“As humans, we sometimes forget that we come from water, that it’s not a foreign space. As we become forgetful, we lose a connection to the planet, ourselves and water. We are a species of the blue planet. It should never have been called planet earth. It should always have been called PLANET OCEAN.”
Hanli Prinsloo is a South African free-diver who broke eleven free-diving records during her competitive years. Her love for water started when she was a young girl growing up outside Pretoria with one swimming pool, two rivers and two dams.
“I was a water baby, and would grow up to be a water person,” says Hanli Prinsloo – founder I AM WATER Foundation.
Her dedication led her to do a scuba diving course at the age of nineteen but quit because she felt limited by the diving tank on her back. That’s when Hanli started to free dive.
Free diving is the ability to dive as deep as one can on one breath of air without equipment.
At first, she thought she couldn’t hold her breath for more than 5 minutes, but after a few months of lung stretching and meditation, she could go up to 6 minutes.
All the years of training as a freediver made sense when she swam with spinner dolphins while on a trip to Mozambique. That’s when she realized that freediving was more than just about competing.
In 2010, Hanli founded I AM WATER Foundation with her partner and cinematographer, Peter Marshall with the aim to reconnect people with the ocean.
They both felt compelled to promote awareness to a wider audience on the problems the ocean faces, such as overfishing and waste disposal into the ocean.
According to UNEP’s report of 2016, when marine debris is not managed properly, it finds its way into the ocean. It then entangles with sea creatures, damaging their habitats and breaking down into small pieces that are eaten by marine animals.
“All the plastics that go into the ocean get decomposed and break down into smaller pieces. Most of the fish starve from a lack of nutrition from feeding on these plastics,” says Hanli.
I AM WATER Foundation main advocacy lies in ecotourism; where they take clients to the ocean for snorkeling, enlightening them on ways to protect the sea and exposing them to gentle creatures like seals.
They also raise awareness with the images they take.
“We bring the world underwater to people because they don’t understand what’s down there, so they won’t take care of it,” says Peter Marshall.
Underwater cinematography enables Peter to put a human element in pictures and capture the encounters between humans and sea creatures.
Hanli’s love for the ocean enables her to share her passion with everyone. And it is due to her ocean advocacy work that she has been named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.