty of coastal diving opportunities in El Salvador, but further inland a unique, fascinating alternative is available. There are two huge volcanic lakes – Ilopango and Coatepeque, which offer a completely different kind of diving. Coatepeque is the older of the two, having formed around 10,000 years ago, and it’s the better of the two for visibility and accessibility. Once you’re down there, the main draw is the presence of bizarre, fascinating volcanic rock formations, this includes various fumaroles and hot springs. Being that it’s had longer to settle, Coatepeque is also teaming with life, including zebra fish, catfish and guapote

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

How Competitive Eaters Fit Water into Their Strategy

It’s pretty much a given that competitive eating is a gross, over-indulgence of food, one that’s better heard about than witnessed first-hand. Who wants to see a human bloat themselves beyond measure? Dripping with food-muddied water and abandoning every last shred of dignity in the name of Major League Eating, champions of the competitive eating scene have found a way to go against the pre-programmed fail-safes of their bodies. If you’re in the mood for distended stomachs, suppressing the natural gag reflex, and disregarding the body’s vital messages, then buckle in because we’re going down the gullet hole for this one.

Gurgitators, competitive eaters, fight against their bodies to perform incredible eating feats. Using water training (drinking a gallon of water in 30 seconds), or simply by consuming large meals regularly, competitors stretch their stomachs in an effort to condition their bodies to accept large intake quantities.

For the average person, nausea is triggered after consuming more than 1 litre of food. According to ESPN, gurgitators can surpass this standard by 3 litres or more! Aside from that, the calories consumed in one competition can range from 4,000 calories (18-25 hot dogs) to 12,500 calories (50 hot dogs), thoroughly trumping the recommended intake for the day, 2,300 calories on average for adults.

After the competition, some gurgitators will purge themselves in what has been labelled a “Roman incident” by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, or the IFOCE. Mitigating these events is the IFOCE, who have been drawing up rules, regulations, qualifying contests, and safety measures for this bizarre sport since its formation in 1997.

The accepted technique for gorging oneself is to dip food in water, thereby lubricating the food to make chewing and swallowing it easier. Virtually any liquid can be used to soften the food, but calorie-free water is the best choice considering the abhorrent amount of calories otherwise consumed. Past that, consumption methods are dependent on preference; breaking food into smaller pieces in order to fit more in the mouth for example, or eating different parts of the food separately.

Eating competitions, while entertaining, are unhealthy and potentially dangerous for competitors. Repeated purging will damage tooth enamel and the oesophagus while stretching of the stomach may eventually require surgery to retain normal functioning. Overall, I’d say to steer clear of this strange sport.

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor’s degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).

The 5 Best/Most Terrifying Cliff Dives in the World

Cliff diving – casting all caution and rational thought to the wind, before hurling yourself off a rocky face with nothing but water to catch you at the bottom. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but many thrill seekers the world over swear by it, worship it, wear it as a badge of ball-ownership. You can do it pretty much anywhere in the world, but some places have become famous for fearless flinging. Here are the three best/worst.

The Kimberly – Australia

The Kimberly is a difficult place to reach, but if you can get there, you’ll be faced with a massive limestone gorge, overlooking beautiful sapphire lakes. There are a number of cliff diving appropriate spots, and all you need to do is following the adrenaline induced screaming to find them, on a good day.  

The Azure Window – Malta

Also regarded as an amazing diving spot, the Azure Window is a huge natural arch which extends 28 metres above the water. It’s easy to walk over the top, and once in the middle, a deep, dark expanse of water waits to catch you. Just try not to land on any scuba divers when you do, they would not be overly pleased.

Crater Lake – USA

The deepest lake in the United States is surely an ideal locale for cliff diving. I mean, no matter how hard you jump, 609 metres of water is easily enough to cushion your landing. One warning though, the water is pretty cold, so perhaps have a swim before doing the jump to get acclimatised, otherwise you might be in for a pretty nasty shock.

