Sharing the wonder of the ocean

750XHanli Prinsloo freedive Peter Marshall and mention Hanli Prinsloo

South African free diver Hanli Prinsloo wants to introduce children to the wonders of our oceans. She is the founder and CEO of I Am Water - an international conservation and education charity. Next month she is one of the main speakers at the inaugural Beyond Travel Festival by Steppes Travel at the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington, London



What was your earliest or childhood ambition?
Apart from being a mermaid I dreamt of working as a journalist, big game keeper or actor. It was pretty diverse dreaming in retrospect, but I seem to be doing a little bit of all four in my everyday adult life.

What motivates you to do what you do?
I'm deeply passionate about transformation. I really believe that even though humans are the biggest problem we are also the only solution. It seems as if most people see themselves as separate from the natural environment and this state of affairs has terrifying consequences. I am motivated by the change I see in kids and adults who get to have extraordinary nature experiences. When a child opens her eyes underwater for the first time and feels that connection with body, breath and planet I know I can keep going.

Who has inspired you to do what you do?
My father was a horse breeder and worked with the ethos of horse whispering and animal interaction long before these became books or films, and growing up on a wild farm in South Africa with but one rule 'come home before the sun sets' I think my parents and my childhood inspired many of the beliefs and values I hold. When it comes to outside the family, I have been inspired by individuals such as Dr Ian Player and Dr Sylvia Earle, but also the writings of Sufi poet Hafiz regarding how we live and breathe as human animals.

If your 20-year old self could see you know, what would he/she think?
I think she'd be pretty excited that I'm living in Cape Town and not freezing Sweden where I studied! But all in all, I don't think she'd be that surprised, the trajectory was set very early on for me and my dreams.

In what place are you happiest?
The ocean! Be it surfing, freediving in chilly kelp forests, playing with dolphins in blue water or just swimming around, salty skin makes me happy!

If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change?
In all honesty no, not really. I feel like where I am today and where I am headed is thanks to the sum of all the mistakes I made and things I tried. And also, what value is there in regret?

Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I do. I try to. Apart from the amount of travelling I do, I live a pretty low impact lifestyle. My carbon footprint and my heart aching want of a dog are the two things I will stop travelling for one day.

The one essential you travel with?
Good quality re-usable water bottle. I despise disposable plastic bottles and I love water!

Your best piece of travel advice?
If you struggle to keep an exercise regime going when you travel, bring a lightweight yoga mat with you and some podcast yoga classes. Whether you're in a teeny hotel room, big open resort or in transit at an airport, rolling out a yoga mat and finding time to breathe and move really brings you back to yourself.

What advice would you give to people wishing to follow in your footsteps?
Your dreams are always worth amputating the ego for. Ask for help, be humble and work hard. Don't think you have to do it all on your own or prove yourself, others have experience and most likely want to help you - assuming your dream is for greater good, I'd do anything I can to assist!

Record-breaking freediver and conservationist, Hanli Prinsloo will be speaking at the inaugural Beyond Travel Festival by Steppes Travel at The Royal Geographical Society, London, 17-18 September 2016. Her talk takes place in the Education Centre on Saturday 17 September from 16:00 to 17:00.

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