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Meet the SwimTrekker

Around The World In 80 Swims (Part One)

By Jack Hudson , 27 July, 2021

Follow our new global feature series with international entries and aquatic tales from our favourite open water swimmers - updates every Thursday! We'll take you to memorable locations around the world, through a selection of incredible wildlife encounters, gruelling challenges and life-changing experiences!


  1. Calum Maclean (Loch A'an, Cairngorms, Scotland)
  2. Beth French (Molokaʻi Channel, Hawaii)
  3. Calum Hudson (Alcatraz Island, California)
  4. Anna Carin (Öland Island, Sweden)
  5. Dee Newell (Irish Sea, Ireland)
  6. Hen of the Wild Swim Girls (Courchevel, French Alps)
  7. Reggie Lang (Le Dèfi De Monte Cristo, Marseille)
  8. Simon Emms (Tremiti Islands, Italy)
  9. Simon Murie (Robben Island, South Africa)
  10. Katherine Heath (Lake Bled, Slovenia)
  11. Telle Maukonen (Lake Zurich, Switzerland)
  12. Ben McIvor (St. Kitts & Nevis, Caribbean)
  13. Rob Lea (English Channel & Mount Everest!)
  14. John Kelly (Hellespont, Turkey)
  15. Virginia (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador)
  16. Ciara Gleeson (Sporades Islands, Greece)
  17. Tracee and Duke (Haiti, Caribbean)
  18. Ricky Andrews (Khor Asham, Oman)
  19. Fran Maitland (Bay of Kotor, Montenegro)
  20. Greg Heath (Aukštaitija, Lithuania)

calum mac 1

1. Calum Maclean (Loch A'an, Cairngorms, Scotland)

"Six-thirty in the morning, the sun creeps over the summits of Cairn Gorm, and my legs begin the mountain run into Loch A'an. This crystal clear water sits at the head of Glen Avon, tucked into the mountains. Appearing blue-green to the eye from above, under water is a different world. Almost 3km long and at 725m elevation, the loch can freeze fully in winter. Even now in summer it's brutally cold, but always inviting. With no quick or easy way in or out, this is a committing journey in the Scottish mountains, and should be prepared for accordingly."

"After a lung-bursting ascent, my first view fills me with joy at the swim that awaits me. I follow the Fèith Buidhe (Yellow bog-stream) down a series of steep cliffs, peering through the ice-tunnels formed as the last winter snow melts. A hint as to how cold it will be... At the loch, there's barely a moment of hesitation - I NEED to swim. Stripping down, I ease into the water. The knife-sharp cold is a relief to my legs. Sunlight plays through the surface, shapes dance on the sand below. I play for a dip, soaking in my surroundings. Afterwards, I am dried by the sun, my body refreshed for the run back out over the mountain."

'After a lung-bursting ascent, my first view fills me with joy at the swim that awaits me...'

calum mac 2

"I am drawn to swimming in locations that inspire and amaze me. Here, I remember my senses feeling so heightened. The simplicity of the adventure, the reset of the mind, the beauty of the landscape - this swim in Loch A'an sticks with me as an almost spiritual experience."

"We could remove the romance, and say that was just the sheer endorphin overload of running and swimming... but where's the fun in that?"


beth french

2. Beth French (Molokaʻi Channel, Hawaii)

"I was in the Moloka’i channel [at night] and the Pacific water moves so much, the pilot boat can't stay right alongside you for safety reasons. I have a kayaker alongside me, but the boat kind of leapfrogs ahead. The pilot boat is lit up like a Christmas tree. I've got a light on the back of my head, so the pilot can see me. And I lifted my head to take my hourly drink and literally within 30 seconds of the boat having pulled ahead, the kayaker says: ‘please don't panic but there's a shark behind you’. And so we were in an eight foot swell. So the pilot boat didn't have a hundred percent visibility of the kayaker. They could only see him every minute or so. And so the kayaker was signalling and flashing his head torch to the boat to say there was a shark. The shark sloped down and came and literally swam underneath me and around and rested his nose against the front of the kayak. Only I didn't know at the time because I was obviously level with him in the water."

'...it's one thing to know that there are sharks in Hawaii, but another thing entirely to know that a shark knows exactly where you are and is very close...'

"Obviously you don't want a light shining in the water normally in the dark because light attracts little things and little things attract bigger things, and bigger things, you know, bite you sometimes. But you really need to know what's going on in that moment. So the kayaker, he turned his head torch on main beam and was shining it down so we could watch, you know, and see where the shark was. And yeah, so I lifted my feet because I could see it looming underneath me, but it went round to the side of the kayaker. He knew where it was. Mostly I couldn't see and it was less than two meters from me for about six or seven minutes, before the pilot arrived. They circled back around to find out what was going on. Well, you know, we were just very still and very calm. And it was very - it was very surreal. Um, we actually, I went heads up into treading water, because if you lie on the surface of the water and are splashing, it looks like prey - like a dying fish. And we're not their natural food. Um, so staying upright, and treading water and staying calm was the best thing. After that the reality hits and, you know, it took me an hour to get my face down in the black water again. So I was doing a bit of a heads-up breaststroke - it's one thing to know that there are sharks in Hawaii, but another thing entirely to know that a shark knows exactly where you are and is very close."

Read our interview with Beth


calum alcatraz

3. Calum Hudson (Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, California)

"When I reached the beach at Aquatic Park I clawed my way onto the sand, stood to my knees and turned around. I looked at Alcatraz and the mighty Golden Gate Bridge and thought to myself that San Francisco has to be one of my favourite cities in the world. The Castro has the rainbow coloured blood of some of the most inspirational LGBT icons of all time painted across its streets. To stroll down any of its roads is a lesson in multiculturalism and the melting pots of many cultures criss-cross in Little Saigon, Chinatown and Little Italy."

'There is no better way to experience San Francisco than escaping from the rock!'

"This is truly a city which celebrates a varied and shared history and I couldn't have felt luckier to be stood there on that beach overlooking the bay. Swimming is the perfect way to immerse yourself in other cultures and places, a unique way to immediately experience a new place from a different perspective. How lucky and privileged I was to be able to swim from Alcatraz, to crash into the icy cold water and do one of the most iconic swims on the planet. Lots of people at work were asking 'Is it clean in the bay?' or 'It must be really dirty'. Well after the swim I went on a trip to the Farallon Islands just outside of San Francisco and from when we left right up to when we got back we saw Humpback Whales, Grey Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Common Dolphins, Northern Fur Seal, Stellar Sea Lion, California Sea Lion, Sunfish, Puffins, Blue Footed Boobies, Jellyfish to name but just a few."

calum alcatraz 2

"I didn’t know it at the time but the ship captain shepherding me across told me a juvenile humpback appeared behind me and followed for a few minutes of the 1.24 hr swim. Perhaps it knew that the strange human above it needed a guide to get him across the icy cold strait separating Alcatraz from the bay. There is no better way to experience San Francisco than escaping from the rock!"


ann carin oland

4. Anna Carin (Öland Island, Sweden)

Anna swam a circumnavigation swim of 333 cumulative kilometres around the Swedish island of Öland, which is the second largest island in the country. Between July 28th and August 14th 2020, Anna set out from the southern ferry town of Färjestaden and returned there at the end of her swim, after a total of 117 hours in the water, with only one no-swim day.

