WHO DIDN’T DREAM OF FLYING as a kid Not enclosed in an aircraft, but using your own strength and skills. Underwater swimming, if unburdened by scuba gear, comes close to that sensation.
Freediving is a mysterious phenomenon. It seems amazing that so many beginners quickly become comfortable freediving to 30m or more, the equivalent of the height of a 10-storey building.
It helps to be strong and healthy, but plenty of people take up the sport without any sort of physical-training background, and at advanced ages too. With freediving the main thing is to have inner balance, confidence and the ability to relax completely and trust the water and your buddy.
Many freedivers consider Dahab in Egypt as their second home. It’s where many of them tested their aptitude for the first time, and made life-long friends.
I met my Russian friends Yelena Varshavskaya and Igor Golovanov there on freedive governing body AIDAs deep courses years ago, and we have since become instructors with our own students. We all still love Dahab, but there comes a moment when you’re ready for a different challenge.
It was Igor who told us about his experiences in Kas in Turkey. Freedivers are warm-blooded and relaxed creatures, and it’s important to have accessible dive-sites protected from wind, as well as warm, clear water.
Deep lagoons where you can easily hang your buoy to a reef or boat are ideal, as is an absence of current. Kas seemed to fit all our requirements.
It was a big party – 16 guys from Odessa in Ukraine and 20 from different parts of Russia – so we had to charter a big dive-boat.
As we set out, the bright sun and the rich colours of the coastal landscape – ochre slopes, green forests and piercing blue sea – imparted a joyful feeling.
We had counted some 15 dive-sites around Kas, deep underwater canyons and caves along with wrecks both modern and ancient, and limestone reefs with their tops standing clear of the surface or just below it.
Rock faces towering above the water could descend steeply to considerable depth.

WE CHOSE AN ISLAND LIKE THIS for our warm-up days, anchoring the boats to leeward and fixing the running rope to the bottom. We could see our buddies as deep as 30m.
The divers from Odessa were especially comforted that there were none of the thermoclines to which we are accustomed in the Black Sea. From the surface to the bottom in Kas, the temperature stayed around 24-25°C.
One by one the divers came off their buoys and headed into the blue, gradually increasing their depth with each dive. While descending you have to listen to your mind and body to make sure it’s safe to go on, but as you ascend there comes a point at which you can let your feelings go, and enjoy the beautiful blueness around you.
The reef slopes were picturesque. Here and there black and scarlet ascidiaceas and matchbox-sized sponges were fastened to the rock. There were few fish, mostly small schools of sergeants, though we did come across a turtle.
On our rest day we travelled to the ancient town of Kekova, which was partially submerged in ancient times by a strong earthquake.
Remains of the houses can be seen on shore but you can also make out the rectangles of foundations in the water.
In places the town walls can be seen as deep as 5-6m, and it would have been amazing to freedive down those ancient streets that have not seen humans for centuries, but since 1990 this has been a protected area.

WHAT WE WERE ABLE TO FREEDIVE in Kas was the wreck of a Douglas Dakota DC-3, a big two-engined aircraft deliberately sunk for divers.
It lies on a sandy bottom, and you can pass through the side hatch into the pilots cabin through the navigating post. There are lots of instruments and switchgear inside.
The wreck is quite shallow, at 21m, and brightly lit, especially if you dive there before noon, but diving it gives you a peaceful, calm feeling at any time of day. It’s easier to enjoy a wreck in this way when you know that no one died or suffered there – it’s just a toy created by adults to entertain other adults.
We also dived a genuine wreck, however, a bulk-carrier that lies in 46m and sank in 1968. Its name is Dimitry, but in Turkey it is known as Pamukh, or the Cotton Wreck.
It was holed when it hit a reef, and though the hole was small it let water into the holds.
The cargo of cotton started swelling and simply tore the ship’s seams apart. Because of the depth of this wreck, nobody risked penetrating it.
Our adventure finished in an underwater cave. The entrance was just 3-4m beneath the surface, and beautifully lit for the 25m swim through to a closed but large air space where
we could breathe and enjoy seeing the stony arches.
As our Turkish guides told us, if you enter this grotto when the sea is choppy you can witness a mist appearing and disappearing. This is caused by condensation as the pressure changes, the water surface working like a piston.
The surface water, amazingly, was drinkable – fresh, pure and very cold! There is a crack somewhere in the cave wall, and fresh water springs through it.
Water layers with different salinity levels are reluctant to mix, which is why the inversion occurs.
At the end of the week the team-members were very happy, inspired by their new depth achievements and the underwater sights of Kas.