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Guide Blog

A Year in the Life of a SwimTrek Guide - Simon Emm's 2019

By Simon Emm , 11 December, 2019

In 2019, I was very lucky to have a busy summer season (in the northern hemisphere) working in Greece on the Ionian Explorer, the Tremiti Islands, Croatia on the Dalmatian Coast and Oman. Here’s a snapshot of my experience in each location to give you a flavour of a day in the life of a guide!

Ionian Explorer

My first assignment in 2019 was the Ionian Explorer which is based on the Greek mainland in the small coastal town of Sivota. I travelled from Stansted Airport with my fellow guide, Eoin, to Corfu where we stayed overnight before boarding a ferry to mainland Greece. On arrival, we hit the ground running, sorting out all of the equipment needed, liaising with the guests’ hotel as well as local restaurants, visiting the local supermarket to stock up on drinks and snacks for the guests and a little bit of food for us. After we had unpacked, we went for a swim as we were both desperate to get in the water and it didn’t disappoint! Next, we made contact with the support boat provider and the main boat provider and crew. This company was new to SwimTrek, the glass bottomed boat was a great asset and the crew were brilliant. We arranged to take a support boat out the following day for Eoin to show me all the locations we would be guiding in as he had guided on this location before. We made our way around the Mavro Oros Archipelago and I was blown away by its beauty. I understood why this location is called the Caribbean of Greece as it has crystal clear waters and, in some locations, the sea is a beautiful turquoise. There are remote beaches and caves to explore; dramatic cliff faces and lush vegetation, all a wonderful sight. The experience was as amazing as I hoped, and I was really looking forward to sharing our findings with the guests.

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The first group of guests arrived from the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the US. It was great to see how the group bonded so quickly, the common link being the love of the water and the excitement of the swims and discoveries ahead. The acclimatisation swim took place down at the local beach, with groups being decided and then we met for our first evening meal at the hotel where we all got to know each other while enjoying great food overlooking the harbour while the sun went down. Next morning, an early start and the guests got to see the main boat and meet the crew. There was laughter and excitement when we set off and we had a cracking first swim off Agios Nikolas; returned to lunch at the hotel and then went back out for a lovely mainland coastal swim in the afternoon. Everyone was buzzing after the first day, sharing what they had seen and done and looking forward to the days ahead. The week continued with more fantastic swims - hiding from the wind as best we could - more delicious food and lots of fun and laughter. It was amazing how quickly the group bonded and by the end of the week great friendships had been formed with people hoping to remain friends for many years to come.

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During the next week the summer truly arrived. The sun shone brightly; the wind dropped and the temperature soared. The next group consisted of guests from the UK, Germany, Spain, US, China and Zimbabwe. Once again, a mix of first timers and experienced SwimTrekkers and the group bonded quickly. The weather was kind so we were able to complete lots of coastal swims, crossings and cave discovery swims and once again there was lots of laughter and good food. On the final day we enjoyed a glorious sunrise swim followed with a hearty breakfast at the hotel. We said our farewells and the clients and I left Sivota, some homeward bound whilst others were continuing their adventures elsewhere. Next stop for me was the Tremiti Islands where I was due to start guiding the next day.

Tremiti Islands

The Tremiti Islands are the only Italian Islands in the Adriatic. I have a real soft spot for this little archipelago as it was the first location I worked on for SwimTrek alongside Francesco. This year I was lucky to work here twice, at the beginning of the summer season and at the end in September.

At the start of the season I was travelling straight from Greece, so flew in from Corfu and had a car waiting at Bari to take me up to Termoli where I spent the night before taking the first ferry out to San Domino. On arrival I was greeted by Edmondo, my fellow guide and Reggie from the SwimTrek head office. We were all eager to get straight out in a boat and explore the islands, so I dropped my bags and before I knew it, Salvo, our main boat pilot for the week, was taking us to one of our boats so I could show Edmondo and Reggie around the islands, pointing out the swim locations, dropping into the water whenever we could. Upon our return, we ate lunch at La Fenice, a beautiful family run restaurant. This would be out lunch location for the week with the guests.

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The first trip consisted of guests from the UK and Australia and once again everyone bonded so quickly during the welcome meeting and over dinner. The following day was the acclimatisation swim and the video analysis in the morning down at the main beach, back for lunch at La Fenice and then back to the harbour where everyone met Salvo and we set out for our first proper swim. Lots of brilliant swims followed, coastal and crossings, lots of laughter and everyone got what I call the ‘Salvo Experience’ which makes the trip very special. As the weeks rolled by, we had more guests from the UK and Australia, but we also had guests from Ireland, South Africa and the US. One particular thing I love is getting to know the guests over the weeks. They come from different walks of life but they all come for the same thing, to swim and relax.

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At the end of the season the islands have a different feel, they are much quieter and there are less day trippers. This time I arrived with Guilia a few days before the guests and we got straight to work getting everything setup and meeting everyone on location. However, it wasn’t long before we were out in a boat and for the first time, Giulia was discovering what the islands had to offer. We were both excited to be here and threw ourselves into the job in hand, working alongside Salvo. We had guests from UK, US, Germany, Ireland, Australia, France, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark and Italy and we had a brilliant time guiding them on their swims and showing them around the islands.

