The Dark Side of Freediving (How SOME Molchanovs Instructors Are Endangering Whales in Mauritius)


While this article discusses concerning instances involving some individuals associated with Molchanovs freediving organization, it’s crucial to understand that there are many excellent Molchanov freediving instructors who prioritize safety, ethics, and environmental conservation in their practice. This disclaimer aims to distinguish between those who adhere to high standards and those whose actions may fall short, emphasizing that the criticisms voiced herein are not directed towards all Molchanov instructors.

Picture this: crystal-clear waters off the coast of Mauritius, where humpback whales and sperm whales migrate through the depths, their graceful movements captivating the hearts of all who witness them, including dozens of boats with hundreds of freedivers constantly chasing mother whales and their calves. Not quite like how freedivers have been portraying freediving with whales in Mauritius on Instagram, an activity that is prohibited by Mauritian laws.

While freediving instructors of different organizations have been flocking to Mauritius to take advantage of the whales, one of the primary culprits in the now out-of-control promotion of freediving with whales trips in Mauritius are primarily a group of Russian freediving instructors, affiliated with the renowned Molchanov organization, who decided to relocate from Dahab to Mauritius to exploit these gentle giants for their gains by organizing illegal whale trips that flout the laws and regulations meant to protect these majestic beings in the waters of Mauritius.

Understanding the Context

I don’t have anything personal against either Russian freedivers or the Molchanovs freediving organization and its movement. I was first trained as an AIDA freediver and later a PADI freediving instructor by amazing Russian freedivers. I have many Russian freediving students and friends (who are ashamed of what their compatriots are doing), and I have much respect for what the Molchanov family has contributed to the discipline. As a long-time MMA fan, I also happened to be a huge fan of Khabib Nurmagomedov (who I consider to be the greatest of all time), whose principles and integrity I wished more Russian freedivers would embody.

However, the fact remains, lately there have been more than a handful of Russian instructors who seem to share the same foreign policies as their government, and took their invasion deep into the waters of the Indian Ocean, and a few other international freediving instructors (mostly from some Asian countries) who share the same disregard about laws and marine protection.

Last year I wrote this article about “The Truth Behind Swimming And Freediving With Whales In Mauritius”, a follow-up to warnings that I have been sharing in the local freediving community in Mauritius since 2019 (when a former world champion published a viral video that included a freediving scene with sperm whales) about the risks involved in creating demand around freediving with whales in Mauritius, and also as a desperate attempt to educate people (who were opened to being educated), that freediving with whales in Mauritius is not only illegal but also pose a grave threat to the very creatures they travel miles to admire.

This new article is about some freediving instructors but primarily Russian ones who are engaging and promoting freediving with whales in Mauritius, under the banner of the Molchanovs freediving organization and movement.

The Contribution of the Molchanovs Freediving Organisation and Movement.

According to their website’s bio titled The “Origin of Excellence”, the story of the Molchanovs Freediving organization started when the great female freediver Natalia Molchanova founded the freediving education system for the Russian Freediving Federation, to take students from beginner level to elite freediver level. Her son, Alexey Molchanov, officially created the Molchanov brand in 2010 when he began developing freediving gear, and its education system named the Molchanovs Movement was officially launched in early 2018.

I have been active as a freediver (though unknown in the international freediving community but a pioneer of freediving in Mauritius) since way before the Molchanovs freediving organization became popular, at a time when AIDA was the primary choice for anyone looking for quality freediving training.

History wants it that Alexey Molchanov (one of the best freedivers in the world but was not very well known at that time outside of the competitive freediving scene), decided to partner with Adam Stern, an active freediving influencer with a massive social media following, who made his name under the PADI banner and Chris Kim, a former AIDA freediving instructor, and businessman who worked for Facebook and who“honestly believe that Mark Zuckerberg is trying his best to make the world a better place”, to launch the Molchanovs education system and movement as we know it today.

They started marketing The Molchanovs Movement as a global community of passionate freedivers, and a freediving organization apparently fairer to work with as a freediving instructor. They got on board some big names of the freediving scene who defect from their original freediving organizations that contributed to who they are, starting with PADI’s former AmbassaDiver, Adam Stern (who at his beginnings was very happy to use PADI’s extra spotlight to gather followers, and now somehow seem to have deleted his YouTube videos where he’s influencing, wearing his PADI polo shirt).

