Two Thousand Isles © 2021 Design by Naj
Words by Daniel Bosley; Pictures by Aishath Naj

Free-diving was done in the Maldives long before it became an international sport. Living on small islands surrounded by rich reefs, heading down for lobster, octopus, and reef fish that crowd the corals has always been part of island life.

The 26 rings of rock jutting out above the ocean surface bring those dramatic changes in colour, loved by snorkelers and photographers alike (and snorkelling photographers). Usually just yards from the turquouse shallows around the island is a shear drop down to a depth of between 30 and 50 metres inside the lagoons, and up to 4000 metres outside.

While resorts have recently begun teaching tourists how to hold their breath in order to take their Go-pros down a little deeper, for most Maldivians (in the atolls, at least) it is second nature, and spearfishing is still a common pastime.

For those looking to compete, however, the numbers are important. At ten metres your lungs are squeezed to 50 percent of their size, under two bars of pressure. Your natural buoyancy is neutralised and gravity begins to pull you deeper. The world record unassisted free dive is 95 metres, and the longest time anyone has held their breath underwater is 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

But free-diving in the Maldives has never been about extremes and competition, more about working within nature’s boundaries and enjoying the underwater kingdom (as these jackfish do!).

Free of equipment, rules and oxygen, why overcomplicate things?

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