"I had never been there before. I saw everything from the water and my father he had fun on the land and all the little roads... Because of _Corona I thought I’d do some big swim here in Sweden. Three years ago when I swam around Isle of Man, my kayaker said: ‘Anna, come do a swim around Öland, in Sweden’. I said: ‘Yeah, I could do that.’ He was planning to come to Sweden to kayak for me, but he got stuck on the Isle of Man. So, I asked a friend of mine to help me out. After roughly 250 kilometres, I told [my kayaker] I wanted to go on alone. The rest of the swim I did with my father, this couple we met on Öland and another swimming friend of mine. So they were on the shore. And we had done marks where they should stand and they were there. So, when I got there they just waved to me and I could just continue."

'So when I was arriving, he was up in the lighthouse with a Swedish flag. It was so great.'

"When I was swimming by myself, I told my father I’m going to be so close that I can see the bottom. So, I won't be any further out because I have to be safe and I had this buoy that normally I never swim with, and I have my GPS and I have my phone in it. There was not much of currents, but there was quite a lot of wind. We had a little push when we were going up North, from behind. We don’t have much of currents here in Sweden. The best day was when I was getting to a lighthouse where there was a former swimming club friend of mine – he is running the lighthouse. So when I was arriving, he was up in the lighthouse with a Swedish flag. It was so great. And it was the same when I was going to leave – he was out there, saying: 'bye, bye!'"

Read our interview with Anna


dee newell

5. Dee Newell (Irish Sea, Ireland)

Having completed the English Channel solo, Dee was asked to be a part of the 6 person Irish Sea relay swim team. It was also a fundraiser for the Gavin Glynn Foundation, a charity which assists the families of Irish children who need to travel abroad to receive treatment.

"On the end of the spring tide, there was an incredible three-day weather window coming in which was too good to pass up. This meant our start came earlier than planned and I felt out of my comfort zone. This was a crossing that had only ever been completed once before and the only information available on that was the time. No official observer, no report to consult, no standard start points or predicted landing spot. Everything about this swim seemed wild. The swim started at 22:30 in darkness and finished 38 hours and 52 mins later. We had swum for two whole nights and a day and a half, but we made it. Everybody on the team swam at least 6 hours with two completing 7 hours. We were very lucky to have incredible weather throughout this swim and although the water was 11-13 degrees, at no point did it feel cold or unbearable. the day swims were flat and bright, and the night swims gave me my first experience of swimming in phosphorescence. This was an excellent team to be a part of and almost €20,000 was raised for the Gavin Glynn foundation."

'Everything about this swim seemed wild.'

dee newell

"I’ve been so inspired by what I have learned and achieved along the way that I have already given some talks in schools and given a few radio interviews. I have been helped along the way by so many I am eager to give back in any way that I can. Overall SwimTrek have had a huge part to play in leading me to a successful English Channel swim but ultimately it is the people that SwimTrek bring together that makes these trips invaluable."

Read Dee's full story


Hen

6. Hen of the Wild Swim Girls (Courchevel, French Alps)

They say that variety is the spice of life... but try telling that to a group of skiers on holiday in the Alps. Nevertheless Hen was determined to find a few hours for a mini adventure off the slopes...

"I found this lake by scanning maps for bodies of water that were close to our ski resort, and was amazed when I tried to get advice from some seasonnaires on how to get there, that despite being only a few miles up the road, no one seemed to know it existed. I was dropped off nearby, and I had to scramble down a snowy mountainside rather ungracefully, and somewhat dangerously to find it."

"I heard it before I saw it, the sound of the freshest alpine stream making its way down the mountain, and as I rounded the corner I was completely stunned by what I saw. Water of purest turquoise, surrounded by a blanket of glimmering untouched snow, all nestled in a steep, narrow valley."

'I heard it before I saw it, the sound of the freshest alpine stream making its way down the mountain...'

"The lake itself is frequently visited by walkers in the summer and has a raised boardwalk allowing you to walk the perimeter with several hiking trails going off in different directions. But this was winter, and even with the sun beating down but it was still brutally cold, with -7 degree air temp and -2 degree water. Unlike a lot of lakes in the area, it rarely freezes as the steam running through keeps it turning."

Hen

"I can’t wait, the excitement courses through me and I jump into the sapphire water, which somehow envelops me like a hot bath. The sunlight strikes the water and makes intricate patterns on my skin, and I feel completely alive. I don’t stay in for long, just 5 minutes of unadulterated playtime, but I’m conscious of the air temperature and I want to respect it. I get out, dress and run up the hill to warm up, endorphins rushing though my bloodstream. Before I’ve even left I can’t wait to go back... simply joyous."


Reggie Lang

7. Reggie Lang (Le Dèfi De Monte Cristo, Marseille)

'All human wisdom is contained in these two words - Wait and Hope.' ― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

In 2019, Cat and SwimTrek HQ's Reggie and Ben all flew to Marseille to take part in the Le Dèfi De Monte Cristo swim out there - another incredible event in the prison escape series...

"A couple of years ago a few of us from the office flew out to Marseille to take part in 'Le Dèfi De Monte Cristo'. Set over a couple of days with a few different entry options, we took part in the 5km swim race with 850 other competitors."

"The swim alters but recreates the famed escape from the Chateau d'If by Edmond Dantès - the protagonist from Alexandre Dumas' novel. In the book the swim is more than an escape from a prison, it's a physical metaphor of someone struggling through their circumstance to create a change for themself. On emerging from the sea, bedraggled and exhausted in Marseille, Edmond Dantes washes off his past and begins his journey to becoming The Count of Monte Cristo."

"Marseille is a fantastic city, great food, great wine and great history, we sampled it all. On the morning of the swim, we jumped on the boat with the other swimmers excited to get to the start. Our boat took us through the swim route to the Chateau d'If, a foreboding prison fortress built in 1524. Whilst Alexandre Dumas' novel is entirely fictional, the prison itself was very real, a dumping ground for political and religious prisoners, it was one of the most feared and notorious jails of the time."

