On our recent trip to the Maldives, we met the lovely and wonderful Sergio Artacho who was our dive guide for the week. Originally from Spain, he now works alongside his wife in the Hotel Dive Centre at Oblu by Atmosphere, Helengeli resort. Much like us, any chance he gets, he is in the water taking photos and so an instant bond was made! We thought our stay could not get any better, yet on our last full day before flying home (so no scuba for us) Sergio invited us to join him for a snorkelling photo shoot, except without snorkels!
Armed with his scuba gear and camera, Sergio led us to the jetty to start with some simple duck diving shots. We did these individually and some together, holding hands (I know so romantic, right?). Richard has practiced more freediving than me so found this really easy, I on the other hand, needed a few more attempts before any chance of mastering the art of holding your breath and posing for the camera!
After some practice diving, we headed underneath the jetty to get some atmospheric shots amongst the wooden struts. At first, this seemed pretty easy, but as the surge came in, Richard and I found ourselves in a water vortex. Sergio kindly asked me if I was ok to swim through and confidently (stupidly) I said: “yes of course!”. As I positioned my body to the centre of the gap between the struts, the surge pushed me into the side of the barnacles, leaving me with a graze on my back and arm. Superficial really, but did leave me with a lasting memory of the trip as I’m left with a pretty cool tan scar on my arm that serves as a good talking point.
Much like the movie Finding Nemo, the section of the reef we were on, had a dramatic drop off to the deeper parts below. This created some really dramatic colours and lighting in the water, with the shadowing giving you a real sense depth. Coincidently, on the edge of the drop-off, in front of the jetty, there was a beautiful little Aemome with Anemone fish inside, making the perfect setting for the start of the movie. However this anemone was at 8 metres, a depth that I had not gone to before without my scuba gear, Richard on the other hand, has been free diving to 10 meters for some time, so was more comfortable going down to take some shots next to the anemone. Still, I gave it a go, and on the way down, felt so incredibly free I thought it was easy, next thing you know I had swum past the little Anemone and looked up only to realise how deep it was and how far away I was from my next breath of air! Yikes!! Ok, a little dramatic given some of our good friends are freediving world champions and have records past 70m… but still!
At the end of the session, Sergio asked Richard to try his mirrored mask in the hope of catching some cool reflections. As it turned out, this was one of the best images and was featured by Scubapro on some of their social media channels. As you can see, it’s pretty cool right?
We must have spent almost 2 hours in the water, each time under the water lasting longer than the time before and despite our energy levels depleting we were loving every minute! You might argue we were just dipping our feet into the world of freediving, so to speak, and most of it was just duck diving. All I know now is that I have some serious respect for the professionals out there who go to extremes to break records and explore the depths of the ocean, pushing the limits of the human body. If I had my choice of a superpower, breathing underwater might just be it. In the meantime, whilst I wait for that day, I’ll keep practising and for the meantime keep my scuba gear close to hand!
Check out more of Sergio’s work on Instagram @nudibranch_lover and the stunning hotel we were staying @obluhelengeli.