Crystal Pools – South Africa

There’s a beautiful waterfall in the Crystal Pools, sitting in the shadow of Boland Mountain, but you’ll have to jump if you want to see it. The water is dark and foreboding, but if you make the jump down into the pit, you’ll be treated to one of the most astounding natural spots in all of South Africa. 

Lake Vouliagmeni – Greece

Lake Vouliagmeni is just outside of Athens, referred to locally as ‘sunken lake’. It’s thought to be inhabited by mystical creatures (who I imagine would have complained by now, were that actually true). The water is fed in from the Med by underwater caves, and stays relatively cold all year round, so again, be prepared. The jump is a popular one, so on a warm day you won’t be alone, leaving no room for chickening out.

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

The Best Diving Spots: Russia and The Middle East

I wasn’t quite sure exactly how to categorise this one, as it encompasses the northern and western regions of Asia, but also spills into Europe, thanks to Russia. That pesky Russia. It creates an interesting contrast, though as Russia is a haven for cold water and ice diving, where the best spots in the Middle East are all, obviously, in far warmer, more coral-laden waters.

In either case, both of these adjoined chunks of land present some amazing, unsung opportunities for diving, and narrowing it down to 5 was tricky (Russia gets 2, because it’s stupidly big). Travelling to these regions presents challenges of its own, but if you have the patience and wherewithal, the rewards are huge. But not as huge as Russia. Bloody Russia.

Daymaniyat Islands – Oman

The Daymaniyat Islands are the first and only marine reserve in all of Oman. Boat traffic is heavily monitored, and the stretch plays host to a number of protected species. There are 9 islands in total, with a number of popular sites, with minor variables (hence why I didn’t earmark a specific one). During the summer there are big plankton blooms, which in turn attract big filter feeders like whale sharks. You’ll also see some pretty sizeable sea turtles, as there are an abundance of big crabs and crayfish for them to snack on.

Pericles Wreck – Qatar

Qatar is a veritable haven for diving, as many have recently discovered. The tiny nation is flanked on 3 sides by warm sea, brimming with coral and marine life in various forms. It’s particularly good for wreck diving, with a number of sunken oil rigs strewn along the coast, alongside other smaller ships. The Pericles is one of these, situated some 30km from Doha, in the Persian Gulf. It was lately a Greek built cargo liner, used by Japanese merchants, until it sunk in 83. It’s no oil rig, but it’s still massive, and hangs open for divers to fully explore. Barracuda congregate there is huge schools, likely hunting the angel fish, batfish and snapper that hang around inside.

The White Sea – Russia

Travelling to the White Sea’s only functioning PADI dive centre in the village of Nilmaguba is a challenge in and of itself, and this kind of diving is only really advisable if you’re at a more advanced level, but if you can handle it, you’re in for something truly incredible. The water is astoundingly clear beneath the ice, and brimming with soft coral and mollusks, many of which are totally unique to the area, but the main draw are the Beluga whales. You have to dive in a specific, enclosed area, built to help them expand their numbers, but you needn’t worry about any no-shows. The whales are remarkably friendly and playful, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone coming away from the experience who wasn’t utterly captivated by them.

Redmah Wall – Saudi Arabia

Actually getting into Saudi Arabia is a bit of a headache, you need a visa and a passport that’s good for a minimum of 6 months, and in order to dive you need a Saudi permit, in Arabic. It’s a headache, but the diving there is so good it makes it very much worth it, you won’t go just once. If you did have to pick only one spot though, it would almost certainly be Redmah Wall. This 150 metre drop is a soft coral paradise, littered with nudibranchs, hawkfish, whip coral, and feather and basket stars. The wall is lined with shelves and caverns where you can observe various crustaceans, as well as clownfish and the odd blue spotted ray. It’s like diving through a living rainbow.

