TheLoneRider
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Freediving

Freediving with Ben Meerhaeghe at SeaQuest Dive Center June 16, 2017

Freediving with Ben Meerhaeghe at SeaQuest Dive Center

SeaQuest Dive Center Instructor: Ben Meerhaeghe
Dive Site: SeaQuest beach front - the deep end
Dive Shop: SeaQuest Dive Center
Website: seaquestdivecenter.com
Email: info@seaquestdivecenter.com
Phone: (63) 38 502.9069
Mobile: (63) (0)999.380.2420 (Smart) / (63) (0)927.309.6383 (Globe)
Location: Alona Beach, Panglao, 6340 Bohol, Philippines
GPS waypoint: 9°32'54.5"N 123°46'23.6"E

Freediving with Ben Meerhaeghe at SeaQuest Dive Center
freediver
Bohol Freediving
Since finishing my freediving course in Apo Island, I'd been itching to get back. I didn't expect it here in Bohol, but it just happened. I couldn't ask for more - great instructor, Ben Meerhaeghe and great dive center with their course facilities, SeaQuest Dive Center.

Ben Meerhaeghe
Ben is an animated guy with many adventures to talk about - restauranteur for a Mexican resto, English teacher in Japan, Aikido martial artist, skier, snow boarder, Vipassana meditator, etc. He lives the life! Currently, he runs SeaQuest and overlooks scuba diving and freediving - things that get you wet. Not just management, but he is also an instructor for both disciplines. He would be my teacher for freediving.

9:30am Freedive
A small boat took us to the deep end of SeaQuest's beach front. A bouy was tied to the boat by a 5m line and a weighted line was tied to the bouy, going down 10m for our warm-up. The current was strong and the weighted end of the rope was nowhere near the bottom - I couldn't even see the bottom. Jamel, a veteran dive instructor at SeaQuest, joined us. He has long wanted to learn freediving and now has time to pursue it.

We pulled ourselves down the rope and stayed as long as we could at the 10m depth before slowly pulling ourselves up. Ben showed us how to do it first and guided us along the way. He also taught us how to forcefully exhale the air out upon reaching the surface. We did this a few times before the line was lowered down to 15m. We did exactly the same thing - pulled our bodies down and stayed at the 15m depth as long as we could before heading up.

Lastly, the exercise was to remove the mask at 15m, hand it to Ben and climb our way up with no mask. Sometimes, masks get removed accidentally or a mask might get flooded with water. This exercise acclimatizes the body to that sensation so panic doesn't happen. With my scuba diver training of removing the mask underwater gave me confidence in doing the exercise right. I was surprised at the ease of doing it. I expected to struggle, but everything seems under control for me.

Finally, Ben lowered the line down to 18m. My record in Apo Island is 16.6m - at that level, I could no longer equalize and had to come up. Now, 18m? I was a little apprehensive. To my surprise, although challenging, I did not struggle. I methodically pulled myself down with no equalization difficulty and even managed to stay at the bottom for a few more seconds before heading up. I still had juice left when I surfaced. I really surprised myself this time. Ben assured me that I could easily reach the 20m mark, but there was no rush - some other time. For now, the 18m would suffice. I was happy to have a new record depth - 18m!

2:30pm Freedive
This time, we did the dive without being connected to the boat - although the boatman had strict instructions to keep an eye on us...otherwise the strong current might drift us all the way to Siquijor! The bouy was free-floating with the current. The line went down 15m this time. It was just Ben and me.

We did the 10m warm-up, then the 15m and finally the 17m. This time, instead of pulling down the rope, we did a duck dive and finned our way down, visually guided by the line. Upon reaching the bottom, I sommersaulted forward and started finning myself up, again, guided by the rope without touching it. It was more challenging but still do-able.

The strong current was dragging the bouy closer to land where we got too close to the wall. When Ben took his 3min hang, I struggled to fin against the current so the bouy doesn't hit the wall. It exhausted me. I was afraid if Ben had to be rescued down, I would no longer have enough air or strength to go down 17m. Thankfully, nothing like that happened and all went well.

Ending Thoughts
To my astonishment, I was able to do all the exercises without really struggling. I broke my own 16.6m record by going 18m with still some juice left in me. I was able to normally equalize at that level - something I couldn't do in Apo Island. Ben has a good instinct for restrain when he didn't rush to do the 20m with me. As an instructor, he teaches the technical details but he also inspires confidence. He knows how to bring out the best in you with his subtle persuasion.

