Karin Sinniger, St Catherine’s College, 1983

After growing up living by the sea in Asia, Karin Sinniger had long nurtured an ambition to take up diving but it wasn’t until 1992 that she had the opportunity to take basic training. “When I finished my studies I moved to New York to work for a Wall Street law firm, and finally I had the money to learn to dive, but not the time because I was working such long hours,” she remembers. “But New York being New York, there were classes you could actually take at 11pm until 1am – it’s the city that never sleeps.”

She quickly put her new diving skills to use all over the world, but in 2005, a chance meeting with a fellow traveller on a rare expedition headed for the Chagos Islands in the British Indian Ocean Territories, gave her hobby a new sense of challenge. “Another traveller on the boat was a member of an extreme travel club. From every country he visited he sent a postcard back to his home address with a stamp from that location,” she says. “So I decided to join the club and combine my interests in travel and diving.”

Within a few years, Sinniger had visited over 200 countries in total, and logged over one thousand dives in over 100 countries. She has experienced everything from being shot at by African border guards, to diving in a volcano and dodging Great White sharks, but in order to break the world record for diving in the most countries, she wanted to do something really special. In her 115th country, to set her world record, she dived with Rajan, a 63-year-old retired logging elephant in the Andaman Islands, India, in March 2013. “It was amazing to see such a large animal going into the water and losing his depth and starting to swim,” she says. “They are very curious animals and we sang to him to get his attention, and when this gigantic elephant makes eye contact with you it’s just remarkable.”

Based in Angola working in corporate law, Karin finds the complex planning of each trip and the dives themselves a way to switch off from the hectic pace of her daily life. “Diving is the one thing I can do when I can switch off all the noise in my head, and live in the moment. I just focus on my breathing and what I’m seeing around me. It’s just a feeling of absolute calm. It’s certainly addictive.”