The nation finding peace underwater

Ndhlovu grew up miles from the coast, in Soweto, outside central Johannesburg. In 2016, on the heels of a divorce, she quit her corporate job and flew to Bali where she learned to snorkel and then scuba dive, before taking up freediving back in South Africa. It wasn’t without difficulty – to dive beyond 23m, she had to let go of fears and learn to be present. With freediving, she says, “the journey is so inside”.

Like Magmoet, Ndhlovu became passionate about equal access to the water. “I’ve always been the only black guest on the boat,” she said. “I just wanted to change that.”

She founded the Black Mermaid Foundation through which she leads snorkelling trips in False Bay for children from Langa on the Cape Flats. “We always go from terror to crazy joy,” she laughed. She aims to dismantle a sense of not belonging in the ocean, but she acknowledges barriers still exist for many, such as a lack of leisure time and access to transport.

Ndhlovu, Magmoet and Daines all credit social media with recreational freediving’s rapid gain in popularity – in Ndhlovu and Magmoet’s cases, it’s how they were first introduced to freediving. Now all three inspire others to experience the beauty of the underwater world for themselves.

“Lots of people ask me to describe it, but I can’t,” said Magmoet. Instead, he extends an invitation: “Come with me. Let me show you.”

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