In Apo Island, I saw every dive as a face-to-face with death, pushing it until you think you'll die but you tell death, "not today, my friend". This time though in Bohol, it was not that macabre. It was more full body mindfulness while going down and staying down. I was more aware of how my body was reacting or non-reacting. I was more concentrated on perfecting my game. The spectre of death was nowhere - that's a good thing. Altogether, the whole experience has given me confidence to push my limits further. Freediving is liberating!

I am privileged, honored and humbled to have 2 great freediving teachers - Jean-Jacques Gautier of Plongeurs du Monde and Ben Meerhaeghe of SeaQuest Dive Center. With everything I learned from them, I get this surging confidence that Marianas Trench is not deep enough. Thank you JJ, thank you Ben.

--- TheLoneRider

ps - If you want me to objectively write about a freedive experience in your dive shop, email me.

Freedive Training Blogs by TheLoneRider

  1. Freediving with Jean Pol Francois of Freediving-Planet July 22, 2017
  2. Freediving with Ben Meerhaeghe at SeaQuest Dive Center June 16, 2017
  3. Freediving Certification Course in Apo Island with Jean-Jacques Gautier of Plongeurs du Monde Apr 11-22, 2017


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Google Map Bohol, Philippines

tourist attractions in Bohol tourist attractions
  • Danao Adventure Park in Bohol Danao Adventure Park - zip lining, cable car ride, caving, river rides/trekking, off-road buggy ride, root climbing, rappelling and ultra-glide rides
  • Alona Beach in Bohol Alona Beach - hub for tourists with hotels, resorts, restos, bars and dive shops
  • Chocolate Hills in Bohol Chocolate Hills - hills side-by-side shaped like giant Kisses chocolate
  • Tarsier in Bohol Tarsier - pocket-sized marsupia looking like a monkey
  • Balicasag Island in Bohol Balicasag Island - one of the best dive spots in the Philippines
  • Loboc River in Bohol Loboc River - river cruise on a boat
  • Anda Beach in Bohol Anda Beach - fine white sand beach with resorts, restos and cottages, 3 hours by bus from Tagbilaran
  • Cabagnow Cave Pool in Anda, Bohol Cabagnow Cave Pool - brackish water pool about 5ft deep inside a limestone opening on the ground, 8 feet deep, P50
  • Lamanok Island in Anda, Bohol Lamanok Island - walk on a 100m bamboo bridge on stilts to a resto area to take a boat tour to caves and nearly attractions, P300
  • Combento Cave Pool in Bohol Combento Cave Pool - cave pool with underwater cave system, P20
  • Can-umantad Falls in Candijay, Bohol Can-umantad Falls - long narrow drop until it hits a bulbous mound spreading it into a a curtain-like water canopy and down into a splash pool
  • Canawa Cold Spring in Candijay, Bohol Canawa Cold Spring - deep refreshing cold spring with developed pool area
  • Firefly Tour in Candijay, Bohol Firefly Tour - evening boat ride into the river to watch fireflies
hotels in Bohol hotel
  • Bohol Tropics Resort Bohol Tropics Resort - seafront location, manicured surroundings, swimming pool, resto/bar
    0133 Graham Avenue, Brgy. Cogon, Tagbilaran, Bohol 6300
  • Oasis Resort - Alona Beach location, dive center, resto / bar
    Alona Beach, Panglao, Bohol
yoga in Bohol yoga
  • Jing Yoga - health & well being through yoga
    Jing Yoga The Courtyard - Airport Road fronting the church
    Jing Yoga Bohol Meditation and Yoga Center - 2nd Floor Lim Magtajas Bldg. CPG Avenue

Bohol FYI / Tips

Tagbilaran Port to Panglao

You can charter any tricycle from the port all the way to Panglao (~P300), but if you want to do it on the cheap,
  1. don't take the tricycles lined-up inside the port. Walk past the port gate and immediately outside, you'll see many tricycles. Take one to the bus terminal in Dao (~P15)
  2. in Dao, take the jeep that plies the Panglao route (~P20)

