The Maldives is a dream tropical destination that provides the perfect setting for our swimming adventures, however many locals have never learnt to swim, despite being an island nation and many jobs in the country are based around the water. SwimTrek is committed to effecting positive change in the locations of our trips and when the opportunity arose to offer a weeks swim course to local children and adults, we jumped at the chance. Senior guides Marlys and Telly have spent the week between two SwimTrek trips providing swim teaching to their students, and below Marlys detailed her account of the week.
Imagine a place, as we do, beautiful beaches, endless emerald water and plentiful aquatic playgrounds. As SwimTrekkers, when we dip into these stunning holiday locations we enjoy a holiday week with swimming, discovery and exploration.
But at all our locations there is also regular life going on. As visitors, we are curious about what the actual residents are up to. It doesn’t take much imagination to know that they are going to work, raising families, talking, laughing, eating, all the usual stuff. But interestingly, despite being surrounded by an abundance of beautifully warm water, very few of them are swimming. Sure, there are some swimmers, but a surprising number of people with near access to the ocean don’t take advantage of it. Barriers to the sea might be cultural, fear-based, or a simple lack of interest.
Where the resistance to swimming is fear-based, it is usually because they have either had an early bad experience with water, or just an irrational fear. It is these people who inspire us to teach swimming and whom we hope to inspire to love the water as much as we do. To watch someone starting from the ‘deer in the headlights’ look, progressing to blowing bubbles, floating, jumping into deep water and perhaps taking a stroke or two is a beautiful thing to see and very rewarding to be a part of.
Here in the Maldives, Telly and I have had a week's break between two SwimTrek trips and so we have taken this oppurtunity to offer swim lessons to some of the locals. SwimTrek and our local partner Secret Paradise arranged a venue at the Hulhumale Swim Track (a floating frame on the beach side of the reef) and found folks from the local area interested in taking up this opportunity.
We’ve had some eager students ranging from age 4 to over 30 years old. All of these people came from a place of being fearful of the sea. We held our sessions on the beach front in Hulhumalé, near the capital city of Malé and have had a mix of men and women, boys and girls. It made such a nice change to hold swimming lessons in the sea instead of a chlorinated pool.
In spite of what might seem like barriers to getting in the sea, we had a wonderful week and each of our students made great strides in their water safety and confidence. Ammarra is planning on continuing her practice and some day going on a SwimTrek holiday with her husband! Leena and Azzeba found the courage to jump into water over their heads and bob up treading water.
Telly and I have thoroughly enjoyed this little break from the traditional SwimTrek holiday. SwimTrek is a great partner for many communities and it feels good to get a little beyond just tourism and give something back to the communities we get so much from. Hopefully, we can find other communities in our various locations and continue to develop some great partnerships in the future.