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I think the Tremiti Islands are very special for a number of reasons: the islands themselves are beautiful and serene; the water is gorgeous; the food is so tasty, I could never forget the delicious gelato; and the wonderful Italian flair. San Domino has a very rich vegetation. The top of the island is blanketed with pine trees, and it has a very varied coastline with dramatic rock formations and caves, making for interesting swims and walks. The resplendent San Nicola with all its history over the years, once a monastery, fortress, prison and now home to many of the locals, is so beautiful it stops me in my tracks. Capraia is very different with steep cliff faces, rolling countryside and secluded bays. From here there is a lot to explore in the water including the submerged statue of Padre Pio standing proud on the seabed below. Cretaccio, the smallest island of the four, might not look much at first glance but as you get closer, it starts to reveal its beauty: stunning rock formations and bays which are hidden from sight. This was the first place I encountered octopus which are such intriguing creatures.

The more I go to the Tremiti Islands the more I love the islands, the welcoming people and the food. It definitely holds a very special place in my heart and now feels like my second home.

Dalmatian Coast

The Dalmatian Coast trip is based on the island of Prvic just off the Croatian mainland near Sibenik. I had two assignments this year, one mid-summer season and the last week at the end of the summer. Arriving by taxi boat from the mainland is pretty cool which I did the first time as the sun was setting. The first thing you notice about Prvic is how quiet it is, there are no vehicles on the island and it’s like stepping back in time. I spent the evening getting my bearings and, in the morning, I was met by Krešimir, my very knowledgeable fellow guide. Our first job was to do our weekly shop, which involved heading over to the mainland on one of our small support boats to stock up full of essentials for the week ahead - a novel way of food shopping!

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Our first group arrived, a private group from Australia, who were doing the Dalmatian Coast Long Swims which is approximately 8km a day. They were great fun and really up for the challenge. There are so many islands to choose from in the immediate vicinity which gave us lots of options, on one day we did an amazing swim which involved island hopping 5 islands in total, each island different from the last with the water colour changing from one to the other.

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Each week brought different people from all over Europe and North America with differing abilities, goals and dreams. The dynamics in the groups were different and the weather conditions varied but all the swims were very special in their own way. It was fantastic to see the smiles on the faces of the guests when they accomplished something they thought was out of reach. For the weeks when Krešimir was away, I enjoyed working alongside Tasmin and Anna-Carin and they brought their own experiences to the trips as well.

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During my downtime I loved exploring in and around the island of Prvic. Whether it be swimming around the entire island, heading west for the colourful sunsets, watching the locals breaking out into song or taking pictures of the breath-taking views and scenery.

Oman Fjords

I finished my 2019 season with a couple of weeks in Oman. I met my fellow guide, John, at Heathrow before we flew to Dubai and then drove across UAE to the Musandam region of Oman, the most northerly point of the country. We arrived at the hotel just outside the town of Khasab and once checked in, got straight to work. John had worked in Oman for the last four years so knew everyone and everything that was required to get up and running. He even speaks a bit of Arabic which goes a long way in getting things sorted. First stop was a trip to the harbour to meet the team we would be working with and check over the dhow, a traditional Omani boat, and the support boats. Next stop, to the tour operator to make sure everything was in place for the transfer of guests arriving in the next few days, a quick bite to eat and back to check out Bassa beach for the acclimatisation swim.

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The following morning, we were up before sunrise to climb the mountain behind the hotel; a very rugged and harsh environment but one I wouldn’t have missed for the world. The views along the way were breath-taking, mountain ranges changing colour as we climbed, isolated trees growing in the rocks. We finally reached the top and looked over Khasab town, we could see the entrance to Khor Ash Sham, the body of water we’d be swimming in over the week and the harbour as the sun burst over the mountain; wow! We completed the walk every week with the guests. Back to the hotel for breakfast and we headed straight out again to meet Badir, one of the support crew and now a friend, to take us out in one of the support boats to check out the swims in the khor. As we entered into the Khor, the sheer scale of the surrounding mountains was something else and then before I knew it, we had humpback dolphins surfing and jumping on the wake alongside the boat, my mind was now truly blown. As we went deeper into the Khor, John was pointing out all the swims and locations and I took it all in and was overwhelmed by the sheer scale and beauty of the place. I had so many wow moments that day and every subsequent day.

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Our first guests arrived the next afternoon, so I was up for an early morning run with John and then into Khasab to explore. It was amazing walking around when there was the Call for Prayer at midday echoing around the valley.

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In the afternoon the guests arrived from UK, Switzerland, Germany and the US. The welcome meeting took place and shortly after we were all in the water for the acclimatisation swim. The days after were filled with hiking in the mountains; journeying further each day into the khor on the dhow; catching daily sightings of dolphins; enjoying peaceful yet amazing swims and staying close to the guests on the swims from the kayak. There were colourful fish, turtles, rays and even black tip reef sharks (nothing to be afraid of). The awe-inspiring mountains, scrumptious lunches and the sheer beauty and tranquillity of the place was just breath-taking beyond words. I met so many wonderful and interesting people during my short time in Oman. The guests certainly made the most of their days and were a delight to guide.

I feel so fortunate and privileged to be a Swim Guide for SwimTrek. It allows me to spend time with many interesting and lovely people in beautiful parts of the world who all share my passion of being in, on and around water. 2019 has been truly amazing for me, I have learnt so much along the way and I can’t wait to find out where I will be guiding in 2020.

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