Freediving Menorca’s Deep-Blue Depths with Katharina Khadjavi
We caught up with the founder of active swimwear company Kintana to dive deep into the Balearic blues and hear how she got hooked on exploring magical marine environments.
12 August, 2022
Hold your breath and dive. It sounds like the easiest thing to do, but when you're heading into the twisting underwater tunnels and inky-dark caves peppered around the shoreline of Menorca like Katharina Khadjavi does, you'll need plenty of practice.
Freediving is a discipline, requiring persistence and precision. Diving to extraordinary depths for inordinate amounts of time, and without any breathing equipment (bar your burning lungs) isn't for the faint of heart. Master the techniques, however, and a new world opens up: a magical, mysterious environment suffused with a thousand shades of blue.
Katharina Khadjavi, left, under the waves and exploring a Menorcan sea cave.
You'll need suitable attire, of course (we're not ones to try anything too cold-inducing), but that's not an easy task, as Katharina found. It was the conundrum of what to wear when heading into the depths that led her to found her swimsuit brand, Kintana, offering practical but cool swimwear for active water babies. Made in Italy with sustainably sourced recycled fibres, and offering UV protection for those out on (or under) the waves, the utilitarian range is what we're wearing this summer, whether hitting the Biarritz breaks or road-tripping with the salt-washed surf crowd along Cornwall's rugged north coast.
We caught up with Katharina after a recent freediving adventure in Menorca to hear her recommendations for dipping beneath the waves of the beautiful Balearic isle, plus the hotels and restaurants she loves to visit when back on terra firma. Time to dive in.
Into the blue: a freediving guide to Menorca
Katharina exploring the marine life in the Menorcan sea.
When did you first discover freediving?
I have always loved water. After scuba diving for quite some time, I wanted to try a more natural way of interacting with the ocean and being underwater. I tried freediving and I've not looked back since.
Why have you kept diving?
It offers a sense of infinite stillness, freedom and natural alignment with the underwater world. There is nothing like experiencing free fall or being neutrally buoyant without any heavy equipment. Experiencing the ocean in our most natural state is simply magical. It's the closest you will ever come to flying and the most natural way to interact with life underwater. I find it an incredibly meditative experience that marries mind and body.
How did you master the breathwork techniques needed?
Freediving requires relaxation and meditation techniques, lots of practice and self-awareness. You really get to know your body and learn to trust it.
Katharina under the waves, left, and the coastline around the island.
Any top tips for getting started?
Find a good freediving school, and never dive alone. Menorca is one of my favourite diving destinations in Europe. There's an abundance of caves and tunnels to explore, and underwater visibility is excellent.
I recommend booking lessons with Valeria and Adam from Freedive Menorca, the island's first school dedicated to the sport. They know the waters and the best places to dive inside out.
My last tip? Skip the morning coffee and the evening drink if you're planning a dive. I can tell you from experience that coffee jitters and a hangover do not support relaxation.
Why should we head to Menorca for our first dive?
The island is so diverse and has amazing underwater caves to explore. It's a wild paradise, with crystal-clear waters for spying the myriad wildlife and majestic rock formations that will take your breath away.
What's your favourite dive spot there?
The Swiss Cheese, as the name suggests, is a big rock with lots of tunnels and caves running through it that's fun to explore. It's a famous freedive site and offers challenges whatever your experience. You'll need to head down with an experienced diver, though. Safety always comes first.
Coastal cliffs around Menorca.
Anywhere else you'd recommend we dip below the waves?
The Pont d'en Gil Galleries sea cave is a mentally challenging dive, but once inside, the way the sun's rays light up the water is magical. I'm also a sucker for a dive in open water, experiencing white sand and endless blue all around. You can practise your line training with a focus on technique, and just enjoy the tranquillity of the big blue.
Which Kintana kit should we pack?
I always bring our classic Longsleeve Shorty with me on diving adventures, and pair it with our Waterlegging. But this time, I also brought two exciting new prototypes that are launching in autumn - I can't wait to share them with you.
Where do you stay, post-dive?
I love the Experimental Hotel. It's fun, well located and the rooms are beautiful. A former military base, the property has been transformed into a design-driven boutique hotel, with a fabulous farm-to-table restaurant. There's a yoga deck that looks out over the ocean for that morning stretching session - an ideal way to prepare for your dive.
Any favourite dining destinations for evenings on the island?
Ca Na Pilar, Torralbenc and Villa Blanca are my picks.
What else does Menorca offer?
A visit to the region's Hauser & Wirth gallery is a must. It's located on an islet in Mahón harbour, which is accessible by ferry, and has a lovely restaurant. I'd also recommend trying some horse riding out here. The island has a bridle path running all along its perimeter, and on some beaches you can ride into the waves - an experience as exhilarating as freediving.