Jacques Cousteau once said, “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” Free diving allows you to do just that, offering a completely different experience without the constraints of scuba equipment, and the possibility of even closer encounters with marine life. This is especially true of the Maldives’ Hanifaru Bay, where manta rays and whale sharks gather in huge numbers for a feeding frenzy between May and November each year. While the area has been off-limits to scuba divers since 2011, snorkeling and free diving are still allowed. Enter the new PADI-accredited free diving center at the nearby Anantara Kihavah Villas, which is only the second such facility in the country after the one launched in May by sister property Anantara Dhigu in the South Malé Atoll. Here, guests can learn the sport under the tutelage of marine biologist and competitive free diver Talya Davidoff. The hardest part? Holding your breath amid such a breathtaking underwater spectacle. —James Louie
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Into the Blue”).