Divers all over the world regard the Philippines as one of the best places to explore the deep sea. It is, after all, located in what is called the "Coral Triangle," a triangle-shaped marine area in the Pacific Ocean that's teeming with underwater life. So it doesn't come as a surprise that a freediving center, touted as the world's largest, opened its doors right in our backyard—Freedive+ on Panglao Island in Bohol. The freediving academy has been around since February 8, 2016, but it moved to a bigger and better location, which is three kilometers away from the original site, in March 2019.
"Freediving in Panglao is like no other place on earth. [There's] immediate access to depth [and] year-round excellent diving conditions with up to 30 C water temperature and 40-meter visibility. And out of the water, [you have] the locals; fantastic weather; palm, banana and coconut trees everywhere; great restaurants; and plenty of fun things to do. Panglao is a true freediving paradise for everyone looking to submerge themselves in the underwater world," Freedive+ co-owner Vincent Sparreboom tells SPOT.ph.
He founded the center along with Sura Dai and Cao Yu in an effort to "share [their] love for breath-hold diving and passion for the ocean and the underwater world." Unlike scuba diving, freediving lets you go into the depths with just your face mask and fins. It's best enjoyed when you have ample training to hold your breath underwater longer than the usual, swim comfortably with marine creatures (and know eco-friendly practices when doing so), and have enough air to make it back to the surface. The longest breath-hold so far, in the Guinness World Records, is at 24 minutes and three seconds by Spanish freediver Aleix Segura Vendrell.
It's also a huge plus that their courses, starting from a one-day basic freediving lesson to a five-day advanced workshop, are taught by certified drivers through Scuba Schools International. They also have specialty subjects for coral and fish identification (for the science geek in you), freediving with photography and videography, and marine ecology.
"We now have more classrooms, a four-lane 25-meter swimming pool, yoga area, restaurant, apnea gym, and more fixed dive lines. We're a big operation," Sparreboom says. The next phases of construction, estimated to take another year, include setting up dormitory rooms and luxury apartments, a larger outdoor area, massage rooms, diving shops, and more classrooms.
So if you're looking to go beyond snorkeling (and marveling at our natural wonders from afar), consider dropping by Freedive+ the next time you're in Bohol. But, of course, you still have a good number of scuba pools in Metro Manila to jumpstart your freediving adventure.
Freedive+ Freedive Academy is at Cansumanay Road, Barangay Tabalong, Dauis, Bohol. For more information, visit Freedive+'s website.