Upon certification, guests can explore Fiji’s clear waters and see coral reefs and colorful angel, nemo and parrot fish, turtles, dolphins and reef sharks. From May through October, guests can also freedive with the island’s famous 2,000-pound manta rays with wingspans stretching up to 20 feet.
In the Maldives, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa (rooms from $567) offers P.A.D.I. freediving classes at its dive center (from $210). Graduates can dive into Dhonakulhi Island’s reef channel, home to exotic sea life, and 48 nearby dive sites including one known as the Aquarium, where they can spot moray eels, lion fish and seasonal manta rays, and Mathi Faru, known for its octopus, sting ray and leaf fish species.
Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru arranges for guests to shadow a manta ray scientist for a day, freediving with marine biologists from the Manta Trust on board a research vessel. (Room rates from $1,400, plus taxes and fees.) From June to the beginning of November, lunar tides and monsoons increase plankton levels in areas of the Baa Atoll Unesco World Biosphere Reserve, attracting manta rays, whale sharks and other sizable fish. Freedivers learn to improve their diving technique while taking identification photos and helping record environmental information essential to manta ray conservation.
For freedivers willing to brave colder waters, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada, takes guests on guided ocean freedives to see box crabs, starfish and edible sea urchins. The resort also offers alpine lake freediving; traveling by helicopter, divers can immerse themselves in pristine glacial lakes to see huge underwater cliffs. Wilderness and wildlife freediving packages start at $3,645 and include accommodations, meals, floatplane transfers and some excursions. Freediving certification is an additional $1,000, based on a group of five.
Joseph Donne, a dive instructor, encourages anyone interested in the aquatic realm to learn to freedive because it’s a skill that can be used anytime, anywhere. “Another good reason,” he added, “is that the breathing and relaxation techniques are also highly beneficial when applied to life outside the water.”