Turks and Caicos: a freediving haven
Turks and Caicos is recognized as one of the most beautiful island destinations in the world and perfect water sport conditions are a big part of its attraction. Wanting to explore each of the options available to our guests, we caught up with inspired, passionate freediver Samantha Kildegaard. Growing up in Argentina, Samantha was surrounded by mountains and rivers and every summer her family would drive to the Atlantic Coast in search of the ocean. Following tradition, diving and open water swimming quickly became natural activities she would practice on a regular basis. With her certified translator degree in hand, Samantha took off to discover the world and started to teach diving in support of her strong commitment to promoting ocean conservation through education. Having experienced amazing encounters with sharks, dolphins, manta rays and whales, she trained as a free dive instructor to keep sharing her love of this sport. Today, Samantha leads freedivers and helps all people who wish to explore the ocean’s many treasures, while always keeping marine life protection at the top of her priorities.
So Samantha, what is freediving exactly?
Freediving or apnea is the sport of breath hold diving where a diver descends on a single breath of air. People have practiced freediving for thousands of years, mainly for food, for exploration and more recently for sport. Every time you hold your breath and swim underwater you are freediving!
Why would someone want to freedive?
There are many different reasons to learn to freedive. For some people it is a way to explore the ocean, while others go spear fish or get involved in underwater photography. The area that gains a lot of attention is competitive freediving, where competitors attempt amazing depths, distances or time underwater. What is special about freediving is that it promotes good physical and mental awareness and control. Surfers find it a perfect match as well as swimmers to be able to extend their breathing pattern, and even people wanting to learn how to cope with stress!
It is important when learning to freedive, to understand the inherent risks and learn to dive safely with a qualified instructor, and never, ever freedive alone.
How long have you been diving?
My father introduced me to diving when I was just a little girl and I never stopped. The water is my second home and I feel at peace with myself and the world surrounding me.
How long have you been on Turks and Caicos?
I moved to Turks and Caicos about 4 years ago. I have travelled the world for the past 6 years and can’t find a better place. Every time I jump in the water I am always amaze by the turquoise color and visibility of the Turks waters and the spectacular marine life all around.
What’s your favorite dive spot?
When you think about diving, every spot is amazing on the island. The water is crystal clear and has the most amazing turquoise color you could ever imagine. On top of that, you can encounter from sharks—no worries!—turtles, eagle rays, whales and much more. The most attractive feature is the seawall which drops off from 45 feet to over 7000 feet.
Can anyone learn how to freedive?
Anybody can enter the sea to experience the underwater marine life and enjoy the peaceful feeling of weightless freedom that the water offers. In saying this, anybody who enjoys and is comfortable in the water can learn how to freedive without previous experience.
We offer the PADI Freediver Course, where we teach the basic skills on: equipment, breathing, relaxation, stretching, finning technique, static and dynamic apnea. We also teach safety skills, as the gold rule is to never dive alone.
How long does it take to learn the basics of freediving?
The course is flexible and performance based, which means that your Freedive Instructor can offer a wide variety of schedules, according to how fast you progress. Minimum requisites are to be in good physical health, able to swim and comfortable in the water. No prior experience with snorkeling, skin diving or freediving is required.
How is Freediving different from snorkeling or skin diving?
Snorkeling is about using a mask and snorkel and looking below while floating. Skin diving takes snorkeling a step further by adding short dives underwater. Freediving uses advanced breathing techniques and diving skills to increase depth and time underwater. Through training, freedivers learn how to conserve oxygen while holding their breath.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen while diving?
Every encounter underwater is an amazing experience. Interacting with the majestic whales is beyond special as well as reef sharks which are my favorite.
Is there a best time of the year to see something in particular?
Every year during the winter season, from January through beginning of April, humpback whales migrate through the Turks Head passage towards the Silver Banks of the Dominican Republic in order to give birth. This is a must see on island. Nevertheless, every time we jump in the water, we get to see all types of marine life year round. Turks and Caicos reef has some spectacular shark encounters all year round.
Should I book my diving in advance?
During the busy season, it is best to book in advance.
For the PADI Freediver Course, the study material is done online through the Freediver Touch (independent study). Once on island, we go over the practice part which involves skills in the swimming pool or swimming pool like conditions and also in the open ocean.
Is it best to bring my own equipment?
Dive gear, i.e. mask-snorkel- fins-wetsuit, can be easily rented before going diving. If you’re already using your own mask, snorkel and fins, it can be nice to bring it with you.
Can my kids dive?
The minimum age is 15 years old for the PADI Freediver course and 12 years old for the PADI Basic Freediver certification. PADI Basic Freediver is a subset program on the PADI Freediver course that only includes knowledge development and a confined water session. Now, if you’re not not sure and you want to give it a go, minimum age would be 10-11 years old.
Thanks Samantha! Where can we reach you?
On my Facebook page at SamanthaKiledgaard 🙂