LOOK: SA champ launches first-ever freediving series... and she is doing it all while pregnant
DURBAN - FOUR-TIME South African freediving champion, Beth Neal is set to host the first-ever freediving reality TV series, ’Freediving Diaries’. The 10-episode series follows Beth and hubby, Miles Neale's experiences of freediving with just one breath from the surface, off the coasts of Mozambique, the Maldives and South Africa.
The show aims to promote the many dedicated people at the forefront of conservation and eco-tourism. But the couple was in for an even bigger adventure when Beth discovered, during the shooting of the series, that she was going to become a mom for the first time.
“We never expected to be sharing the most special experience as a couple in episode one of this series. Just before crossing the border into Mozambique to begin filming our epic adventure, we found out that we are having a baby! It was an incredible surprise, but also a bit of a shock as we had planned this eight-week expedition into some very under-developed areas with few medical facilities.
“But it turned out to be the best possible timing because my little mermaid has already dived with whales, dolphins, turtles, manta rays, whale sharks, tiger sharks, nurse sharks and so much more, all from the comfort of my belly,” Neale said.
She said they spent time researching and connecting with professionals who have had the experience of freediving while pregnant.
“I was never a freediver who pushed my limits anyway, but now that I am having a baby, I do shallow, short and easy dives. I am very fit, strong and healthy – and so is my baby,” she said.
Miles said the shooting of the series in Mozambique started with a few expected hiccups.
“Our diesel tank was filled with gasoline at the petrol station and we had dead batteries, flat tyres, unexpected bad weather, travelled through malaria areas, and the ocean was like a washing machine in places… Beth set the bar pretty high for her first trimester. The Maldives was like a big swimming pool after that,” he said.
In partnership with People°s Weather – Africa's first and only 24/7 weather, environmental news and lifestyle channel – the series was filmed by the couple with freedives of up to 20m using regular action cameras.
“From the playful and inquisitive wild dolphins of Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique, to the tiger sharks of Fuvahmulah island in the Maldives, we checked a few bucket list species.
“Fuvahmulah is a world-class dive location and a tiger shark hotspot, and we were some of the first freedivers in the world to visit this site. It is extremely accessible and perfect for freediving. Most importantly, the tiger sharks are protected since it is now a UNESCO world heritage site,” Miles said.
Season one of ’Freediving Diaries’ focuses on the couple’s exploration of the Mozambique coastline from Ponto to Ouro to Vilankulous and Bazaruto, and the pristine atolls of the Maldives.
Among some of the incredible moments experienced are Beth diving with pregnant among ragged tooth sharks in Sodwana, as well as swimming alongside a pregnant tiger shark in the Maldives.
“Some of my top experiences were swimming with the nurse sharks in the Maldives – there were over 50 of them at the dive site and they are like friendly, curious puppy dogs,” Neale said.
She added that other highlights were being visited in the middle of a freediving course by a 6m whale shark.
“My life’s dream came true when I had a brief but very special swim with a rare and elusive dugong in Bazaruto, Mozambique. I was in tears and I am so grateful that I could share that moment with the man I love and with my baby in my belly.”
“From the moment I met Beth and Miles and heard about what they do I thought it was completely crazy, but they managed to pull it off. This series epitomises the role weather plays in adding drama and unpredictability to great adventures.
“The coast is especially susceptible to rapid changes in weather conditions, and the pair embarking on this extraordinary adventure while navigating uncontrollable conditions creates a great viewing experience," said Stephan Le Roux, CEO of People°s Weather.
Catch ’Freediving Diaries’ which premieres on People's Weather (DStv Channel 180 and Openview Channel 115) on Monday, May 3, at 6pm. The series will be shown over two weeks with new episodes daily from Mondays to Fridays at 6pm, with a repeat at 9pm, and at 10.30am and 2pm the following day.
There will also be an omnibus shown on the weekend.