My SwimTrek journey began in Majorca in 2012, on the Introduction to Open Water trip. I joined 10 other novice open water swimmers, 9 ladies and one lucky chap! We all had different reasons for being there but all of us were new to sea swimming. My incentive to go on this trip had been a significant birthday and the feeling I wanted to try something a little different. I had always swum but never competitively and, taught by my Mum, I had never had a formal lesson in my life. I had a few challenges to going on the trip, like leaving my young children at home, with one who couldn’t understand why on earth his Mum would want to spend a week away from him!
The week taught me a lot about myself - that I could cope outside my comfort zone, that I could feel at ease amongst like-minded strangers, six of whom have become firm friends and companions on the trips I keep returning to! I returned home feeling elated, anyone who would listen got the full force of my enthusiasm for this kind of trip. I was hooked after one week and couldn’t wait to start thinking about the next one!!
Fast forward a year and six of the original group met up in Croatia. We were all better swimmers and had worked hard over the year to develop more stamina to cope with the longer swims. Stroke improvement was at the forefront of my mind and I was keen to be in the fast group too! It was hard work keeping up with some pretty nifty swimmers, but I persevered and managed it! The same group of six returned the year after to Montenegro, again a year of training behind us and with strokes significantly improved. With a niggling shoulder injury, I enjoyed a more relaxed pace on this SwimTrek. The weather was cooler that week, but I actually loved the colder water and didn’t feel the need to get out early. I began to think about trips where I could enjoy more colder water swims -another test for me!
Skip back to the child who didn’t want his Mum to go away to Majorca. He was a pretty good swimmer too, so I took both my boys to Sivota on the SwimTrek Activity Week (which is now the Ionian Explorer) where he joined me in the shorter afternoon swims, a great way to introduce him and help rid his fear of not being able to see the bottom. Our guides Ricky and Sian were superb in encouraging him. I needn’t have worried about him as he loved every minute.
What would tempt me on another trip? By now, the options offered were getting much greater and venues were popping up all over the world. Why limit myself to just Europe? The same intrepid six ventured to Oman where we experienced a completely different type of swim holiday. We had a wonderful dhow as our boat and stunning fjord scenery surrounding us. This trip has such a massive wow factor, the swims were long with plenty to look at in the water including tropical fish and dolphins. The food was amazing and delivered to the boat every day from the hotel with home-made curries, hummus and fresh dates; a foodie’s heaven!
So, with Europe and the Middle East under my belt, where to next and why? It was becoming harder to make plans for all six of us to be away at the same time, so a few of us went to Crete, enjoying a couple of days in Athens en route. Another place that I probably wouldn’t have visited if I hadn’t been on a swimming holiday. I loved this trip- beautiful water, a fab boat, great swimming and wonderful new company. I suddenly was becoming less bothered about developing the perfect stroke and began to enjoy just being in the water for the sake of it. A SwimTrek holiday definitely does something to your state of mind; I come home feeling relaxed, fitter, a little bit sun tanned and with a feeling of personal achievement.
By 2017, my wanderlust was beginning to get the better of me and definitely influences the choice of my next few trips. As a family we have always travelled so this seemed to be the ideal opportunity to see the world from a different angle. I enjoyed the Maldives where the swimming was more challenging, the marine life was nothing short of spectacular and being on a liveaboard boat was a whole new experience. No Wi-Fi was even better; we didn’t know what was going on in the rest of the world and were in our own little bubble of perfection.
My SwimTrek trip to the Galapagos Islands accompanied by a few days in Quito was my first long distance solo trip. I was nervous about travelling that far by myself. I needn’t have worried because everything ran perfectly. This trip was a wildlife lover’s dream- nowhere in the world can you see birds, marine iguanas, penguins, turtles, sea lions, flamingos and pelicans and get to swim with them all too. It was a busy trip with some challenging swimming conditions, but one where it changed my mind set about travelling long distance solo. I began to plan for 2019 when I was in Ibiza at the end of 2018 and asked our guide John where he would recommend. Without a second's hesitation, he said the Komodo Islands and so it was my next SwimTrek adventure. I can quite honestly say I have never been anywhere so beautiful. Think the backdrop of Jurassic Park with a tropical fish tank beneath you. It was stunning in every respect, including the liveaboard boat. Another haven for wildlife and the eponymous dragons are also a must see.
This reads a little bit like a diary of my trips; however, you may have noticed in the latter part I haven’t mentioned improving my stroke or wanting to be in the fast group. I will never be in the fast group and I actually don’t feel the need to push myself that hard either. I want to enjoy the swims without feeling like I am in an endurance challenge, I want to see what is above and below me and enjoy the company of the other swimmers in my group. I have enjoyed that wonderful feeling of just being- nothing can get to you when you have so much to see. SwimTrek’s strapline (swim explore discover) sums it up perfectly for me. The main objective of the trips is to swim, but for me particularly as I have done more trips solo, the explore and discover part has become just as important. If I am going halfway across the world to swim, then I am going to make the most and spend some time exploring the surrounding country. I love meeting new people too and there are always wonderful guests from so many corners of the world. It does us good to get out of our comfort zone and for me, that first trip 7 years ago has opened up a whole new world. I will be going on Swim Trek holidays for as long as I am able and exploring many different corners of the world.
That little boy who didn’t want his Mum to go away is now a 6’ 4” teenager who has since told me ‘I am really proud of you Mum. None of my friends’ mums do anything as exciting or as crazy as you do.’ I hope I always have a zest for this kind of travel and the health to do it too. I can only say a massive thank you to SwimTrek for having changed my life and made me realise that anything is possible. Th only question remaining then is ‘where to next?!’ Who knows, Belize and the Seychelles look pretty amazing to me!