• Jean-Luc Tulliez

Back from our freediving trip in Sri lanka to meet blues whales and sperm-whales

Mis à jour : 27 juil. 2019

We had a unique and authentic adventure: swimming with blue whales and sperm whales in exceptional conditions ! In the turquoise waters we were a small group of six freedivers.

In the morning we left early to meet the blue whale, the largest marine mammal in the world. It measures about 30m and dives to a depth of 200m with apnea times of around 15 minutes (The man dives at 129m for a time around 4 minutes). The life expectancy of the blue whale is 80 years old. It moves between 5 and 50km / h. She usually lives alone. The sounds emitted by the blue whale are imperceptible by the man. They would serve to maintain an inter-individual distance, to identify themselves, to transmit information on the location of food points (krill) and also to give the alert in case of danger.

We also met sperm whales that move pod (groups) of about forty individuals. They often dive to a depth of 2000m with apnea times approaching 90 minutes. It's an amazing time to dive into the blue and hear their vocalizations rattling. They use them for the purpose of communicating, identifying and locating each other. The sperm whale is a great specialist of the Mammalian Dive Reflex: to cope with the enormous pressure differences during his dives, he adapts by slowing down his heart and sets up the bloodshift to prevent his rib cage from crashing with the pressure. Between his dives, the sperm whale surfaces to breathe for about ten minutes before going back to the depths. Foraging is a big part of his time. It plays a major role in the marine environment, regulating populations of octopus and large squid. It has a great influence on the regulation of the environment.

During our sea trips, we met pilot whales, Minke whales, Manta rays, whale sharks. One morning we met a huge school of dolphins from 100 to 200 individuals who collaborated with the fishermen by pushing the tuna towards their fishing lines! This association between men and dolphins has existed here since time immemorial.

We had a half-day getaway on a small island surrounded by coral gardens to snorkel with black tip sharks. François had an unusual encounter with a lemon shark never before seen in Sri Lanka! I went looking for him and found him with three other black tip sharks.

Back from our trips at sea, we had lunch on the white sand beach lined with coconut trees. Then those who wished could rest at the edge of the water or go to the Ayurvedic clinic for a massage. At the end of the day, I proposed a yoga session on the beach to allow everyone to improve their performance in freediving. We trained on relaxation techniques, breathing and asanas specific for the easing of the rib cage.

We did some sea trips dedicated to deep training. Everyone could experiment or improve their immersion technique at their own pace, for some up to -35m. These trainings were intended to help improve the freediving time to make the most of encounters with marine mammals.

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean of great cultural richness and full of surprises. It is also a tropical paradise of rare ecological diversity.

We had the experience of spending 24 hours in the jungle in an ecolodge called "The Middle of Nowhere". Far from the tumult of civilization, we were able to connect with nature. Ten years ago, Ruwan settled in an area devastated by fire. Since then, he has participated in the reforestation, conservation and protection of wildlife. The next trainees will be invited to contribute to the reforestation project by planting trees. This ecolodge works autonomously thanks to solar panels. The water comes from the well, the largely vegetarian meals are prepared with products from organic farming. Beautiful rocks surround this haven of peace, where you can see wild elephants, watch the sunrise and sunset, meditating if you wish. The sunset is a timeless moment when one part of the jungle falls asleep while the other wakes up. The ecolodge is also the starting point for trails in the jungle.

On the return we visited the Golden Temple of Dambulla. High place of Buddhist pilgrimage for twenty-two centuries, this rock monastery, contains five shrines. It is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. It is particularly remarkable for its murals and majestic statues.

We went back totally recovered. Each encounter with marine mammals in their natural environment was an invitation to live fully in the present moment. Far from our Western culture, everyone could feel a true harmony with nature, this feeling of being deeply connected to the Universe. These moments also allowed us to become aware of our responsibility towards the marine ecosystem and the planet.

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