Travel Weekly | Hainan, I met you at the bottom of the sea

Editor's Note

Have you ever played scuba diving? Put on your flippers, put on your goggles and explore the mysterious underwater world. On social networks, many senior divers, diving instructors have mentioned that from the quality of seawater, marine biodiversity, to diving training institutions, diving equipment stores and other hardware facilities supporting the situation, Hainan's diving advantages in the country is quite outstanding.

Especially in the past two years, many dive instructors, divers and diving enthusiasts active in Southeast Asia have gathered in Hainan, and the cluster effect of professionals brings more training resources and a stronger diving atmosphere. In Hainan, it is easy to get a diver's license and find a group of partners who also love diving. All kinds of convenient factors, so that Hainan free diving, scuba diving, mermaid diving sports popularity is obviously soaring up.

Travel Weekly | Hainan, I met you at the bottom of the sea

A mermaid model photographed by a photographer in the waters of Wuzhizhou Island. Hainan Daily reporter Wu Wei Correspondent Wei Shangting Photo/text

Diving in Hainan "space roaming" at the bottom of the sea


The "beep-beep-beep" oceanic white noise becomes a hypnotic soundtrack. The slow heartbeat fluctuates deep in the eardrums.

The seawater around me was bone-chilling, I turned my head to look around, did not see any marine life, a cloud of grayish-white dust with the movement of a flurry. At the bottom of the 25-meter-deep sea at Lingshui Shuangfan Shi Island, as far as the eye can see, is a weightless, light blue gradient world, much like the silence of space.

I sat in the deepest part of the ocean I had ever reached in my life, holding a lead ball that had touched the bottom and staring at a peace I had never had before. However, this wonderful feeling lasted only a few seconds. The oxygen in my lungs was depleted, carbon dioxide piled up in all corners of my body, and my slightly heated limbs reminded me that it was time to turn back.

I uncrossed my legs, kicked the web twice to adjust upward, holding the safety rope to the surface "climbing". After crossing the neutral buoyancy point, the upward speed accelerated steeply, and I was able to enjoy the last "flight" even if I stopped kicking my flippers.

A fully relaxed diver is emerging from the ethereal blue. Rustling little bubbles escaped from my nostrils. But I just tilted my face up and "soared" against the trajectory of the light, until I burst out of the sea with a "bu" sound, like a spring that released all the pressure.

This is below the surface of the sea, occupying 71% of the earth's surface area, a strange world that can make people repeatedly "addicted".

Whether it's free diving by closing the air to feel "flying" or scuba diving by relying on air bottles to breathe at the bottom of the sea, the world below the surface is the only place where you can get started with diving.

I wonder how many people dream of flying.

I dreamed of flying close to the ground countless times as a child. Then I played with roller coasters, jumpers, wind tunnel flying, sky diving, and tried all kinds of ways to get myself off the ground until I met scuba diving.

This sport pulls people into a world of "weightlessness", more complete than the floating brought about by swimming, more lasting than skydiving, gliding, these sports bring a sense of air. In this space where there is no space underneath, the flippers swing lightly, and people can rise, sink, glide and even twist 360 degrees as they wish, just like a martial arts master.

In addition to entertaining yourself with weightlessness, divers can also spin "mountains", chase fish, explore wrecks, wait for a coral to "bloom", play performance art and hold their breath with their dive partners. When you get into the water, cruising in this quiet and lively world, become part of the ocean, the unexpected joy, can turn the pretend mature adults back to children instantly.

I have been certified as a freediver and scuba diver since 2020. After using these two "keys" to open the door to the underwater world, my love for the underwater world has been unstoppable since: Sanya Wuzhizhou Island, Yalong Bay Underwater World, Atlantis Ambassador Lagoon, Tianfan Intercontinental Hotel Oceanarium, Lingshui Boundary Island, Shuangfan Stone Island waters.... ...unknowingly, the beautiful dive sites in the south of Hainan were "carded" by me most of the time.

Each of these dive sites has an irreplaceable charm, and every time I dive and swim, it only makes me tsk-tsk over and over again: to see for myself, to appreciate the endless coral gardens at the bottom of Wuzhizhou Island, how vibrant and vivid; to drill deeper, to feel the atmosphere of frozen time and mystery from the submarine wreck of Boundary Island; to muster the courage to break through, to meet myself in the deep blue and silent seabed of the Shuangfan Stone Sea, to tame my instincts and break through the limits ......