Nevertheless, the Molchanovs freediving organization and its movement have greatly contributed to making freediving more popular today. But as the saying goes in the diving and freediving industry, when it comes to looking for quality freediving training, it is the instructor that matters and not the organization, often used as a metaphor that there are good and bad instructors in every organization. One could also argue that it is the freediving instructors that make the freediving organization, not vice versa, and the story of the Molchanov freediving organization and even AIDA (also founded by passionate freedivers in 1992) are both statements to that.

Champions Of Freediving Or Champions Of The Ocean?

Regardless of the freediving organization, we freediving professionals have the responsibility to be a role model and we are bound by a code of conduct set by our respective freediving organization. Molchanovs freediving instructors are no exception to that and as stated on their code of conduct on the Molchanovs Movement’s website they as professionals should respect and protect the marine environment. Avoid any actions that may harm or disturb marine life during freediving activities. Check and support local marine conservation initiatives.

As one of the most prominent and growing organizations in the world of freediving, the Molchanovs organization and movement has a responsibility to uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct and environmental stewardship relating to freediving. Especially considering how many freediving instructors are being trained or crossing over from other agencies to become Molchanovs freediving instructors.

However, recent evidence, like these Russian freediving instructors associated with the Molchanovs movement openly advertising their illegal whale trips on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok without any real sanctions taken against them from the Molchanovs organization, and multiple emails sent from my end (they ignored my first email and I had to pretend that I was interested in buying their equipment to get a “I have forwarded your letter to my collegues investigating the issue” and no further response) suggests that despite the organization’s stated commitment to environmental conservation, unlike other freediving organizations who were proactive with their responses (I also informed AIDA, PADI and SSI), the Molchanovs movement’s actions seem to speak less loud than the words on their website.

Could it be that because one of its founders has been promoting and making a fortune with his freediving with whales trip in Tonga (a country where such trips are legal) for years now, made them think it was acceptable for their instructors to do so in Mauritius? This we’ll never know, but one thing is certain: Mauritius is not Tonga, and freediving with whales and whalefies (a term Adam Stern invented to encourage taking selfies with whales) are illegal in Mauritius.

No Freediver Is Bigger Than The Ocean.

As members of the professional freediving community, we all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. As freedivers or freedivers to be, your support should be reserved for those who uphold the principles of responsible freediving and demonstrate a genuine commitment to both the discipline and environmental conservation.

By standing together against the exploitation of whales and other marine creatures, and by not giving the direct perpetrators and those supporting them any more power and recognition than they already have, we can ensure a brighter future for generations of freedivers to come without endangering marine life, and set a reminder that no freediver is bigger than the ocean.

Like the Armenian-American novelist William Saroyan once wrote, “In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

3 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Freediving (How Some Molchanovs Instructors Are Endangering Whales in Mauritius)”

  1. Some sci-fi freediving story with a dash of Nazism. He compared freedivers on the national basis with the government of the country in terms of political decisions – it’s pure exploitation of the pestilence and cheap PR. Better to pay attention to the real problems: crowds of untrained Chinese in the water.

    What do freedivers and MOLCHANOVS have to do with it? What has Russia got to do with it? Local whale guides take thousands of people a year – not a word about them. You can feel the author’s resentment towards the world and people.

    1. Oh Wow! What a comment! Who knew discussing the exploitation of whales could be compared to sci-fi and Nazism? If you had read the first article I wrote last year about The Truth behind Swimming and Freediving with Whales in Mauritius, you would have had a less narrow view of the situation. Judging from the tone of your comment, you probably did not read it, nor did you understand the context of that one. The answers to your questions are found there.

      Not every freediver is desperate for attention at the cost of marine life harassment. I have never freedived with whales, never will, never promoted it, and always stood against such practice. The only PR I will get from this article will be for my SEO expertise as I use it to make sure this article get ranked high for its targeted keywords, so that the truth is heard. And when it does get heard, I don’t expect it to be pleasant for everyone. The same way it has not been pleasant for the whales in Mauritian waters to be constantly harassed.

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