We had planned to dive through the Arch in Blue Hole Dahab (Egypt) for a later date, but at a certain moment, after several months of hard training 6 days a week wet and dry, I knew it would happen much sooner. Coach Pim Vermeulen and I had joked and discussed it often and I even shared this crazy idea with a couple of friends at a dinner, but I think no one seemed to take this idea seriously!

Pim had organized the whole event in a few days, checking tides, currents, wind to find to best possible moment to achieve this dive safely. During this time I was able to prepare myself mentally, to find the right state of mind and get focused on my internal resources. In the end, everything went perfect. Even better than I could have imagined. The Blue Hole Arch is a place of power and inspiration, a place of weakness and fears… It is our home.

First we dream to see it, then… to touch it… later on to swim through it.

But it is ‘the later’ that is not meant for everyone. Safety and pleasure are the key principles of freediving. There is no space for a big ego and ambitions here. The Blue Hole is not just a simple dive spot. It is, according to the legend, a sacred place of death. For me, it is a sense of honesty, not only to myself but to the rest of the world.

Diving the Dahab Arch
Diving the Dahab Arch

To say we were nervous was an understatement! We had to manage and organize the logistics and safety for the whole event as well as living through every single moment with each of the team members. Place, people, time…. with total faith and trust in oneself and each other, miracles can happen. A big thanks goes to my coach Pim who showed me how it can happen. Along with the honesty there is openness and feelings, and as soon as you set them free, you get an impression that you are falling… but there is always a bottom
and that’s where the most interesting things happen. Each one has his/her own bottom, his/her own limit. For freedivers it is often measured in meters. It is a certain number on your dive computer. But this ‘bottom’ isn’t (or shouldn’t be) just a goal in itself. It is a place where you are and need to be completely calm and honest with oneself.

In the Arch itself, everything is just like usual. A tunnel, a light, a shoal of tuna hovering beneath me, textured coral walls, silence and solitude. You are floating in a different dimension. There is no time; there is just you and your senses. But the next moment brings you back to reality. I had it on 55 meters with Stephen (my deep safety freediver). I came out through the Arch very far from the rope, the rope was on the other side of the Arch. I started searching for him, turning my head around, like arriving on an airport searching for your beloved ones that you haven’t seen in a long time, and then I noticed him ‘running’ to me. I give him a ‘high 5’ but it actually felt like giving him a big hug!

Diving the Dahab Arch
Diving the Dahab Arch

Nevertheless, freediving is an extreme sport. We are still in unnatural elements. We met in the open sea at 55 meters; I’m still smiling now when I think of that moment. We slowly approach the rope and are holding hands. Then, meeting Kalindi palm to palm, we share an intense long and deep look at each other eyes and soul. And this is how we keep swimming. Always keeping eye contact. Then, after breaking the surface taking a first breath (like a baby arriving in the human world)… there is an explosion of happy cheering from all my beloved ones that fills my heart. This could last just for a second, but this experience will forever remain a part of us.

You can’t do a dive like this safely without a perfect team of professionals. The whole organization was done by Pim from IMMERSION freedive academy, Pim is also my trainer/coach and the person showing me that ‘the bottom’ is the limit and to trust in my own capabilities. The safety outside the Arch was done by Stephen Keenan, Kalindi Wijsmuller and Jeanine Grasmeijer from Dahab Freedivers. Stephen went down to 55m by variable weight to meet me and swim back to the surface with me. Kalindi was the second deep safety meeting up with me and Stephen at 30m. Jeanine was the backup safety at the surface in case of one of the other safeties would have equalization problems. Inside the Arch the tech diver Malyy Sergiy was positioned at 60/65m, on scooter we had Marc Lenoir who followed me through the Arch. Inside Blue Hole Carmen Trombola was the safety in case of I would aboard the dive. As set-up we used a nolimits sled with scuba tank and a lift bag that brought me to a depth of 56m to the point where the Arch begins. Safety oxygen was placed at the surface both inside and outside of the Arch. Dahab Divers Technical were responsible for the safety of our tech diver Malyy Sergiy.

Diving the Dahab Arch
Diving the Dahab Arch

For the video we had Artem Kulinich to do the edit as well as the videographers to capture this magical moment – Malyy Sergiy positioned in the Arch at 60/65m capturing my swim through the Arch, Artem Kulinich who did the surface video inside and outside the Arch and on the dry land, Kalindi Wijsmuller with a head camera outside the Arch at 30m, Jeanine Grasmeijer did the surface video outside the Arch and Marc Lenoir was filming whole the dive on scooter. Photographers that captured and translated what was happening on this day were the talented professionals Nanna Kreuzmann, Nacho Pelaez Mella and Fredo Lopez. They digitized how it was, the joy we had as team every moment of this special day. Capturing our amazing emotions, feelings and states during the preparation, the dive and afterwards, respect and honor for you.

But let us also not forget the support of our always smiling friend Ali Okab from Aqua Marina Blue Hole who is always there to help us and feed us; and last but not least our drivers Josef and both Mohammeds bringing us daily to and from Blue Hole safely.

Follow us on our team page: www.facebook.com/Ukraine.freediving.team

We have to end with a Disclaimer though: Diving though the Arch in Dahab (Egypt) is not for everybody (even if gifted/talented) and for sure not without proper preparation, training and professional safety. There are many things you need to take into account, the extra mental stress diving through a tunnel, the tidal currents, the wind currents, etc. This dive we trained for full time for several months.

And now for our video:

Anastassia Yakymenko

Anastasiia Yakymenko is a freediver from Kiev Ukraine currently living in Dahab Egypt. She is member of the national freediving team of Ukraine training for the upcoming World Championships and also an instructor of Russian Federation. Most of her time, she is in a water for diving, exploring, games and inspiration. Yoga, fitness, meditation, healthy life, friends and family are her partners in a life.

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