Travel Weekly | Hainan, I met you at the bottom of the sea

The underwater world of Boundary Island. Xinhua News Agency reporter Yang Guangyu photo

Freediving Challenging physical limits at the bottom of the sea

How can you be part of the ocean and not a bystander? I think freediving is the best answer.

Freediving, a type of diving that maintains underwater action by virtue of a single inhalation. A freediver in the sea is quiet and self-sufficient, just avoiding flippers bumping the coral reefs and showing gentle restraint, and the marine life will slowly let down its guard and even come forward.

This may create an exclusive memory between you, just like the amazing interspecies friendship shown in the documentary "My Octopus Teacher", which was also achieved through free diving.

Craig Foster, the protagonist of "My Octopus Teacher", originally hoped to reconcile with his frustrated and depressed self through diving, but did not expect to meet a small octopus disguised as a shell among the dense seaweed. Craig has a strong curiosity about it, from then on every day to seek out the sea, a long time to observe it. The octopus gradually relaxed his guard and delivered the trust.

After becoming friends, Craig recorded a lot of unknown octopus behavior. The octopus even reached out its tentacles and crawled up Craig's chest. The two best friends surfaced together to sunbathe and play, which is the most moving image of the entire documentary. The octopus also used its resourceful and tenacious side, teaching Craig to rethink the meaning of life and emotional value.

The documentary was so touching that I decided to continue my certification advancement after already being a beginner diver. Because the 4-day AIDA 3-star freediver training allows me to dive deeper and stay longer. For example, empty lung training can improve the strength and elasticity of the diaphragm, allowing the lungs to hold more air during inhalation and prolong the time of underwater closure.

Lingshui free dive instructor Ye You is a master in this area. He likes to sit cross-legged on a terrace full of sunlight, slowly exhale the air in his lungs, then contract his diaphragm, so that his abdomen collapses into a large crater. Then he "badly" like with ten fingers gouge his two ribs, the top pressure diaphragm to the extreme. Then maintain this state until the limit of endurance, and then resume breathing. This empty lung training is very useful, each time before going into the water to do a few exercises, the closed air time will be visible to the naked eye to extend.

You can also try to hold your breath in the game training. Games can distract a person from being overly immersed in the fear of oxygen deprivation. Finally, when you pinch the watch, playing the game of breath-holding, it is obvious that it lasts longer than the breath-holding that does not do anything.

For example, playing underwater quiz with a dive buddy. After two divers dive to a specified depth, they start playing "rock-paper-scissors". The winner goes up one step and the loser stays put. Under the resistance of seawater, both sides "slow-motion" fist, and then the game will be played faster and faster. Win or lose, the two people are doing a race with the oxygen consumption in the body, competing to be the first to breathe out of the water.

Breath-holding training is actually practicing the body's tolerance to carbon dioxide. There is a little knowledge hidden behind this: the reason why people feel uncomfortable after holding their breath for a period of time, with hot limbs, tingling, frequent twitching of the diaphragm and wanting to breathe heavily as soon as possible, is not because of lack of oxygen. In fact, at this time, there is enough oxygen in the lungs to support the needs of the human body, and what triggers the brain's desire to breathe is the gradual accumulation of carbon dioxide.

How can I improve my body's tolerance to CO2? Just tell yourself to hold on for a few more seconds when you start to feel uncomfortable. When your diaphragm starts to twitch and you want to breathe more, hold on for a few more seconds. By pushing forward a little at a time like this, you can slowly build up your carbon dioxide tolerance. It's a good way to play games in this process of fighting and pulling against your body's instincts.

"When I have a diaphragm twitch, I will continue to count 20 times silently, learn to let go of meditation, breathing cravings are not so strong." Sanya freediving instructor Tian Yuan often enlightens his students in this way. "However, wait until you suddenly feel very comfortable, you have to stop closing your breath, otherwise it is easy to black vision coma."

His static air closing time can be more than 4 minutes, while I am not at this level, so I have reservations about whether his experience is real or whether it is just "hanging a piece of candy" to encourage students to train hard.

