The Truth Behind Swimming and Freediving With Whales In Mauritius

Disclaimer: The author of this article has never swam or freedived with whales in Mauritius and has taken a strong position against its practice. The photo below was not taken in Mauritius and is used only as reference.

Swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius

The current situation

Freediving, an exhilarating and awe-inspiring activity, allows us to explore the ocean’s wonders and connect with marine life in their natural habitat. One particularly mesmerizing encounter that captures the imagination of many freedivers is swimming and freediving alongside majestic whales.

From the instagram freedivers and influencers looking for an increase of likes and followers to the gullible tourist who will buy everything they see, read or hear from the internet without doing any kind of personal research, swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius has become the new underwater circus.

However, it is important to recognize and respect the laws and regulations in place to protect these magnificent creatures and their habitats. In Mauritius, a country known for its diverse marine life, swimming and freediving with whales is strictly prohibited by law.

How did it all began?

Swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius started to get exposure when a certain influential and former record holder freediver released a video in 2019 in which there was a small scene of himself freediving with whales in Mauritius. As the video went viral in the freediving community with the author of the video never mentioning the actual regulations surrounding this activity in Mauritius, it launched a race for other influencers who are hunting for the latest viral thing, creating an even bigger demand for this activity. 

On the other end, some unscrupulous people were ready to take advantage of this demand, exploiting the presence of the whales (under the false pretext that they were given photography permission from the government). Among them were international freediving instructors flocking to the island with their organized group trips or other celebrity freedivers coming to do underwater shoots for their sponsors, working together with a few local boat operators.

Why am I writing this post?

As the pioneer of freediving in Mauritius (and an SEO black belt who made sure his website got ranked at top position), I am often the first person most people would contact if they are looking for freediving in Mauritius.

Beginning 2020, I started receiving queries from a couple of people regarding whether I was offering swimming and freediving with whales trips in Mauritius. While the pandemic and lockdown put a brief stop to such demand, by 2022 when life was going back to normal these queries had started to become more frequent.

Even though I tried my best to inform people who contacted me about the situation and laws regarding swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius, most still went ahead and did it with someone else.

While some could argue it is part of the life of a freediving instructor to have to answer such queries, it was slowly turning into a waste of my time especially knowing that these queries were about an illegal and non ethical activity which had already contributed to a baby whale getting injured by boat engine.

I personally have never swam or freedived with whales in Mauritius, nor ever promoted these kind of activities. My focus has always been about teaching people freediving techniques so that they themselves could develop their own aquatic abilities and become one with water.

I am aware that there are many people who will still go ahead and freedive with whales even after reading this article. This article was not meant for them, but instead for the mindful freedivers who were looking for swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius but did not know about the actual regulations regarding such activity and its negative impacts on the whales.

Yes, swimming and freediving with whales is indeed a life-changing experience but more for the cetaceans than for the humans engaging in it. While the humans’ level of dopamine will take only a few hours to be back to normal, leaving them with just a memory that will take another couple of more days to forget, the whales on the other hand will still find themselves being harassed daily by dozens of boats.

The Importance of Respecting Whale Protection Laws in Mauritius

Protecting Whale Species:

Mauritius is home to a variety of whale species, including humpback whales and sperm whales, which migrate through its waters. These incredible creatures play a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems and are protected under national and international laws. The prohibition on swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius is aimed at safeguarding these species and their habitats from potential disturbances and harm.

Minimizing Human-Whale Interactions:

Whales are highly sensitive creatures that rely on undisturbed environments for feeding, breeding, and nurturing their young. Introducing human presence through activities like swimming and freediving can disrupt their natural behaviors and cause stress or anxiety. By respecting the ban on swimming and freediving with whales, we minimize the potential for negative human-whale interactions and create space for these magnificent creatures to thrive in their natural habitats.

Preserving Whales’ Natural Behaviors:

Observing whales from a distance allows us to witness their natural behaviors and gain a deeper understanding of their lives. Approaching them too closely or engaging in activities such as swimming and freediving can alter their behavior patterns and disrupt their natural rhythms. Preserving the integrity of these behaviors is crucial for scientific research and conservation efforts, enabling experts to gather valuable data on population dynamics, migration patterns, and other aspects of whale biology.

Promoting Responsible Tourism:

Mauritius, known for its stunning marine biodiversity, attracts visitors from around the world who seek transformative experiences in nature. By upholding the prohibition on swimming and freediving with whales, the country demonstrates its commitment to responsible tourism and sustainable practices. This helps protect the long-term viability of the tourism industry by safeguarding the very attractions that draw travelers to its shores.