'How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.'

"We've been looking forward to this day for months, planning, training and getting ready. 850 swimmers disembarked the boat to await the race start. Strewn across the craggy rocky start, we were packed shoulder to shoulder, waiting in the morning sun. What become far too obvious though was that there were not too many of us in skins, in fact, very few indeed! The local swimmers were not so impressed with our speedos and to be honest, we thought we might've miscalculated the water temperature a little as we stood amongst a sea of wetsuits. The race start buoys are a couple of hundred meters from the island itself, so as the swimmers jumped from the island and headed toward the starter buoys, we decided to stick it out in the sun until the last minute and dive with the start gun from the rock straight into the swim, a little more Dantèsesque we felt, and a few more minutes to bask in the sun that we were being increasingly concerned we might need."

Reggie Lang

"I remember how beautifully clear the sea was as we leapt in, on the seabed below divers were waving and recording the whitewash of shoulders vying for position. Swimming away from the island and toward Marseille, the next 5km was a beautiful blur jostling through the swimming packs and navigating the twists and turns of the course. The water was perfect, the sun was on our backs, and the atmosphere was electric (a little different to the ordeal Dantès battled through)."

"That mass start event adrenaline takes hold with exchanges between breaths and through goggles as we pass one another. Kayakers either side keep you on track and great visible buoys make the swim a joy. As you near the finish you're funnelled into a gap to tag your race chip and record your time. But more than that, the gap is low and pushes you down onto the sand, the way the end is positioned forces you low into the water to haul yourself out and crawl on your hands and knees onto the beach reminiscent of Dantès dragging himself to shore. Exiting the water, you clamber to your feet alongside your fellow Counts and raise yourself up to walk back into Marseille, head held high and ready for your taste of freedom... or in our case, several bottles of craft beer from the nearest bar."


simon emms

8. Simon Emms (Tremiti Islands, Italy)

“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... 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.”

simon emms

“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.”

'The more I go to the Tremiti Islands the more I love the islands, the welcoming people and the food...'


simon murie

9. Simon Murie (Robben Island, South Africa)

“The first successful crossing from the island to the mainland was recorded in 1909, when Henry Hooper swam to the old Cape Town harbour in nine hours. Since then over 500 individuals have completed the crossing, which is now regarded as one of the most important swims in the Southern Hemisphere.”

“From the island, there are two routes to the mainland: the 11km swim direct into Cape Town or the shorter 7km route to Blouberg higher up the coast. Whichever route you take, the swim is one of the most scenic crossings in the world, with the city skyline of Cape Town and the striking Table Mountain guiding the way. Although the swim is a dream for many, who are attracted by the island’s history and symbolism, it often remains just that – a dream – as, despite the relatively short distances involved, the low temperatures (11-17°C) make the crossing difficult.” “Sharks, much discussed when it comes to South African swimming, are also a factor to take into account. A lot of swims are now carried out using a Shark Shield, a device that emits an electrical wave in water that is supposedly discomforting to sharks. It’s not an impossible dream though, and can be a very pleasant reality. Earlier this year, when I swam with a friend from Robben Island to Cape Town, sea conditions were good with a slight swell. We were escorted by Peter Bales, the first South African man to cross the English Channel back in 1969. He is a well-known swimmer, pilot and administrator in the South African open water swimming community.”

simon murie 2

“Our only other companions during the trip were the Cape fur seals who played below us as we were swimming. Their high jinks became a source of amusement to us as we made the long steady escape from the former prison, landing at Three Anchor Bay, right in the heart of Cape Town.”

'Our only other companions during the trip were the Cape fur seals who played below us...'


katherine heath

10. Katherine Heath (Lake Bled, Slovenia)

Photographer/nature lover Katherine joined us on our Lake Bled and the Slovenian Alps trip. She loves the open water, but wasn't used to covering longer swim distances. Combined with reassurance from seasoned SwimTrek guides and a fantastic backdrop, she was able to enjoy an incredible trip...

“Despite my love of being in the water, I would never call myself a swimmer. But, there’s something irresistible to me about simply being out in the wild, open water - no matter the temperature. When I arrived, I felt a little nervous, but the team at SwimTrek were great encouraging me to push myself, and I swam distances I was happy with every day."

katherine heath 2

"A few years ago I surprised myself slightly and decided to take part in the Brighton Triathlon - I had to swim 1500m. I trained a lot (despite my hatred of swimming pools) and got a lot better. I was still slower than most, but I did it. So, when a friend who works for SwimTrek suggested I joined her on a swimming adventure holiday this summer (where you’re expected to swim 4km a day), I told myself that was doable."

'...there’s something irresistible to me about simply being out in the wild, open water - no matter the temperature.'

"I have to admit, as the trip got closer I felt more nervous - I hadn’t done anything like as much training as I would like to have done and suddenly felt very unprepared. Disclaimer: if you’re going to sign up for a swimming holiday be sure you can do the distances they ask. When I arrived on the first day I realised I was out of my depth (no pun intended) but the team at Swimtrek were great, they encouraged me to push myself - I still swam distances I was happy with each day - but also made sure I was able to do shorter swims than the rest of the group when necessary."

"I may not have achieved 4km a day but I pushed myself to my limits and did what I could. When I was younger, not being able to swim the distances everyone else was doing would have really bothered me but it occurred to me, in Slovenia, that we all have our strengths and the things we enjoy, swimming long distances just isn’t one of mine and I’m happy with that."

katherine heath 3

"The trip itself was fantastic - expertly organised and each transition was seamless meaning we had maximum time in the water each day. Our knowledgable guides also took us to waterfalls, natural springs, a wine tasting and on a hike around the bottom of Lake Bohinj. For those of you interested, this is the trip we did: Slovenia with SwimTrek. And, for those you that can swim 4km, I highly recommend it. We stayed at Lake Bohinj. Just a 20 minute drive from Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj is lesser known but one of Slovenia’s largest lakes. I had heard good things about Slovenia but I wasn’t expecting to feel so instantly at home. I felt privy to a well-kept secret."

Read Katherine’s full blog post on her website.


telle

11. Telle Maukonen (Lake Zurich, Switzerland)

After several years without a 'big swim' SwimTrek Guide Telle took on the Sri Chinmoy Marathon in Switzerland in August 2019 - a 26km swim around Lake Zurich...

"I had some misgivings about taking part in this event - it had been 6 years since my last ‘big swim’. I found I was lacking that sense of urgency and the abject fear that propelled my English Channel training all those years ago and I’ve had very inconsistent training in the lead-up (it turns out watching other people swim doesn’t actually add much fitness). All the same, I was excited and nervous in equal measure. I’ve been craving an ‘all-day swim’ since 2013 and I kept that thought as my main motivation and mantra in the many months leading up to the swim..."

