by Marlys Cappaert
Circumnavigating Beavers Aquatic Team (CBAT)
For the past ten years, I’ve dabbled in swimming holidays. Like on a bicycling or hiking trip, you follow a daily itinerary in an exotic destination. Of course I’d rather swim somewhere than walk, so I was really pleased to find that there were such things as swimming holidays. When I describe the idea to non-swimmers, the usual comment is “you just swim?” They can’t fathom that just swimming from island to island in an aquatic paradise could be the whole reason for a trip. SwimTrek is the first swimming holiday company. The UK Company runs trips all over Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico. They offer one-day events (e.g. The Hellespont Swim) and weeklong journeys. Find their offerings and stories at www.swimtrek.com.
Every few years I make another trip, often with other Masters swimmers. We’ve gone on week-long trips to Greece, Croatia and the British Virgin Islands. A typical morning: coffee and breakfast; a quick cruise to an interesting spot on the coast or an island; a two hour swim through warm tropical or Mediterranean waters. After the morning swim there is a lunch break, followed by a nap or independent exploration. In the afternoon: repeat. The SwimTrek guides and local boat captains have done the research, choosing the best places to swim given the winds and weather of the day. The trips are usually designed for 10-15 people split into smaller groups based on ability and ambition. Each small group is accompanied by a guide/boat that supplies safety cover, directions and water/snacks.
I’ve done a lot of outdoor swimming, usually as part of a mass event (e.g., relays across Lake Tahoe, the Maui Channel) or on short trips organized between friends. The SwimTrek swimming holiday is another approach with a lot of advantages. It is intimate; a small adventure with like-minded people. The locations and routes are carefully chosen—you won’t run into boat traffic or tricky currents. And it is simple—someone else has solved all the logistics (food, luggage, equipment). The SwimTrek trips are the best swimming I’ve ever done.
So a logical next step for me was: be a SwimTrek guide! I set about getting the required credentials and carving out some time, and for the last two years I’ve spent the fall season guiding swim holidays in Turkey. Making the trips as a customer had been fantastic. But the experience of helping to create the experience for other swimmers was even more special. Here’s how it works: When a trip begins, the guests—some alone, some with friends—are introduced to each other. Guests have come for many reasons—as a reward for a hard year of work, for the personal challenge, or just to indulge in an adventure. First-timers are often unsure about just how this will work. But after a couple of days, the easy routine of the trip eases all fears and the group quickly bonds, encouraging each other’s particular goals. This for me is the magic. To see someone surprise themselves by swimming their first 5K, or completing a crossing they just weren’t sure they could do is really special. Rarely does someone end the week without starting to think about which trip they would like to do next.
Of course I know the Turkey trip best. The trip is based at a lovely hotel in the southwest town of Kas. Each day we left the harbor on a beautiful Turkish Gulet, a classic wooden boat built for cruising the Mediterranean Coast. We would leave the harbor and travel 20 – 90 minutes to our swimming destinations along the coast. One really exciting swim involves crossing from Greece to Turkey. We start at a rock near the Greek island of Meis/Kastellorizo and swim 5 km to the mainland of Turkey. Other special swims include swimming over ruins near the ancient city of Aperli on the Lycian Way dating from 450 BC. Each day is full of warm blue water, colorful schools of fish, sea turtles, delicious lunches, and lots of swimming. I can’t think of a better holiday as a guest, or a better job.
Exciting news for us, I’ve been talking with SwimTrek about adding locations in North America—the possibilities are endless…