There is no denying that freediving is more like a constant taming of the body's limits. Despite the difficulty, when you really "cross the hill" at one level, you will also gain double the confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Scuba diving Waiting for a "flower" to bloom at the bottom of the sea

The luscious lionfish maneuvered with an idle gesture, chasing a scuba diver with a hitch. The latter, carrying a heavy cylinder, some lame backward kicking flippers, in front of the small fish "defeated". When the two sides were tired to give up, the photographer adjusted the angle of capture, a fish and a person into the picture, and thus became the main supporting role in the news photos.

This is a highlight from the eve of the National Day in 2021, when I followed Xinhua News Agency's Hainan Branch photojournalist Yang Guangyu to dive and shoot at Boundary Island. At that time, we wandered around the underwater wreck, looking for shooting material, and accidentally intruded into the territory of a lionfish. It seemed to be a king in the darkness, showing up with an aura.

I watched as the little guy swam closer and closer, so close that I could see its wiggling black eyes, a transparent mouth, and a "full body" of pink fins like smoke and veil.

"So cute! I want to touch it!" I was so happy, but one of the key questions of the diving test "Do not touch the marine animals directly" flashed in my mind. So there was this great scene at the beginning.

After landing, I learned that the lionfish is a dangerous sea creature, its fins are poisonous, it is not a trivial matter to be stuck on. It turns out that the test question is really a "life-saving" question.

Scuba diving is a better way to get started than freediving. Because scuba diving is equipped with air bottles and buoyancy adjustment devices, it allows people to breathe freely underwater for 30 minutes or more. Many people who have no diving experience or even know how to swim can get a first taste of the underwater world through scuba diving.

Through scuba diving, I was able to see what coral polyps look like for the first time and recorded the whole process of their "flowering". They have a Christmas tree like umbrella-shaped body, pine needle-like fine tentacles, can be goose yellow, dirty pink, orange and black gradient color ...... when the colorful "Christmas tree" standing on the coral rock, you simply can not take your eyes off.

They are also as sensitive as mimosas. But whenever the water fluctuates abnormally, so that they sense danger, in the blink of an eye, they will abruptly "umbrella" retreat back into the cave underneath. At this point, just wait patiently, after a dozen seconds, you will see the coral insects carefully peek out, re-open into a colorful "Christmas tree" look. It is as wonderful as waiting for a flower to bloom.

When I swam past a coral rock, I saw such a scene, and decided to lie down next to it, watching them bloom again and again without leaving. If not for the limited capacity of the gas cylinder, the distant came the partners knocking "jingle stick" to remind the signal to keep up with the team, I really want to be in this corner, then with the coral insects "hide and seek".

Sometimes, just staying in a scene at the bottom of the sea can also produce a sense of transcendence in a philosophical sense.

Such a feeling came to me unannounced while I was exploring the underwater wreck.

On the outer side of the wreck, the photographer who came along was concentrating on taking pictures and the dive guide was guarding us dutifully, so I entered the interior of the wreck along the deck without fear and wanted to have a wreck "card dive".

Next, I met a scene I may never forget: sunlight cast down through the sea, slanting into the silent portholes, the Tindal effect. The light was split into thousands of channels, and countless ocean dust and plankton fluttered silently in the light, while brick-red starfish hung on the railing like a soft, collapsing clock in Dali's painting. Anemones, coral, unknown seaweed each coiled in the cabin side, a group of small fish like a group of black mist, is slowly moving from the dark to the light spot, as if trying to draw this light.

All things are silent and time stands still.

I knelt dumbfounded at the hatch, looking at the scene in front of me as if it were a painting and as if it were a dream, until the "tinkling stick" of a crisp knocking sound came from the distance, and I felt my soul return to my body. Slowly kicking my flippers up, stirring up the mud accumulated on the deck over the years, I swam out of the "fog" and returned to the "real world".

As I ascended, I glanced back behind me, and the wreck outside my diving goggles shrank and faded into the slightly murky background of the ocean, as if I were saying goodbye to another self. Farewell, the world outside the diving goggles, you collect one's infinite aspirations and infinite possibilities.

Recommended dive sites in Hainan

Boundary Island

Wuzhizhou Island

Yalong Bay Underwater World

West Island

Atlantis Ambassador Lagoon

Oceanarium at Intercontinental Hotel Tianfang

(The author is an AIDA 3-star freediver, PADI open water scuba diver, and ambassador crew member of the 2019-2020 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Sanya.)