"As soon as we arrived in Rapperswil my dear friend/colleague/support crew/personal SwimTrek guide Marlys and I went for a swim. It was 24°C in the water and it tasted sweet! I knew I was in for a treat. I could happily spend all day in that water. Now I really, really wanted to make those cut-offs."

telle

"One of the things I like about long swims is the cleansing that happens with the detritus in my head. Weird thoughts, odd songs, and dark places, find their way out, entertain/torture me for a moment and then I leave them in my own wake, feeling clearer-headed, happy and focussed. I was hoping that this swim, like previous ones, would provide me with some sort of a revelation. After all, last time I did this long a swim I ended up giving up my day job and becoming a Swim Trek guide. Unregrettably, I had no great revelations in Lake Zurich, I was having too much fun. Perhaps I didn’t suffer enough – the conditions were too good to allow too much petulance to take hold. When you’ve got a day like we had (flat calm, air temp up to 30°C, water temp 24°C) you best be prepared to get those toys back in the pram before too long or the water nymphs will wreak their revenge."

'Weird thoughts, odd songs, and dark places, find their way out, entertain/torture me for a moment and then I leave them in my own wake, feeling clearer-headed, happy and focussed...'

"OK, I’ll admit, it wasn’t all brilliant, I did have a mental meltdown with the church at Meilen which is around the halfway point of the 26kms. Let’s call it “Meilen Mental Meltdown 2019”. That church was taunting me from afar, it never seemed to get any closer. In my childish annoyance, I refused to sight toward it for ONE THOUSAND whole strokes, counting with venom, and it still never got any bigger. But then all of a sudden it was so big that it seemed to take hours to leave it behind. Infuriating."

"But you have to have some moments like those otherwise you might not feel as much of the amazing fuzzy feeling that you get from having amazing friends with you at times like this. At the next feed Marlys had put through a video call to my lovely [boyfriend] Ray back home who reminded me that I was finally able to swim all day. Sometimes hearing your own words repeated back to you mid-tantrum is a bitter pill to swallow, but boy did it cure my ills. After scoffing that pill down with a peanut butter smothered banana and chugging down another Ella’s kitchen blueberry wonder-pouch and some other delights from my ‘feed buffet’, I had a much better time of it."

telle

"Marlys getting in and swimming next to me was fabulous and hugely uplifting. We spend much of our lives looking after other people swimming so it was wonderful not just to have my own personal guide looking after me but getting in to swim too."

"Gratitude: when you take part in events like these, it’s humbling how much other people put in to allow you to have your day: from all the volunteers in the event who transported out bags, arranged our boats, cooked our curry (confession: this was the ultimate goal and I had two helpings), organised the massages, and celebrated all the successes of all the swimmers, to the crew on your boat who keep you safe, and fed, and swimming in the right direction. I had a little cry into my goggles on the final stretch thinking about this and I’m very grateful to have had this experience."

"There were two other SwimTrek guides in the lake with us at the same time: Heidi [Kearsey] was swimming a relay and their two-person team came second at an amazing time of 07:05. Very quick! And Mark [Johnston] who won the men’s masters category and beat the existing record by quite a margin...!"

'There was something particularly special that happened at this event and that was the realisation of the extent of my SwimTrek tribe.'

Read more about Telle's experience in our blog post back in August, 2019.


ben

12. Ben McIvor (St. Kitts & Nevis, Caribbean)

In March 2019, SwimTrek HQ’s Ben led a group of guests around the St Kitts and Nevis sister islands…

“My first introduction to the Caribbean was when SwimTrek gave me to opportunity to guide the Nevis to St Kitts Cross Channel swim trip back in 2017. I had always planned to visit this part of the world and St Kitts in particular as it had always described to me as being relatively off the beaten path compared to some of its neighbouring countries.”

“I still remember flying into the islands and realising that they were neighbours to some big hitting destinations. I initially flew into Antigua from London Gatwick, before taking a 20-minute flight to Basseterre on St Kitts. Not being able to fly directly to the country, you can see why St Kitts and Nevis may not be the first-place people think of when thinking about the Caribbean.”

“Once you are here, it’s easy to fall in love with the islands. During my first few days, I had some time to explore the secrets the island had to offer and to my surprise, aside from the amazing swimming spots, sailing and diving available, historically these islands focused heavily on agriculture, specifically sugar cane. This is still very apparent and although tourism in on the islands are growing, the traditional rustic feel of the place can still be seen in the towns and restaurants.”

'One of the best features of the SwimTrek trip in St Kitts is completing the 4.5km cross channel swim across The Narrows...'

ben

“The last surprise the island had to offer was when arriving at Reggae Beach, the port you sail from on St Kitts when heading over to Nevis. As I had time to kill waiting for the boat, I found Timothy Hill which was an amazing spot to catch Nevis’s peak for the first time. It was also a great viewpoint to see where the rough Atlantic Ocean ends and the calm Caribbean Sea begins, a rare sight to see in the Caribbean.”

“One of the best features of the SwimTrek trip in St Kitts is completing the 4.5km cross channel swim across The Narrows. The uniqueness of the swim is that you can see the bottom of seabed the entire way across, giving you the chance to explore the curious marine life that will often come to check out the mysterious swimmers in the water. But the magical swims don’t stop there! With volcanic landscapes to spot as you swim by, sunken shipwrecks to explore and of course idyllic sandy beaches to finish your swims on like Lovers Beach, this trip is FULL of spellbinding swims…”


rob

13. Rob Lea (English Channel & Mount Everest!)

Rob Lea made history in July 2019 when he became the first person to summit Mount Everest and swim the English Channel in the same year. Rob joined us on our Channel and Long Distance Training Camp in Mallorca in 2018…

“I landed in England with my fiancé, Caroline a few days before my window to beat jet lag before getting in the water. It was good timing because I was feeling under the weather during my travels to the UK and felt like I needed time to rest and recover. However, after one night of sleep in Dover, the boat captain called with news that the weather was good and gave me roughly five hours to grab my bags and be at the dock. I had just woken from an uneasy night of bed sweats and not feeling well, but I didn’t even have time to think about how I was feeling, I immediately shifted to go-mode.”

