Beth Neale, experiencing a truly unique maternal experience of swimming among pregnant ragged tooth sharks - while pregnant herself.Photographer: Bryan Hart
Beth Neale, experiencing a truly unique maternal experience of swimming among pregnant ragged tooth sharks - while pregnant herself.Photographer: Bryan Hart

PICS & VIDEO: Pregnant SA freediver swims among pregnant sharks

By IOL Reporter Time of article published May 14, 2021

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Durban - For the first time ever, audiences are going to get the chance to view the incredibly rare footage of four-time South African freediving champion, Beth ‘The Mermaid’ Neale, experiencing a truly unique maternal experience of swimming among pregnant ragged tooth sharks - while pregnant herself.

The footage - which was shot in KwaZulu-Natal’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park – forms part of the season finale of Freediving Diaries, which is airing on Friday, 14 May on PPL°WX - People'sWeather (DStv CH-180 and Openview CH-115) at 6pm.

Freediving Diaries is a world-first freediving television series that follows Beth and her partner, Miles ‘Aquaman’ Cloutier, as they explore the ocean residents off the coasts of Mozambique and the Maldives.

It was during the filming of this inaugural season that Beth discovered she was pregnant with her first child, however, following extensive research on freediving and pregnancy, they took the informed decision to keep filming the journey of Mozambique coastline from Ponto to Ouro to Vilankulous and Bazaruto, through the pristine atolls of the Maldives.

Four-time South African freediving champion, Beth ‘The Mermaid’ Neale, experiencing a truly unique maternal experience of swimming among pregnant ragged tooth sharks - while pregnant herself. Picture: Bryan Hart

Commenting on this incredible dive experience, Beth said: “I used to be terrified of sharks, and it is through spending time with sharks underwater that I was able to overcome my fear. It’s very powerful that, as a pregnant woman, I can dive down and respectfully interact with pregnant ragged tooth sharks and share their important story. I want people to understand that sharks need our protection. Without sharks, the entire marine ecosystem is impacted negatively.”

She said it had been a privilege spending time with pregnant ragged tooth sharks in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a place which provides a sanctuary for these sharks to gestate and give birth.

“The sharks are protected and so return year after year to ensure the continuation of their species”.

“We are so fortunate to have the shark maternity ward of the oceans in South African waters, and I am so happy that we could conclude Freediving Diaries back home in South Africa, sharing such an important story. I’m sure that people watching will be inspired to rethink the way they see sharks, and have a greater understanding of the importance of marine protected areas along our coastlines.”

She added that it was important to showcase a real ‘homegrown ocean conservation success story’ amidst the many challenges facing the oceans today.

Her partner, Miles, a Canadian-born freediver, films the series alongside Beth.

“Protecting these areas and the species in them is so important for our daughter’s future, and the generations to come. We look forward to the day she is diving with us to experience these sharks in her own way,” he said.

South African freediving champion, Beth ‘The Mermaid’ Neale, swimming among pregnant ragged tooth sharks while pregnant herself. Photographer: Bryan Hart

Focusing on the series final, Miles said: “What an amazing opportunity for me to capture pregnant Beth swimming with pregnant sharks. For Beth and I to be doing what we love together; promoting conservation, freediving, and having our unborn baby as part of it, really checks all of our boxes. The more time we spend diving with sharks, the more our respect grows for these animals, and the deeper our connection to nature.”

Thandi Shabalala, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Marketing and Brand Manager, explained that the park’s ocean component forms one of only 49 UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites.

“It gives us pleasure to know that the protection levelled upon by the Marine Protected Areas Act ensures a safe nursery for many marine species in iSimangaliso, which also gives the pregnant ragged tooth sharks a sanctuary to gestate so as to give birth to the next generation of sharks,” said Shabalala. “Raggies - as they are fondly known - like human mothers, give birth to one or two young after a period of nine months. Their conservation status remains vulnerable which calls for more awareness and preservation measures.”

IOL

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