Supporting Marine Conservation Efforts:

Respecting and adhering to laws and regulations concerning whale protection contributes to broader marine conservation efforts. It fosters a culture of respect and empathy for marine life and encourages individuals to engage in activities that promote conservation, such as responsible whale watching programs or participation in research initiatives. By collectively valuing and protecting these marine ecosystems, we ensure their preservation for future generations.

Conclusion

Swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius may be an enticing idea for many, but it is essential to recognize the importance of upholding the laws and regulations that safeguard these majestic creatures. By respecting the prohibition on swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius, we actively contribute to marine conservation efforts, protect the integrity of their habitats, and foster responsible tourism practices.

Let us celebrate the beauty of whales from a respectful distance and work together to create a sustainable future where marine life can thrive undisturbed.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Apnosphere

    Hi GB, thank you for bringing attention to that. Sadly it’s not just Thai companies doing it. Operators are flocking from all over the world to take advantage of the whales. I wrote this article with the hope to bring more light on what is truly happening here, but not really helping much. The situation got way worse from what I foresaw happening many years ago.

    Maybe it could help if more people report the situations to the authorities, and sharing the article with others so they know that their favorite influencers are not as glamorous as they are pretending to be. Also many of the people leading these trips are freediving instructors affiliated with reputable diving organizations. As diving professionals, we are bound to act ethically following a code of conduct set by the diving organizations. Reporting these instructors to their respective organizations could also help.

    1. Sophie

      I’m a free diver from Taiwan. It’s sad to see so many underwater photographers selling this kind of Mauritius tours in Taiwan. They even claim that they got a permission to enter water and swim with the whales, but as I carefully read and studied many articles and the Mauritius authority regulations, those people only have permission to watch the beautiful creatures on the boat. Having permission to watch the whales and dolphins doesn’t mean that they can swim with them. As a free diver from Taiwan, I feel so shamed.

      Would you please let me know how I can report to the local conservation group or government unit? As ocean lovers we need to take action to avoid more unethical underwater activities.

      1. Apnosphere

        Hello Sophie,

        Thank you for taking the time to read the article I wrote and for expressing your concern. You are right, they did not have permission at all to swim with the whales as such permits are hard to get as they are given mostly for scientific studies, and certainly not for superficial selfies. This whole industry of swimming and freediving with whales in Mauritius has been perpetuated based on lies, and many professional freediving instructors and champions are to blame for that.

        The local authorities are already aware of this situation and for local conservation groups there is not much they can do apart from raising local awareness. More global awareness should be brought to the situation, reporting freediving instructors who are promoting such trips to their affiliated organizations would greatly help as they are bound by an ethical code of conduct. I have already contacted some of the diving organizations, a few were very receptive to help, others turned a blind eye to the actions of their instructors.

        Feel free to share this article with whoever you can. Even one more ethically aware freediver will be a big step forward.

  2. Laure

    Its really sad that people are not respecting these beautiful animals. The whales come here for a sacred moment, to have their babies and humans are destroying this by disrespecting and approaching the whales. The young whales and their mothers are stressed when being chased by boats and people which ultimately has a huge negative impact on them when they have only just entered the world. Swimming with Whales is illegal, yet I have seen so many people in the water and boats getting so close.. what is wrong with people. Such a cruel, social media fuelled world we live in and its the animals that pay the ultimate price.
    The authorities need to stop this before more whales suffer and also before the Whales stop coming here to have their young.. then a very special part of this island will be lost.

    1. Apnosphere

      Hi Laure,

      You are right about everything you wrote. Unfortunately the authorities cannot be everywhere to deal with this situations, especially when swimmers and freedivers are involved. I believe it is our responsibilities to act accordingly to common sense and laws involving the protection of marine life, in particular if we also happen to be freediving instructors since we are bound by a code of conduct when working as dive professionals.

      Lately there have been more and more people reaching out to me to voice their concerns. As pioneer of freediving in Mauritius, it really pains me to see how international freedivers (with the help of a few local ones) are flocking without no respect to the island with their organized groups, and somehow still pretending to be glamorous protectors of the ocean on Instagram.

      If anyone wants to help, one course of action is to get the name of the freediving instructors leading such activity, find out which organization they are affiliated with (which is easily done since they often advertise under their banner), and report these individuals to their respective organizations.

      These freediving professionals might be able to avoid the sanctions of local authorities, but they certainly won’t be able to avoid the ones coming from their head organizations.

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