The South African competitive freediver turned ocean conservationist tells us about life on land
What was your childhood ambition?
Apart from being a mermaid, I dreamt of working as a journalist, big-game keeper or actor. It was pretty diverse dreaming in retrospect but I seem to be doing a little bit of all four everyday in my adult life.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I really believe that even though humans are the biggest problem we are also the only solution.
It seems as if most people see themselves as separate from the natural environment and this state of affairs has terrifying consequences. I am motivated by the change I see in kids and adults who get to have extraordinary nature experiences. When a child opens her eyes underwater for the first time and feels that connection with body breath and planet, I know I can keep going.
Who has inspired you to do what you do?
Growing up on a wild farm in South Africa with but one rule, ‘come home before the sun sets’, makes me think my parents and my childhood inspired many of the beliefs and values I hold. Outside of my family, I have been inspired by individuals such as Dr Ian Player and Dr Silvia Earle, but also by the writings of the Sufi poet Hafiz, regarding how we live and breathe as human animals.
If your 20-year old self could see you know, what would he/she think?
I think she’d be pretty excited that I’m living in Cape Town and not in freezing Sweden where I studied! All in all, I don’t think she’d be that surprised, the trajectory of my life was set very early on.
If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change?
In all honesty, no, not really. I feel like where I am today and where I am headed is thanks to the sum of all the mistakes I made and things I tried.
In what place are you happiest?
The ocean! Be it surfing, freediving in chilly kelp forests, playing with dolphins in blue water or just swimming around, salty skin makes me happy!
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I try to. Apart from the amount of traveling I do, I live a pretty low-impact lifestyle.
The one essential you travel with?
A good-quality reusable water bottle, I despise disposable plastic bottles and I love water!
Your best piece of travel advice?
If you struggle to keep an exercise regime going when you travel, bring a lightweight yoga mat with you and some podcast yoga classes.
What tips would you give to young people wishing to follow in your footsteps?
Your dreams are always worth amputating the ego for. Ask for help, be humble and work hard. Don’t think you have to do it all on your own or prove yourself. Others have experience and most likely want to help you – assuming your dream is for greater good, I’d do anything I can to assist!
Hanli Prinsloo will be speaking at the inaugural Beyond Travel Festival at The Royal Geographical Society, London, at 4pm on Saturday 17th September 2016. For more information, visit www.steppestravel.co.uk/about/beyond-steppes-travel-festival.