Tagbilaran (Bohol) to Cebu City by boat

** schedules and rates keep changing, call for latest schedule
  1. Weesam Express - departs 6:15 AM, 11:30 AM, 4:00 PM
    one way: Economy (aircon) P500.00, Economy (non-aircon) P400.00, First Class P600.00
    round trip promo (at least 2 days advance booking): Economy (aircon) P600, Economy(non-aircon) P500, First Class P1200
    round trip promo (1 day or on the day booking): Economy (aircon) P800, Economy (non-aircon) P700, First Class P1200
  2. Ocean Jet - departs 6-7:05-8:20-9:20-11:40AM, 1-2-3:30-4:20-5:30-6:30PM, 2 hours, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
    Open Air / Tourist Class P800, Business Class P1000
    +63(32)255 7560 / +63 (32) 255 0115 / 0917 638 0000
  3. SuperCat (2GO) - departs 5:50-11AM, 3:45-5:25-8:15PM, arrives Pier 1 in Cebu
    P 500.00
    +63 32 233 7000

Things to do, Places to go in Bohol

  1. Chocolate Hills - this is a clustering of more than 1200 hills within a 50km2 area. They range in height from 30-50 meters. What's unusual is their near-perfect conical shape resembling an individual chocolate chip. No one knows how they were formed. Entrance is P50/pax.
  2. Tarsier Conservation Area - located Upper Bonbon, Loboc. The tarsiers are no longer being played at by tourists as circus props, but instead, visitors now view them in cordoned-off areas in their natural 6ha habitat. As they are territorial and nocturnal, they are predictable on where they can be viewed. P50/pax.
  3. Alona Beach (Panglao) - Alona Beach is the tourist hub of Bohol. It has 1.5 kms of white sand beach lined-up by bars, hotels and restos. Alona is also the jump-off point for Balicasag Island, a world class dive destination.
  4. Danao Adventure Park - located in Barangay Magtangtang, 72 kms (2 hours ride) from Tagbilaran. Adventure activities include river trekking, tyrolean traverse, rappelling, bouldering, rock climbing and ziplining.

Bohol

    Anda
  1. Exploring Combento Cave Pool June 29, 2017
  2. Visiting Cabagnow Cave Pool of Anda Jun 28, 2017
  3. Exploring Anda, Bohol June 25-30, 2017

  4. Candijay
  5. Roadtrip from Candijay to Ubay July 1, 2017
  6. Firefly Tour in Candijay, Bohol June 30, 2017
  7. Freediving Canawa Cold Spring of Candijay, Bohol June 30, 2017
  8. Splashing at Can-umantad Falls, Candijay, Bohol June 30, 2017

  9. Loboc
  10. The Ride to the Old Spanish Tower Oct 21, 2017
  11. Savouring Villagio Pizza Oct 19, 2017
  12. Wet and Wild Bonbon-Alegria Downhill Ride Oct 18, 2017
  13. River Cruise on Loboc River Oct 17, 2017
  14. Back Road Ride to Loay Oct 17, 2017
  15. Leisurely Ride to Loktob Spring Oct 14, 2017
  16. Sweet Ride to Busay Falls Oct 13, 2017
  17. Bike Climb to the Virgen de Guadalupe Oct 12, 2017
  18. The Ride to Cruz Daku (Big Cross) Oct 11, 2017
  19. Exploring Loboc, Bohol Oct 8, 2017

  20. Panglao
  21. Coastal Cleanup with Plastic Free Bohol Sept 16, 2017
  22. Exploring Panglao June 12-18, 2017
  23. Yoga with Ging and Rai at Oasis Resort June 18, 2017
  24. Freediving with Ben Meerhaeghe at SeaQuest Dive Center June 16, 2017
  25. Scuba Diving Balicasag Island with SeaQuest Dive Center June 15, 2017
  26. Bohol Revisited June 12, 2017
  27. Exploring Bohol Nov 28-30, 2015

  28. Tagbilaran
  29. 30 days in Tagbilaran, Thank You! Oct 8, 2017
  30. Breakfast Talk with Tagbilaran's Finest Oct 8, 2017
  31. Exploring the Cafe Scene of Tagbilaran Oct 7, 2017
  32. Yoga for 60+ Students at the University of Bohol Oct 4, 2017
  33. Chocolate Overload at Dalareich Chocolate House October 2, 2017
  34. Talk on Philosophy and Spirituality to 12-Graders at the University of Bohol Sep 27, 2017
  35. Celebrating the International Day of Peace Sep 23, 2017
  36. Judging a Student Debate at the University of Bohol Sept 15, 2017
  37. Fitness Workout with Chie at Bohol Tropics Resort Sept 13, 2017
  38. Modified Ashtanga Primary Series by Jing Yoga, Tagbilaran Sept 12, 2017
  39. Tagbilaran Revisited Sep 7-12, 2017
  40. Hello Tagbilaran! June 19-25, 2017

  41. Ubay
  42. 2 Days in Ubay July 1-3, 2017
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