“I felt quite good once I got in the water. And I swam well the first couple hours and got my confidence back. As the sun started to set after a few hours, I saw my first jellyfish. There was a stretch of about or 4 hours where I encountered hundreds of jellyfish. I can’t tell you how many times I was stung, but it certainly more than 50 and likely as many as 100 stings across my body, including two super painful direct blows to the face. I felt like I handled the stings relatively well, but it they were adding up and it was starting to get to me. I wondered; can I keep this up for another 6+ hours? Anna told me that they would subside when the tide changed… and they did for the most part. Like any long-distance athletic event, crossing the English Channel required mental stamina. As I spent more time in the water, I told myself half-truths to get to the other side like, ‘Once I’m done, I never have to swim another stroke again if I don’t want to.’ Time seemed to melt away and I just swam from feed to feed. I never let myself consider getting on the boat, I honestly didn't want to return to do those first 4, 6 or 8 hours again, so I guess I’ll just keep swimming…”

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“Going into my Ultimate World Triathlon I considered the English Channel would be the most difficult portion, and I prepared myself, my family, and my friends for the possibility of failure. When I jumped into the water on the evening of July 9th, I didn’t know if I would reach France. After 11 hours and 47 minutes in the chilly waters of the English Channel, I stepped onto the French shoreline–exhausted, elated, and delirious. I had done it. The memory is so vivid and blurred at the same time. There was no champagne or pate waiting for me at 4:15am in France, but I had done it!”

“When Caroline and I summited Everest, she became one of the 11% of women represented in Everest summits. That 11% is a common figure in these types of sports, but it also translates into the workplace and boardrooms around the world. Roughly 10% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. I know that’s not representative of what women bring to the table and I want to see more women on the top, whether that be a mountain top or leading a company. I also don’t think it’s just a woman’s job to fight for this equality and representation. I think men are in integral part of the conversation and I want to hear them use their voices. Let’s have these conversations and make this a better world for our mothers, daughters, co-workers, friends and neighbours…”

Read more about Rob Lea's incredible feats in our blog post.


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14. John Kelly (Hellespont, Turkey)

“While childhood summer holidays spent on the West coast of Ireland meant I was comfortable swimming in the open sea, it always seemed a mystery to me how people were physically and mentally able to swim long distances in the sea. As a result swims such as the Hellespont slipped down the ‘to do’ list.”

“This changed after a car accident a number of years ago. My physiotherapy required daily swimming sessions but I soon got bored of swimming laps. I realised that it would be hard to sustain my recovery unless I had a measurable goal. Then I saw an advertisement for SwimTrek’s Introduction to Open Water swimming trip. The main pre-condition to join was to be able to swim 1km in the open water. This was a perfect solution – build my endurance to meet the target and get a holiday into the bargain.”

“I signed up for the Hellespont but realised I needed to be more committed and focused in my preparation. Using training tips from my previous SwimTrek experiences, the trip notes and assistance from other sources, I worked to a programme that increased my time in the pool and brought greater variety to my training.”

“Fast forward to August 2016 and the bus transfer to our hotels in Canakkale which lies on the Asian side of the Dardanelles. We got our first view of the crossing that evening on the ferry. The tour guide explained the swim by reference to some sighting points on the Asian side – the radio mast, the large Turkish flag and the floodlights at the local stadium. As we crossed in the twilight I began to wonder what the fuss was about – “Mast, flag, floodlights, job done.” – as easy as 1-2-3.”

“Any complacency was removed the following morning. The breakfast room in our hotel was on the top storey and had a panoramic view of the strait. Europe looked so……… far away. The breezy optimism of the previous night slipped away. The evident strength of the current and dog legged track of the swim started to create doubts. Breakfast was spent trying to find ways to mentally reduce the task ahead but none really worked. It felt as if we were deluding ourselves. Then SwimTrekker Alan announced the mantra 'Europe, Asia, Just Do It!' That seemed to fit the occasion – a realistic assessment of the task ahead, blended with a bit of can-do attitude and confidence that came from the fact that we had all prepared for it to some extent.”

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"It was an early start on race day as we gathered at the naval museum at 8.15am. The meeting area was filled with swimmers preparing themselves for the race by applying sunscreen, vaseline and doing warm up exercises. The atmosphere reflected the attitudes and goals of each one of the c.450 participants – some “in it to win it”, some aiming to finish to complete a personal challenge, others hoping to secure the bragging rights amongst the friends they were swimming with. The background noise was a combination of the usual pre-race playlists, nervous chatter spliced with announcements from the organisers. In short plenty of sensory stimulants to feed whatever thoughts were already racing through the mind – 'Europe, Asia, Just Do It!' We boarded the ferry in our swimsuits. As the ferry crossed to Europe, it more resembled a fishing boat than a passenger ship – its decks jammed with creatures dressed for the water rather than the land, shimmering and glistening in the sunlight, flicking around with energy, just waiting to be cast back into the sea."

"A short walk saw us gathered at the start line. We knew the start time was close when a cargo ship gave us an encouraging blast of its ship’s horn – it was the last vessel permitted to make its way down the shipping channel before the race began. Just before the start we were witnesses to the inspiring sight of a number of swimmers who had lost limbs starting the race – in the true spirit of swimming from Europe to Asia. After the appropriate sign, we crossed the start line with varying degrees of urgency. Each headed in a slightly different direction depending on how they were going to manage the effect of the current. The competitive swimmers headed directly for Canakkale with most heading towards the radio mast on the Asian side. Very soon the entire group separated into an arrowhead shape with the swimmers having a protective flotilla of boats and other craft ahead of them."

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"The swim itself was a blur. For me the first 20 minutes were a mixture of sighting so that I was heading in the right direction, focusing on my technique so that I swam steady and relaxed while watching out for other swimmers as they established their racing line. By then I’d burned my nervous energy and had settled into the rhythm of my stroke. I kept swimming until I thought it was time to turn towards Canakkale in order to catch the current to the finish line. In between focusing on my stroke and monitoring my position, I let my mind drift to the journey I’d taken to bring me to this place at this point in time – my holidays in Ireland, the SwimTrek trips, the progress I’d made in improving my technique and endurance. I realised that I should stop to take in the experience of being in the middle of the Dardanelles Straits with no risk of being run over by a ship. It will be a long treasured memory. Eventually reality knocks on the door to remind you that there is a race to swim - 'Europe, Asia, Just Do It!'"

"The time came to make the turn towards the finishing line and at this stage local fishermen were offering encouragement. As I passed the quay beside the beach where we were to finish I knew that I had managed the current correctly. The release of energy from the sense of relief allowed me to increase my pace as I swam towards the line. I stumbled with excitement as my feet touched the sand and I climbed the slip way to get my finishers medal. I’d done the race in about 70 minutes, well within the cut-off time. The sense of achievement was enormous – I’d finally done it."

