I AM WATER is terribly excited to have Ellie Simmonds as an I AM WATER Ocean Ambassador! From the first time we met Ellie back in 2015 when Hanli taught Ellie freediving in Mozambique for an ITV Documentary, Dreaming of Dolphins, we knew we'd be friends! In 2016 Ellie joined the I AM WATER Ocean Travel team in Mexico, deepening her freediving skills with whale sharks, jack fish and sea lions and 2017 we had her for a whole month in South Africa! Seals, sharks, kids workshops, beach cleanups and more! We love Ellie's enthusiasm for the ocean, her super fun sense of humour, deep compassion for others and for conservation. We couldn't be more proud to have her on the team! Welcome Ellie, we love you!
Here is Ellie's blog from her month with us in South Africa:
'I truly believe that I am water. Scientists believe we are made of approximately 60%. I can fully confirm this. I am having a year off from the chlorinated type of water that I’m used to being in on a 24 hour basis, to getting enticed to the salty type. There is no rest, it keeps attracting me..!'
Hanli Prinsloo and the I Am Water team gave me the opportunity to help out and be part of the there team for the month in South Africa. I had actually been to South Africa many times before, but normally that was either for competition or training, when you don’t really get the opportunity to see the real country. I was really excited but a tad nervous, unaware of what the month was really going to entail.
As soon as I landed and walked through the airport gates of Cape Town International Airport I was greeted so lovingly by the ocean wonder of Hanli and Peter. My first part of the trip was 10 days in a beautiful place in Cape Town, called Kalk Bay. The only way I could describe it would be a Hippie, Lively, Community feel Seaside village. Each day was filled with something totally different. I worked a couple of days in the Ocean Deck and Shop; this was wonderful such a place that was so peaceful overlooking the sea of False Bay. Here I got to grips with being a shop keeper!! But it gave me the opportunity to be like a local, that’s how I felt.
Chatting to people as they walked through the shop door. Being able to sell all sorts of bits from Yoga Matts, smelling soap to colouring books. The couple of days after I arrived was the launch of the seashore colouring books and this gave me another great way to meet and really submerse myself into Captonian Life. We even took the children plus adults, rock pooling which was awesome - got to see an octopus that was some size!! How much fun can you have exploring rock pools, something so simple.
The majority of my Kalk Bay days consisted of having my feet on dry land, being an extra pair of hands when needed for Hanli and Peter, or eating all the yummy food at Olympia Café. There were some mornings when the water would entice me in; I would have a bit of a dip in the tidal pools, a totally different swim experience than I am used to. There was one day when we would shut the shop for “Field Work” to go explore and freedive in the kelp forests.
I was used to cold water being from Britain, not expecting these South African waters to be as cold as it was. The weather was beautiful, so it was very funny when having to put on not one but two wetsuits. Preparing to get in with our masks and snorkels, the team which was Hanli, Peter, myself, Zain and Jack all eager to get in. As soon as we got past the rocky corals and through the kelp forest, I noticed a pyjama shark lurking at the bottom of the sea. The popular adventuress Hanli then got her friends from Shark Encounters to take us from the middle of the sea on a boat to near Millers Point to a seal island. The smell of seal poop hit you straight away, not something you want to smell on a regular basis. The ‘dogs’ of the ocean where true to their name, very playful and intrigued by us, even trying to have a nibble of Zain’s fins. I was easily amused trying not to laugh too much without causing a gulp of sea water that mainly consisted of seal poop. It was such a marvellous day had by all.
My time in Kalk Bay was coming to an end, I had met so many wonderful people such as Hanli’s Mom, Naomi, who was a bubbly character and the I am water team who were: Freediving Lauren, Science Lauren, Ceinwen. I’d done some amazing things. What a 10 days it was!
My adventure to Durban with Beth was just beginning.
We landed late afternoon in Durban King Shaka Airport, quite tired from the previous days especially, Beth who, with the I am Water Team, had been filming a documentary for an American company. We were ready to head to our accommodation and just have an evening of relaxing.
The next few days, me and mermaid Beth got up to all sorts of things. From meeting all her friends, to Yoga, to seeing the true Durban that it is. My highlight from my time in Durban with I am Water was visiting Muzomuhle Primary School where we gave a presentation to teach to the kids how important ocean conservation is, I even got to say a few words about my experience of swimming and competing in the Paralympics. It was great to see what I Am Water is all about and how much they give back. Even myself, being surrounded by the likes of Hanli and Beth who are avid oceanist, learnt so much from that presentation and it made me feel even more passionate about what needs to be done to conserve our beautiful oceans. I also had my year’s supply of hugs from the kids that we met at the school! It was just wonderful.
I spent most of my days in Durban in some sort of water, learning to SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) to snorkelling in the Indian Ocean with Billie-Jean. To the extreme of going Freediving/Snorkelling with Sharks. The day of the sharks we had to get up pretty early for the drive up the coast, but that did not dampen our spirits though, as we were both hugely excited and for me maybe I was a little bit nervous too. Although it was a pretty rough launch of the boat, me grasping for dear life onto Beth and a man that we had only just met, it was actually not as bad as I had expected!! It wasn’t long till we spotted some sharks, all systems go after that. As soon as I entered the water again I was grabbing onto Beth pretty nervous as the sharks where there everywhere I looked, these magnificent creatures that you hear about where right before my eyes. It was a couple of minutes later I let go of Beth as the nerves and the tension disappeared and I really submersed myself into this natural beauty. All I can say is that it was breath-taking.
I am Water teaches Children all about the ocean, but it also gives them the hands on experience. A lot of them have never even been in the ocean let alone snorkelled. I was very fortunate to help out with one of these days. We picked up the kids from there school to take them to a wonderful huge tidal pool that was full of life. They were all so excited. We taught them how to put on a mask and snorkel, safety in the water and then the most exciting thing that they needed to look out for. As soon as everyone got in they were very inquisitive and super-duper hyper. What I loved was when we all decided to make up our own dances relating to the creatures - ‘jelly fish’ dance or ‘dolphin’ dance. It was amazing to see their faces filled with so much joy, how the ocean and our home can do that to people.
My time with I am Water was coming to an end; the month had gone extremely fast, which I was so sad about. But what a month it had been, to see what they do and how they can simply change people’s life. I’m honoured to class Hanli, Peter and Beth my friends. I truly know that I am Water is going to grow and grow, what they are doing is spreading the message of the Ocean. So Beautiful. South Africa and I am Water will always have a place in my heart.