Listvyanka – Russia

If you’re taking a diving trip to Russia, you shouldn’t ever pass up the chance to dive in Lake Baikal, the largest, deepest freshwater body in the world. There are several sites across the shore and from the islands, but Listvyanka is probably the best point to start from. The area of the lake you dive into depends on weather conditions, but you’ll be garuanteed to see amazing things, regardless of where exactly you drop in the crystal clear water. Visibility can be anything up to 40 metres, and the deep you get, the better it is. Baikal is a tectonic fissure, so expect massive rocky walls and overhangs. Marine life is sparse, but you’ll see plenty of sponges, you might happen up the odd omul, a native type of Arctic cisco, or a goby disguising itself on the lakebed. If you choose a site further north, you may also see a nerpa, the only freshwater seal in the world.

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

Best Diving Spots: Asia Edition 3

Of the five regions that Asia is divided into, North Asia is easily the least diver-friendly, as it only really incorporates Russia, but East Asia isn’t that hot of a diving destination either. Taiwan and South Korea have a few spots with a mainstream reputation, but places like China and Japan, despite having beautiful coastlines, aren’t as reputable while the landlocked Mongolia and the, erm, inhospitable North Korea don’t even figure.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to advise you to go diving in North Korea, but I will say that this region is actually hiding a lot more amazing diving than people might think, more than enough to make it worth considering travelling a bit further across the continent for your summer getaway than originally planned.
Big Mushroom – Taiwan
The aptly named ‘Big Mushroom’ is reputed to be the oldest coral head in the world, with an estimated age over 1,000 years old. It resides some 150 metres from the coast of Green Island, and a mere 18 metres below the surface. It’s around 30 metres in diameter and 12 metres tall, and it’s a hugely popular congregation site for all manner of small reef fish, but damsels in particular. The mushroom has survived two major impacts from submarines, both times creating big rivets where soft coral now grows. As well as the various reef fish, it’s worth exploring the various hollows in search of lobster, mantis shrimp and moral eels.
Tiger Island – South Korea
Much of South Korea’s coastline is protected from large scale fishing, allowing for a smattering of impressive dive sites. Many of the most popular ones are in the vicinity of Jeju, a large volcanic island on the south coast. There’s a huge, colourful range of soft coral in the water around this island, and Tiger Island (or Bum Sum) is the best place to experience it. Above the water, it’s impossible to miss, a striking formation of rocky archways, and beneath there’s a rainbow of coral, playing host to dozens of different fish species. You’ll see octopus, grouper, lionfish, boxfish and there are sometimes reports of manta ray and dolphin sightings.
Ninepins – Hong Kong
Even without diving it, Ninepins is an essential visit if you happen to be in Hong Kong. The volcanic rock formations are almost comparable to what you see at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Beneath the water there is a colourful range of soft and hard coral, as you trace a channel between the north and south islands. You’ll also see the bizarre, amazing whip coral formations and the remains of a massive hulk a bit further out. In terms of fauna, you’ll see scorpionfish, stonefish, urchins, various crustaceans, rays and octopus. 
Yonaguni – Japan
The waters around Yonaguni Island in Japan are said to be the third clearest in the world. You won’t see much coral there, mostly steep cliff drop offs, but the clarity of the water and the abundance of marine life make for some truly amazing diving, regardless. Between January and March, you’ll encounter schools of over 100 hammerheads, and throughout the year dogtooth tuna, cuttlefish, sea turtles and barracuda are abundant. In 1987, a bizarre underwater ruin was discovered on the south eastern coast. Their origins are unknown, and it’s not even confirmed if they’re manmade or not, but they are fascinating to explore.
Lion City – China
Qiandao Lake, otherwise known as Thousand Island Lake, is a completely manmade body of water, resulting from the creation of a reservoir and hydroelectric station in 1959. The thing is, though, the valley wasn’t exactly empty when they flooded it. 290,000 people were forced from their homes in various villages, as well as the massive, ancient Lion City. Divers started going down in 2001, and now commercial dives are commonplace. Visibility is poor, lights are necessary, but once you descend into the stony embrace of the dead city, you’re in for one of the most unique, haunting diving experiences in the world. You won’t see any fish, like, at all, but that isn’t really the point of this particular dive.
Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

5 Amazing Water Sports You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Most water sports feel fairly developmental in nature. Sailing, rowing, surfing and swimming are all very well established, but beyond that, there’s definitely a prevailing experimental vibe to it all. You’re probably already familiar with sports like kite-boarding, free diving, water polo and jetski racing, but there’s a whole range of bizarre, incredible water sports out there that are still shrouded in obscurity.