'The release of energy from the sense of relief allowed me to increase my pace as I swam towards the line...'

"The medal ceremonies took place in the afternoon where we were able to applaud the medal winners in each age category – including a number of SwimTrekkers. That evening we reconvened for a well-earned farewell dinner. My flight from Canakkale to Istanbul the following morning took me parallel to the Dardanelles and put what I swam into perspective. I allowed myself a smug smile and basked in the sense of satisfaction with what I’d done."

"To those reading this who are considering doing the Hellespont, my advice is just do it. It is very achievable despite the cut-off time, the distance and its reputation - provided you prepare for it. Various race distances (3.5, 4.5 and 6kms) quoted online added uncertainty to my assessment of whether I could do it within the time allowed. However I found the advice and race notes from SwimTrek to be accurate and helpful in terms of preparation."

Read John's full Hellespont blog: Why Did the Irishman Swim the Dardanelles?...


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15. Virginia (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador)

"Shortly after stopping we jumped into the sea, much colder than I was expecting! However, after about twenty minutes of speedy crawl, we warmed up and had the huge variety of wild life pointed out to us. Fish life was abundant, sea lions came to see us and then the turtles appeared! Languorously flapping fins at just enough speed to keep going, what beautiful creatures. I felt so privileged to be in the water with them and squealed to myself every time one floated by. We passed chocolate chip sea stars, aptly named as they looked just like a cookie, and fish of the most beautiful azure blue with stunning long arms."

"We swam about 2.5 km then stopped for lunch and a snorkel. This was probably the highlight of the trip for me; shallow and warm clear, turquoise water which was teeming with wildlife. Turtles, sea lions and reef sharks lurked in the shadows with that evil smile which all kids story books seem to draw on their faces. Iguanas sped past like mini torpedoes, heads up, on a mission to who knows where. An hour whizzed by so quickly, no one wanted to get out as there was so much to see, but another swim beckoned!"

"The days followed in much the same way; boat ride out, swim, lunch, sunbathe, swim. Every day there was a myriad of wildlife to see; we were lucky enough to spot a hammerhead shark one morning in the distance! Eagle rays were shy and fairly elusive, but we spotted them! Penguins were also shy, away on the protected rocks and blue footed boobies, as comical as their name suggests. They were spectacularly unsuccessful in finding any food; plenty of diving, but no fish to be seen! At the end of the day we moored up off a little beach and were taken to see where the turtles nest, the tell-tale tractor tracks in the sand leading up to the nests, but no sign of the turtles. We were not permitted within about 10 metres of the nests but could still see the fantastic job these creatures had done to ensure a safe place to lay their eggs. We also had the chance to catch the comical crabs performing a dance on the rocks, bright red and quick as you like, skimming from one slippery surface to another. We sampled local cuisine, copious amounts of fish as you would expect and cooked to perfection. Coco loco cocktails appeared in the freshly harvested nuts, delicious and just what was needed after a day in the sun."

'Every day there was a myriad of wildlife to see; we were lucky enough to spot a hammerhead shark one morning in the distance!'

"The second half of the trip we were based on the island of Isabela. Spectacular, quieter than Santa Cruz and slightly less developed, I preferred it here! The hotel was stunning, food excellent and the sunsets were magnificent. Our days started with a short bus trip to the jetty, where yet again we were greeted by cheeky sea lions lounging on any bench going free, huge iguanas blocking the pathways, and local government staff intent on their job to ensure nothing contraband was brought onto the island. I was struck by how passionate all the locals were about this special place: first and foremost came the wildlife and nothing was going to impede the staff in their job to protect the islands and their inhabitants."

"The swimming was superb from here; long, challenging and tough. Currents were strong, and if you tried to swim against it, you soon discovered how tough it was! The water was warmer and we enjoyed longer times in the sea. Sharks swam under us, not at all bothered about the strange shapes above them. Bizarre, but true! One of the funniest moments of the trip was watching iguanas trying to find their way onto the rocks, struggling in a huge swell and nearly making it, then getting washed back into the sea. Who would have thought a group of fifteen swimmers could have been so engrossed in this that we were all shouting and egging the unfortunate ones onto the rocks! Fortunately, they all made it. Highly entertaining!"


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16. Ciara Gleeson (Sporades Islands, Greece)

"The Greek Sporades is such a unique trip in so many ways. The location itself is slightly off the beaten track and away from the typical Greek holiday locations. The port of Patritri on Alonissos is incredibly beautiful especially during the many renowned Greek sunsets. However, the Old Town of Alonissos, situated high up on the island is a hidden gem. Scattered with quaint coffee shops, traditional Greek restaurants and quirky boutique shops. The Old Town of Alonnisos also provides a 360 degree view of the many surrounding islands of the Sporades. The one thing I never expected was how welcoming and generous the Greek people were towards myself and the guests."

"As a first time guide, I was sceptical of what I was about to experience in relation to meeting and interacting with the guests. One thing I never considered was how, as a guide, I got the opportunity to meet the most interesting people. I really enjoyed getting to know the guests, their backgrounds and how they came about to ending up on a SwimTrek trip. I also enjoyed getting out on the water with the guests and being a support if things got tough, swimmers got tired or just needed a bit of motivation. A huge positive about the Greek Sporades is the incredible water quality. The crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea are an absolute pleasure to swim in with no jellyfish to worry about. Swimming for an hour seems like a breeze when there is shoals of hundreds of fish glimmering in the light, sea urchins and starfish to admire down below."

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"Personally, the Greek Sporades successfully encompasses what SwimTrek is about. SwimTreks trademark promising the opportunity to swim, explore and discover is guaranteed on this trip. Without a doubt, there will be swimming. As well as that, guests have the opportunity to explore the coastline of the Sporades with underwater caves and incredible sea life. Due to some of the coastline being exposed, guests have the opportunity to experience choppier waters while also getting to enjoy the calmer waters of the more sheltered areas. I believe guests also have the opportunity to discover on this trip. Not only is there an opportunity to discover a different part of the world through swimming in its waters, I also found the majority of guests discovered their potential swimming ability and were surprised by it. As the trips are suited to all types of swimmers, a lot of guests did not trust in their ability to swim the entire pre-planned swim for example, the full three kilometers. However, when it came to getting in and doing it, many of the guests discovered they were surprised by their underlying ability to swim further than they imagined possible..."

'Swimming for an hour seems like a breeze when there is shoals of hundreds of fish glimmering in the light, sea urchins and starfish to admire down below...'


