Television viewers will be able to watch rare footage of South African freediving champion, Beth “The Mermaid” Neale, swimming among pregnant ragged tooth sharks — while pregnant herself.
The footage was shot in KwaZulu-Natal’s Unesco World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is part of the Freediving Diaries series, which will air on Friday, May 14 on People’s Weather (DStv channel 180) at 6 pm.
Freediving Diaries follows Neale and her partner, Miles “Aquaman” Cloutier, as they explore the ocean residents off the coasts of Mozambique and the Maldives. It was during the filming of the inaugural season that Neale discovered she was pregnant with her first child.
Following extensive research on freediving and pregnancy, they decided to keep filming along the Mozambique coastline, from Ponto to Ouro to Vilankulous and Bazaruto, and through the pristine atolls of the Maldives.
“I used to be terrified of sharks,” Neale said, “and it is through spending time with sharks underwater that I was able to overcome my fear.
“It’s very powerful that, as a pregnant woman, I can dive down and respectfully interact with pregnant ragged tooth sharks and share their important story.
“I want people to understand that sharks need our protection. Without sharks, the entire marine ecosystem is impacted negatively.”
Neale added that it had been a privilege spending time with pregnant ragged tooth sharks in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which provides a sanctuary for these sharks to gestate and give birth. “We are so fortunate to have the shark maternity ward of the oceans in South African waters,” she said.
“I’m sure that people watching will be inspired to rethink the way they see sharks, and have a greater understanding of the importance of marine protected areas along our coastlines.”
Canadian-born freediver, Cloutier, said that protecting these areas and the species in them is important for the generations to come.
“For Beth and I to be doing what we love together; promoting conservation, freediving, and having our unborn baby as part of it, really checks all of our boxes.
“The more time we spend diving with sharks, the more our respect grows for these animals, and the deeper our connection to nature.”
Viewers who missed the previous episodes of the series can watch the weekend omnibus, which will showcase diving with whales, dolphins, turtles, manta rays, whale sharks, tiger sharks and nurse sharks.