Underwater Cycling
Cycling is a sport that requires balance, proper weight distribution and speed. All of these things are far, far more difficult to achieve when you’re underwater, and yet underwater cycling is very much a thing. Scuba equipment and special, very dense bikes are used. The events are usually structured as a straight race to the finish line, with no more than 10 combatants. The course is usually a half-mile, and riders aren’t allowed to dismount (which I suppose is just floating away) or interfere with their opponents.
Underwater Rugby
Underwater hockey is a fairly well established sport, weird as it is, but underwater rugby has yet to break out in quite the same way. It’s actually been around since the 1960s, and was recognised as an aquatic sport in 1978. The first world championships were 2 years later. It’s played at a depth of 3-5 metres, as two teams of six try to get a ball (filled with saltwater to make it negatively buoyant) into a metal bucket. The ball can be passed forward or back, but never leave the water. It’s a fast paced, energetic sport. To date there have been 10 world championships, which Sweden have largely dominated in both the men and women’s leagues. Norway and Germany are the current reigning champions for men and women respectively.
If you haven’t heard of Picigin, it’s probably because you’re not from Croatia. It was developed there in the coastal city of Split in 1908, and it’s been going strong ever since. It’s basically a competitive cross pollination of hacky sack, volleyball and keepie uppie, played in ankle-deep water on the beach. Players aren’t allowed to catch the ball, but rather bounce it with the palm of the hand. Typically, it’s played by 5 people, but this can vary, and it’s almost always played in a casual climate. Since 2005, however, there have been world championships, judged by the artistic, acrobatic performance of each individual team.
You might think, given the name, that aquathlon would be a kind of water based biathlon or triathlon, and there is a version of that, but the original version is actually a form of underwater wrestling. It was developed in Russia, and the first championships were held in Moscow in 1982. Basically, two wrestlers, clad in flippers and masks, have to battle it out to try and remove a ribbon from the other’s ankle. Each round lasts 30 seconds, and there are 3, with a 4th in the event of a tie. It’s an extremely fast-paced sport, largely based around grappling and trying to keep your opponent from reaching the surface. It’s now played across much of Russia and Eastern Europe.
Underwater Target Shooting
No, they don’t use actual guns, obviously. Underwater target shooting is probably the least violent sport undertaken with the use of a speargun, after spearfishing and Vargas murdering. It was developed in France, again during the early 80s (post-Cold War boredom, I guess). There are two different kinds of contest, one for individuals and one for teams. For solo shooters, there’s a precision contest, where the diver swims to the shooting line, fires, retrieves the spear and repeats for 5 minutes or 10 shots, whichever comes first. The biathlon version is identical in everything, except that they aren’t allowed to take a breath until they’ve taken the spear back to the starting line. The team version, relay, is the same as Biathlon but with teams of 3, this time firing 9 shots in a 4 and a half minute time limit. 

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

The Health Benefits of Cold Water Swimming

Typically, warm water is considered the more therapeutic option, while cold water is thought to be, well, dangerous. Even when you’re not danger of getting hypothermia, jumping into a lake of cold water sounds like the absolute worst thing, but it can actually be a safe, healthy pastime. 
Cold water swimming is said to be good for blood flow, boosting your immune system and even improving your sex drive. There’s little in the way of scientific weight to these claims, just anecdotal examples, but one thing is for sure – with so many people swearing by it, there must be some benefit. 
Numbers for winter swimming events have continued to climb with each passing year, and there’s even talk of the ‘ice mile’ ice swimming event eventually being included in the Winter Olympics. There’s obviously some level of risk involved, under the wrong circumstances you might be in danger of hypothermia or even drowning, which is why cold swimmers only do so in groups, and with plenty of safety measures on hand. 
The actual reaction, known as the ‘cold shock response’, is actually one of the main draws of the activity, as it ushers in a boost of endorphins, and a subsequent increase in energy, which is why many people opt to take a cold water dip first thing in the morning. Much like free diving, cold water swimming is thought to awaken certain impulses in the body which usually lie dormant, but can allow us to withstand things which might seem too extreme to tolerate.
In the most basic sense, repeated exposure will gradually create a tolerance to the low temperatures, while the supposed benefits remain intact. It’s recommended to start during summer, and make it a regular thing from the outset for this reason. It’s also advised to consult a doctor before actually starting, and to avoid it altogether if you have any kind of heart condition. 