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17. Tracee and Duke (Haiti, Caribbean)

"We are really happy that we took the route of working through SwimTrek for our first Swim for Haiti event. You get to experience the event like any other entrant, but you have the added benefit of all of the organization and expertise that SwimTrek brings to their adventures. In addition to the swim, we had the pleasure of hanging out with other SwimTrekers (a unique breed of folks that totally get why it is fun to swim kilometer after kilometer in the open ocean). We leave every SwimTrek trip with fantastic memories of the awesome people we meet from all over the world - this trip was no exception. We also loved the side excursions - a memorable hike through a coop farm and past local villages to a watercress garden that featured a refreshing dip in a watercress pool. A trail run through the mountainside near the resort that ended in a massive rock quarry. A visit to a resort that is a converted sugar plantation featuring a museum about local Haitian history. And of course, swim coaching from Simon who had excellent tips for all of us - regardless of our skill level."

"Haiti is a unique and wonderful country. Most of our knowledge of Haiti had come from what we had heard in the media - earthquakes, hurricanes, political turmoil, high unemployment, etc. While there is truth in all of these things, the additional reality is that it is a beautiful country with stunning geography, delicious food, and lovely people who are kind, warm, friendly, and resilient. Haiti takes you on a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but you can be sure that the experience will change you for the better."

'Haiti is a unique and wonderful country... with stunning geography, delicious food, and lovely people who are kind, warm, friendly, and resilient...'

"The 10K swim is a seriously unique (and long) event. We started with a boat ride and launched from an Island that was 10K from the Wahoo Bay Resort - each swimmer is accompanied by a local bwa fouye - a local fisherman paddling a traditional dugout canoe that provides support and carries any water or snacks that you may need along the way. The Caribbean water was clear and warm - visibility was excellent and we could see all the way to the bottom for many portions of the swim. The swim ends at the Wahoo Bay Beach resort - we were greeted with music and cheers from the crowd and a delightful "after party" with food, music, beverages, and a heartwarming awards ceremony. Swim for Haiti is truly a special event that directly benefits the people of Haiti and shines a spotlight on this amazing country."

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"All of the participants were so fun to swim with and many of them had special stories and unique personal journeys that brought them to this event. Fred and George were two of our fellow Swim Trekers (young brothers from the UK who seem to find all kinds of crazy adventures to get themselves into) - we had a blast hanging out with them and trading stories from "across the pond" - we definitely like the sound of "tumble turns" vs. the flip turns we do in the US. Another highlight was getting to meet and hang out with Naomy Grand'Pierre - the first Haitian woman to swim in the Olympics (she competed in the Rio Olympics). Naomy is a sprinter, so she had her work cut out for her competing in her first long-distance open water swim. Naomy is a delightful and humble young lady that provided a wonderful example and was a great face for her fellow Haitians. We were even able to teach an Olympian a few things - like making sure you slather yourself in Vaseline to prevent chafing before embarking on a long-distance ocean swim... all-in-all, it was a fantastic trip with memories for a lifetime!"

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Read the full 'Swim for Haiti' blog here...


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18. Ricky Andrews (Khor Asham, Oman)

“As one of the SwimTrek guides, I’ve been to some incredible locations and have spent much of my time watching swimmers, sometimes leading to a shortage of my own swimming. Although many guides have some serious credentials many like myself are pretty comfortable paddling reasonable distances in the clear, warm waters in the Mediterranean. I was complacent until last year when I guided on the Long Distance Training Camp in Mallorca. It was here I was taken by surprise by swimmers with serious purpose and drive. It was like a cold, wet-slap round the face in a literal sense. It’s time I stopped observing and started testing myself physically…”

“I started in Cala Ferrera bay, after a long 2hrs in 14°C, through numbness, cursing and feed-stops every 7 minutes or so, I felt refreshed, and mildly hypothermic. I had completed the qualifier for a channel relay swim. (Thanks Fifi). I am tempted to try more but I realise cold water probably isn’t my thing just yet, but I was still looking to push my boundaries of personal achievement/stupidity I continued to look for a swim that tested my limits without killing all my passion for swimming in the process. I’m not hanging my trunks up any time soon!”

“I found the Swim! I was going to swim the full length of the Khor Asham in Oman. I couldn’t know for sure, but it’s probable no one has done this yet. The full length of the sound is 16km so I worked out a way to throw some more distance in the mix and make it a little more entertaining. The spot is perfect for a long swim, it’s sheltered, broken up with a few islands, has plenty of coral and has diverse marine life. At 23°C it is just about right to test me at this distance. It was important that I could concentrate on the swim without the concerns of boat traffic and changes in conditions, so seasoned seadog and fellow guide John jumped on-board to watch, feed and liven it up a bit! Local boat pilot Jasim took the helm. I met Eric on the LDT camp and revealed the plan. He just happens to live in Muscat and by chance it turns out we swim almost stroke for stroke. This is a huge motivator on a swim this distance, so he flew over to take the plunge. We had a day in Khasab to acclimatise, and chucked 2 swims in from our hotel beach.”

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“On 28th January, after a serious breakfast we dived into the Khor Asham from its most Westerly tip. Immediately meeting a coastline lined with coral a few feet beneath the surface, and boulder weaving options. Hump-back Dolphins soon followed us across the first bay and into the Khor. Hugging the coastline for safety and so you can see more. After surging through a large gap in the land mass we glared a black-tip reef-shark passing. Arabian angelfish packed the reefs, rays were strewn out along the way some gliding beneath us for some time before turning into the deep. With feeds roughly every half hour we just kept them spinning until the next whistle. We crossed to telegraph island where you lose sight of the bottom and just aim for the small flat mound amongst the baron, jagged scape of the Hajar Mountains. Then anti clockwise around the back and onwards to Shamm Island. In places the water was various shades of green and full of plankton although for me, welcomed warm patches. The tide was high which allowed us to sneak through a small inlet leading into a lagoon and shortly afterwards coming face to face with more dolphins. I had to keep moving due to shivering. Rounding the next corner we could see the full length of the Khor, we knew we had a bit more swimming to do. The current started its ebb and the easterly wind picked up too to amplify our challenge. At this point the harmless smacks of moon jellyfish were inviting and took our minds off fatigue. It was like a Jellyfish slalom- going as close as you can get without touching, loads of fun. Anyway, I needed to get warm. Crossing to Seebi island made a difference by upping the stroke rate and effort, I realised the cold I felt wasn’t going to get any worse. Pretty sure that I just broke through a small barrier and didn’t need the warmer drinks anymore. On meeting the island, John had his eyes locked with an Osprey whilst we had a kilometre break with still water and a generous current. The finale involved a head wind growing from the finish line and a bit of chop when crossing from Seebi Island to the village.”

