Big Blue Thinking: In Conversation with Hanli Prinsloo of I Am Water Ocean Travel

With freediver, entrepreneur, speaker and globe trotter under her belt, we sat down with Hanli Prinsloo of #brandtotrust I Am Water Ocean Travel, to talk about her biggest passion: the ocean.

Take a deep dive into the story behind I Am Water Travel, and how Hanli and Co-Founder Peter are working to conserve our seas.

www.ryanmurrayphoto.com

YOU GREW UP ON A HORSE FARM NEAR JOHANNESBURG – DID THAT INSPIRE YOUR LOVE OF NATURE?

Even though I grew up hundreds of kilometres from the closest ocean, a love of nature and wilderness was instilled at a very early age. My father was a horse breeder and worked in a unique way with keeping the wildness in these big animals while building trust, a kind of horse whispering. This intimate relationship with big animals has shaped everything about me. My view on humanity and our place on the planet, my understanding of animals and their importance/sentience.

WHY WAS GETTING OUT TO THE OCEAN IMPORTANT TO YOU?

At I AM WATER Ocean Travel we have created experiences that bring together everything we value: adventure, pristine oceans, sustainable big animal encounters, beautiful spaces for yoga and time to breathe. We work with a phenomenal young whole food chef and we try to curate the experience from what you eat and when you eat it, to where your thoughts are encouraged to roam and of course the best in ocean adventure.

AS A VISITOR, WHAT COULD WE EXPECT FROM I AM WATER OCEAN TRAVEL?

We have created experiences that bring together everything we value: adventure, pristine oceans, sustainable big animal encounters, beautiful spaces for yoga and time to breathe. We work with a phenomenal young whole food chef and we try to curate the experience from what you eat and when you eat it, to where your thoughts are encouraged to roam and of course the best in ocean adventure.

HOW IS PHILANTHROPY WEAVED INTO THE BRAND?

I AM WATER Ocean Travel came to be as part of the fundraising efforts for our ocean conservation foundation. A kind of benevolent oceans Robin Hood who takes willing guests to wild places and proceeds from the trips go towards our transformational programs in South Africa where we share ocean experiences with underprivileged youth.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE FOUNDATION’S BIGGEST SUCCESS STORY?

The foundation is the beating blue heart of I AM WATER. Everything we do is rooted in sharing our oceans across financial, cultural and skill barriers. 2018 has been our biggest success at the foundation, and we are not even halfway! We have created a model of training trainers that has allowed us an elastic scale-ability that has seen over 250 Grade 7 students experience the ocean underwater and above for their very first time! We are working to double this number at the end of the year and for 2019 to be double that! But the greatest successes are in the micro stories, like the compassion and insight shared by 11 year old Marinda Nonkosi who joined us in March for a two day workshop, and in her thank you letter she writes: ‘There was one thing that I couldn’t and still can’t get out of mind… Penguins may become extinct in 15 years time. It is really unfair. I wish I could find a way to make people eat less fish so that the penguins don’t have to travel long distances to feed themselves and their families.’ Marinda’s group were part of a lucky class that got to snorkel with a curious little African penguin. Experiences like these truly do open hearts!

WHAT’S BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF STARTING YOUR OWN COMPANY?

Building something from scratch is deeply satisfying (terrifying and exhausting too!) but this just makes every small success even more satisfying! Every day my co-founder and life partner Peter and I are in the water with guests, having just come up from a dive with dolphins, or manta rays or giant whales – we look at each other and laugh ‘we’re working right now!’ The knowledge that the company allows us to spend time in the water doing what we love most while sharing that love with others is the greatest highlight!

HOW DID YOU FEEL THE FIRST TIME YOU WENT FREE-DIVING?

It truly was a sense of ‘coming home’. The dappled light and muted sounds, the feeling of my heart-rating slowing down and my thoughts with it, the discovery of a whole new world full of wonder was like having lived my whole life in a half blurry room cast in shadows, and freediving turned the light on.
Experience the ocean for yourself by booking a trip with Hanli and I Am Water Ocean Travel here

www.ryanmurrayphoto.com

WHICH HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE IN THE OCEAN SO FAR?

I’ve had the absolute privilege of spending hours and hours in the water with big animals, so choosing between an endlessly elegant giant manta ray, or a ridiculously playful dolphin doing acrobatics around you or a breathtakingly beautiful hammerhead shark sashaying along the ocean floor… is a hard choice! Yet one experience that is etched into my mind and heart deeper than any other, is a day spent with a super pod of over sixty sperm whales, who after having scanned my mind, body and soul found me worthy to leave a baby – too young to join the giant adults on their 2km + dive to hunt giant squid – with me as his babysitter.
For the duration of their dive this little giant – a baby is still more than double my length – to play and explore and hang out with the pale human. We swam circles around each other, dived down together and played as deep as i could join until my lungs were bursting and my little big friend would cast me a look of ‘really!? You have to breathe agaiiiin!?’ and I would gasp some air and dive down for further inter-species games that left me more determined than ever to ensure a safe blue world for this little friend to grow up in.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED SETTING I AM WATER UP?

As with any bold new idea it’s a constant internal journey between conviction and doubt – the challenges in setting up Ocean Travel have been more within myself than in the real world. I work on this daily!

YOUR ONE PIECE OF POSITIVE ADVICE YOU’D GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

My younger self was a pretty brave and optimistic girl – so she didn’t often need a pep talk for get up and go! What I would instead say to her is rest more, take more time off to just play and laugh and enjoy. You’ll get there, it really isn’t a sprint, pace yourself!

WHAT IS YOUR POSITIVE LUXURY?

My greatest luxury and indulgence is to allow my days to be ocean driven. If the water is crystal clear at home in our Cape Town kelp forest backyard, drop everything and go dive! if the waves are fantastic – cancel that meeting and go surf! The work will get done but an invitation from the ocean cannot be turned down!

Images photographed by Peter Marshall

Like what you see? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest in positive living. If you’ve enjoyed our interview with Hanli Prinsloo, you might also like to read  ‘Getaway Season: Here’s What To Pack Wherever You’re Going’ and ‘Swim For Good- Earth-Friendly Swimwear’

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