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

The Best Diving Spots: Asia Edition 2

So, one portion of the enormous, incredible mega continent that is Asia is covered; it’s time to shift our focus over the south east. Southeast Asia is built up from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos, the Philippines and a number of smaller subdivisions. It is also considered to have some of the richest diving anywhere in the world. 
The prevailing tropical climate, huge belts of islands and the presence of the Indonesian throughflow current have collectively resulted in the highest level of marine biodiversity anywhere on the planet. For this reason Southeast Asia, and Indonesia in particular, is Mecca for the diving community, an astounding cauldron of coral, fish and other marine life that simply has to be seen to be believed.
Hin Muang (Purple Rock) – Thailand
Hin Muang is one of a pair of diving sites on the outer edge of Mu Koh Lanta Marine Park. The other is Hin Daeng (Red Rock), which is by all rights just as impressive, but Hin Muang edges it out because it also happens to be the highest vertical wall in Thailand, carpeted with soft coral, anemones and various crustaceans. Swimming in the vicinity, you’ll find grey reef sharks, leopard sharks, mantas, octopus, banner fish and much more. It’s also far less crowded than Hin Daeng most of the time, so you can expect a relatively serene dive.
Nudibranch Gardens – Vietnam
This is a relatively shallow, beginner-friendly dive, only going as deep as 10 metres, but it’s an essential one. Nudibranchs are a form of mollusc, differing slightly in taxonomy from a sea slug, and famously colourful. There around 2,300 known variants and they’re all beautiful. As the name suggests, this site on Phu Quoc Island is teeming with them, along with bamboo sharks, crabs and some other small fish. Visibility can be a bit dim, but the site is so easy to access and so shallow that it works as a great introductory dive before exploring the further reaches of the reef around Phu Quoc.
Condor Reef – Cambodia
Condor Reef is situated 30km south of Koh Sdach. It’s a gorgeous maze of bizarre rock formations which almost look man made, including peculiar rivets and archways. It’s dotted with Chinese wrecks, long since raided and ripped apart by treasure hunters and coated with coral. The visibility is the best of perhaps any dive site anywhere in Cambodia, averaging between 16 and 20 metres, but reaching 40 on a good day. Turtles and sharks are a frequent sight there, and whale sharks are regular visitors, which is an experience in and of itself. 
Sabang Bay – The Philippines 
Puerto Galera is supposedly the oldest diving coast in The Philippines, named for when it was frequented by Spanish galleons plying their trade. There are a number of vibrant, fascinating sites around the area, and Sabang Bay is perhaps the best. There are 3 wrecks, a steel yacht and two wooden boats, in varying states of oceanic consumption. All 3 play hosts to a lot of small damsels, surgeon fish and butterfly fish. Various camouflaged bottom feeders also hang around the area, and beneath the wrecks there are morays, snake eels and the utterly weird looking stargazers. A view rare types of pipefish like the robust ghost and ornate ghost.
Tanjung Kopi – Indonesia
Most of the insane biodiversity that makes diving in Southeast Asia so famous is in Indonesia, and the huge Bunaken Marine Park is considered to the be the best scuba location in the entire world. There are dozens upon dozens of sites, each with their own unique appeal, but Tanjung is particularly special because it’s a 5-30 metre slope which ends in an 80 metre drop off, an astounding sight. Currents are kind of strong, so it’s a case of finding something to hold on to, and then enjoying the show. Shoals of batfish, jacks and trevallies ripple around, attracting the attention of blacktail barracuda. Lower down, colourful reef fish and crustaceans are plentiful, as are larger pelagic fish like black tip reef sharks, eagle rays, Napoleon fish and even hammerheads. 