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“We saw the end and went for it, completely full of adrenaline and arms like lead we were steaming across, showing no signs of stopping. On the final headland however, we were confronted by local fishermen. We didn’t understand any of it from the water, but got the gist that it doesn’t sound all that positive! In translation from Kumzari (local dialect) to broken English our pilot tells us it went something like- “you’re not going past this point!” so we swam another 300m or so down the coast and put a halt to it all. The locals here are protective of what little they have. Full respect to them… even if we have just swam 20km… Apparently, in this case history is written by the survivors. We climbed the ladder on-board our vessel and tucked into our immediate reward which was a curry on the boat and a pleasant journey back digesting what just happened.” “We can both be sleep well knowing that unofficially we were the first people to swim the full length of Khor Asham without seriously annoying the locals and then living to swim another day! Eric is already planning bigger swims in Oman from Muscat and I look forward to making the most of each location this year by extending the distance and planning more swims!”

'We saw the end and went for it, completely full of adrenaline and arms like lead we were steaming across, showing no signs of stopping...'

Read Ricky’s full blog 'Khor Blimey' here...


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19. Fran Maitland (Bay of Kotor, Montenegro)

"Flying in over Dubovnik was magical, creating excitement for the start of our SwimTrek holiday in Montenegro. Waiting for 2 1/2 hrs in Dubovnik wasn't quite so exciting! We had coffee, read and played 'I Spy' trying to spot fellow Swim Trekkers waiting for the transfer. I spotted Tracey from Melbourne before we made our way to the transfer bus where we met up with Matt, Lucy, Ellie and Sophie."

"The drive to Perest took about 1 1/2 hour through green, tree-lined roads with mountains to the left and as we got close, the sea and the bay to our right. Excitement mounted as we drove around the bay and guessed which village was Perest."

"Arrival was through a gate as the small village is restricted to local cars to maintain its heritage status. It's beautiful. This small village lines up along the waterfront looking across the bay to other small settlements."

"Finally after 28 hrs we arrived at Perest Palace our beautiful home for the week. Our fellow Trekkers arrived - Michael from Germany, Yannick - Switzerland, sisters Anya and Sam from France and England, friends Rosanna and Catherine from London, friends Ellie, Will and Sophie also from London, couple Matt and Lucy from near Liverpool, experienced trekker Jen from the Lake District and our fellow Aussie, Tracey. A great group! We met our guides for the week. Coll from Cornwall and John from Newcastle and they look like good fun and ready to take on our mixed group of 16 swimmers."

"Nerves kicked in at the orientation talk where we introduced ourselves and talked about our swimming experience. I was not the novice of the group this time! I didn't want to relax because it's well known I have two speeds. Slow and 'not so slow with fins!"

'The group were bonding and everyone seems to be ready to get to know each other and have some fun...'

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"Coll allocated our group colour hats according to the 1km time we submitted online. Did we tell the truth about our speed? Did we over or underestimate our swiftness? That will be the question. I was given orange along with Steve, Lucy and Matt. What! It can't be. Steve is much faster than I am. And apparently it's the fast group! I think there's been an error - but all shall be revealed at the first swim! We headed down to the waters edge down about 50 steps to the most picturesque spot. I love this place already!"

"The group were bonding and everyone seems to be ready to get to know each other and have some fun."

"In we went. It was a bit crowded for me and swimming without fins I quickly dropped to the back of the group and decided to enjoy the swim. Not orange group speed I'm sure! We went for about 300 metres had a chat then continued on towards our hotel along the shore line. About 800 all up. Lovely water temperature lovely swimming."

"First night of the week is a group dinner held in the dining room of our Palace. Our hosts prepared a feast of local foods and kindly catered for the three gluten free eaters. Washed down with local wines the night was a great success and set the tone for what is sure to be a fantastic week..."

Read Fran's full write up from our Montenegro trip!


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20. Greg Heath (Aukštaitija, Lithuania)

"My wife introduced me to the concept of a swimming “holiday” in 2008 after her first SwimTrek experience in the previous year. Since then my wife and I have been clocking up our SwimTrek mileage having completed six and five trips respectively. Of these, two involved swimming in freshwater - one in our native country (the Lake District) and the other in Slovenia. SwimTrek appeals to us in many ways: first, the trips are highly organised and led by congenial, professional guides; second, it attracts like- minded people who not only share a passion for swimming but also an appreciation of the Great Outdoors; and third, it encourages us to venture into countries that we would have hitherto ignored. It with these aspirations in mind that we chose our next aquatic sojourn in Lithuania. I am delighted to report that it exceeded our expectations!"

'Any suggestions for improvement? Just one - the trip is too short!'

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"We arrived at our destination, the Tiki Inn, a beautiful, bucolic abode, named after its owners Matthew and his wife Audra. It is set in the Aukštaitija National Park and faces Lake Lūšiai which is approximately 20 metres away. For those possessing a penchant for ornithology, the same said park is home to over two hundred species of birds. Furthermore, as one walks around the lakes, what strikes you is that the ground is like a mycological magnet, replete with fungi of all shapes, sizes and colours. After the obligatory group introductions, it became clear that for some members of the group, this was their inaugural swimming holiday. For some of these individuals there was an element of apprehension - something that I could certainly relate to when I undertook my very first SwimTrek adventure in a very rain sodden Lake District (well it is England- what else would one expect?). However, our gracious guides, Telly and Marlys, resplendent in bright orange SwimTrek couture (and tanned skin to match!), were very adept in assuaging any concerns that the same individuals initially possessed. Moreover, they engendered a convivial, team spirit that reverberated throughout other members of the group. This set the tone to the trip."

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"The first swim of the trip commenced outside our dwelling and involved swimming to the other side of Lake Lūšiai. The small distance (1 Km) allowed members of the group to get a feel for swimming in the lake. More importantly, as we all swam without wetsuits, it gave those the opportunity who were feeling slightly cold towards the end of the swim to choose the appropriate swimwear attire vis a vis the longer swims. On a personal note, I was one of those individuals who felt more comfortable donned in neoprene for such swims. The swims that followed were absolutely divine. Each lake has a wonderful arboreal outline which is stunning and the absence of water-sport traffic was not only conspicuous by its absence but made the whole swimming experience more enjoyable. The piece de resistance for me was the final swim between the lakes of Asalnai and Lūšiai. This was 6km in total and involved a small break to allow everybody to regroup and to take in some of the scenery and some of the wildlife (although cormorants, great crested grebes were commonplace, an osprey graced us with her presence on our final swim which made it even more memorable)."

"Any suggestions for improvement? Just one - the trip is too short! There is plenty of swimming to be done that could last more than a week and you leave craving more."


Part Two coming soon!

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