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

How Freediving Awakens Our Aquatic Lineage

Do me a favour, stop reading this for a second, go into your bathroom and fill your sink. Once that’s done, hold your breath and stick your head in, then hold it there for 30 seconds to a minute, however long it takes before things get uncomfortable. Pretty unremarkable, isn’t it, just gives you a damp head. Well, what if I told you that you just activated parts of your DNA which developed before human civilisation had even come into being?
Freediving is fast becoming the big name in aquatic sports, and it’s easy to see why. The level of physical endurance required to do it is literally breath-taking. In 2007, Herbert Nitsch made a weighted descent down to 214 metres below sea level, using nothing but a weight belt, an air-filled balloon to lift him back to the surface, and his own lungs. 
You might wonder how a human being could even survive at such extreme pressure, but even as we first submerge ourselves in water, the process begins. Slowly but surely, your heart rate slows, the walls of your lungs shrink and harden, your chest cavity shrinks and eventually your body becomes so dense that it achieves negative buoyancy. This capability is present in all of us, and harkens back to times primeval.
In theory, our astounding ability to slow our heart rate to speeds which would land us in A&E if we were at the surface are a result of latent reflexes which were present when natural selection required us to slow our bodies down, either to stave off cold, navigate a constricted birth canal, or, yes, deep dive. 
The moment that signals you to take another breath might feel like an imperative, something which you have to adhere to, but it’s not, you can move past it. That is what freedivers do. Once you’ve done that, the diaphragm will actually begin to contract and release at intervals, along with a feeling of the world almost slowing down, a kind of focused serenity. 
Doing this, freedivers have been able to stay under for as long as a staggering 22 minutes without coming back up for air, a feat previously thought to be scientifically impossible. ‘Boyle’s Law’ even originally stated that no diver could withstand pressures past 100 feet below sea level. 
A series of increasingly deeper freedives, combined with scientific research in the 60s and 70s painted a very different picture. As previously stated, our heart rate begins to slow the moment we’re even partially submerged, a mechanism which had only previously been observed in aquatic mammals, the ‘dive reflex’. It was also observed that the peripheral arteries would close up to conserve oxygen for the rest of the body, known as vasoconstriction.
The most amazing thing is just how much blood can be transferred from other parts of the body and towards reinforcing the lung walls against pressure. The lowered heart rate and constricted vasoconstriction could perhaps be applied to other extreme circumstances the body might have to cope with, but it’s hard to think of any other scenario where this would be needed. Similarly, it’s recently been found that the spleen is also active during diving, releasing more oxygen into the body as needed. The spleen is normally dormant.
Once again, these traits are present in all of us, they have been observed to great extent in babies, but beyond that freedivers are the only people who really utilise them. Does this mean we could all live underwater one day? No, but it aptly demonstrates that the human body is far more adaptable to water than it appears to be, and that we’ve barely scratched the surface.  

Callum Davies
Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. 

The Best Diving Spots: Asia Edition 1

Asia is too damn big, it stretches across too many different regions and climates, and it would be impossible to do all the diving spots in Asia justice in one entry, so it’s getting three. The second two will cover Southeast Asia and East Asia, but for this one, we’re looking at the Southern regions, which is everything from the Himalayas downwards to the Indian Ocean.
India is a hugely popular location for diving, but the surrounding countries all have their own appeal, and a full tour of the South Asian region is one of the most unique, complete diving experiences anyone can have.

Barren Island – The Andaman Islands (India)

On the edge of the Bay of Bengal, almost encroaching on the marine borders of Myanmar lie India’s easternmost island territory – The Andaman Islands. For more than 50 years, the Indian government kept a tight, protective girdle around them, but now they allow very limited tourist access, which includes diving. There are a number of different dive sites around the smaller, off-shore islands, and Barren Island, South Asia’s only active volcano, plays host to the best of them.
The volcanic nutrients in the water have allowed a rich, colourful garden of coral to grow, supporting a wide range of marine life. Butterflyfish, bannerfish and surgeonfish all grave the reef, ever wary of the dogtooth tuna and banded sea snakes which are constantly on patrol. The stars of the show though are the mantas, which are some of the largest you’ll see anywhere in the world.

Charna Island – Pakistan

There aren’t many dive sites in Pakistan, its limited coastline is pretty much overwhelmed and overshadowed by India, which is easier to get to and has a far more active, practised tourist trade. Still, diving does exist there, and one site in particular has only come into its own in the past decade, owing in part to a tragic cataclysm. The tsunami which struck South Asia in 2005 claimed thousands of lives, but it also accelerated the growth of the reef system which surrounds Charna Island, turning it into one of the best diving spots in the Arabian Sea.
Supposedly, more than 60 different types of coral make up the reef, attracting the usual myriad of sea life. Dolphins frequent the reef, barracuda use it as a hunting ground and migratory whale sharks make pit stops there at the end of the summer, when they’re migrating. Other large fish like dorado, tuna, cobia, sting ray and black tipped reef sharks also hang around, as well as a number of different species of jellyfish.
The British Sergeant – Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan coastline is absolutely littered with wrecks, some of them as old as 200. Some are all but destroyed, others are more intact, some lurk in the darkest depths, others sit in the shallows. Many divers come to Sri Lanka to experience as many wrecks as they possibly can, but if you had to pick just one? For my money, it would be The British Sergeant. This merchant naval ship was built in 1922, and went missing during a Japanese bombing raid, it was only recently that it was confirmed to be this amazing wreck, sitting 24 metres beneath the waves of Sri Lanka’s east coast.
It’s some 122 metres long and about 17 metres wide, but in the 70 odd years that it’s sat beneath the water, it has remained more or less intact. The innards of it are accessible through a large cave opening, and from there it splits into two parts, one of which is riveted with bullet holes and detonation points. In terms of sea life, you’re likely to see a few rays and jellyfish, but the main thing is a huge shoal of blue striped snapper which ripples across the surface like a filmy, organic outer aura.

Minicoy Island – India
Located just west of the tip of India, Minicoy is a tiny little crescent island with a big lagoon on one side, and nearly all of the tourists that go there are divers. You can start from a relatively shallow depth, and as you head deeper in, you’ll find various coral formations poking out of the white sand, and, crucially, 3 wrecks. Only 8 metres down, these wrecks are all somewhere in the region of 200 years old, with the only known one being the S.S. Hoechst. It is thought that the sinking of these ships led to the construction of a lighthouse there in 1885. It still stands to this day.
Visibility is excellent, and the fish which frequent the area are somewhat larger than those you see elsewhere, as the wrecks increase the richness of the iron in the water. For this reason, you often see sharks in the area, as well as bull rays, turtles and barracuda. If you’re lucky, you might see a manta, but they’re uncommon in the area. The relatively shallow depth and good visibility also make this a prime spot for snorkelling.
Kuramathi – The Maldives
If you’re going to focus your South Asian diving trip anywhere in particular, it should be The Maldives. This scattered mass of islands and atolls plays host to an insane abundance of marine life, and I could populate a whole article with amazing dives sites there, but since I’m limited to one, it has to be Kuramathi. There are a few closely connect points to jump in, but by far the best one is Hammerhead Point.

As the name suggests, the site is teeming with hammerheads, some them as long as 4 metres, coming as high as 5 metres below the surface. This one of the only places in Asia you can see them in such huge numbers, and there’s an outside chance of seeing a great hammerhead, a much rarer variant which can be as big as 6 metres. Beyond this, the reef shelf is riddled with caverns to explore, playing host to black snapper, dolphinfish and tuna. You might even spot a sailfish on a good day.
Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop.