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Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you're a first-timer or an experienced SwimTrekker, we know that you're likely to have a few questions for us. We've tried to answer some of the most common questions that we receive below, however, if there is anything you can't find here, please feel free to get in touch to have a chat with our team.

Jump to section

  1. An introduction to Open Water Swimming
  2. Before you book a SwimTrek Trip
  3. When you are on a SwimTrek trip
  4. Swim gear and what you need to pack
  5. Swimming Technique and Fitness

An introduction to Open Water Swimming

Where can I practice open water swimming?

You can open water swim in lakes, the sea and pools all across the world! As a general rule it is best to check water quality and conditions before a swim and don’t go alone. You can join your local open water swimming group and find like minded swimmers - we’re a friendly bunch and there’s often a lot of cake! If you’re considering taking your first step into open water swimming find out what to expect from a swimming holiday.

How long does it take to swim a mile?

Many factors depend on how long it takes to swim 1 mile in open water. The fitness and stroke of the swimmer obviously have a large impact as well as the weather and conditions of the water.

How to train for open water swimming in a pool?

There is the perception that open water swimming is harder than a pool because of water conditions, clarity and current. It is undoubtedly more interesting swimming outdoors and from A to B than up and down a crowded chlorinated lane so you may find if you are new to open water swimming that you can achieve longer distances easier than in a pool as you are more engaged with your surroundings. There are safety issues to take into account when swimming in the open water, especially swimming in an area with no lifeguards and we would always strongly advise to not go swimming alone. Make sure someone knows where you are, do not enter water you are unfamiliar with and check locally for information about hidden currents or obstacles in the water. You can access our full training program here which you can follow in the pool or open water to prepare yourself for a SwimTrek trip.

How to start open water swimming?

To swim in open water take time to pick a spot that is well known for open water swimming and check the conditions. First time open water swimmers should enter the water carefully to make sure your body adjusts to the cooler temperature. If once you’ve entered Soon you’ll know how to relax in open water swimming. You may wish to purchase a wetsuit or swim shoes to increase comfort levels in cooler waters and to protect your feet on stony and rocky terrain.

What is the difference between open water swimming and pool swimming?

There are many variables between pool swimming and swimming in open water notably; temperature, presence of fish, plants and minerals in the water, often reduced visibility in open water. Weather conditions such as wind can affect waves in sea water. Currents should be identified and respected. With all that considered leaving behind the black line and experiencing the freedom of open water swimming in an unmatched joy.

What is the difference between open water swimming and wild swimming?

The terms are sometimes interchangeable however the term ‘wild swimming’ often suggest swimming in open water as part of a small unorganised group to explore off the beaten path swim spots. Open water swimming can suggest swimming further distances in big bodies of water as opposed to for the exploration of swimming locations.

Is wild swimming safe?

Wild swimming generally means that you are not guided and of course this poses some risks. SwimTrek guided open water adventures mean not only that you’ll be able to explore safely but the security of guides means you will be able to visit more remote locations.

Before you book a SwimTrek Trip

Can I bring a non-swimming guest?

The majority of our trips can cater for non-swimming guests, however, please note that this is subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. All non-swimming guests must agree to our non-swimmer agreement and, for safety reasons, are not permitted on the safety vessels that accompany our swimmers.

How should I prepare for my trip?

You can download our comprehensive Training Plan for all the information that you'll need to get the most out of your holiday.

What’s included in my trip price?

For detailed information about exactly what’s included in your trip prices, please see the ‘Overview’ tab of the relevant package page.

All of our trips include swim guides and safety support on all swims and accommodation (on multi-day trips).

Food and Drink varies between trips. For general information refer to our Food and Drink page and for specific trip inclusions see the ‘Overview’ tab of the relevant trip page.

Please note that travel to and from your tour is not included in your trip price. Our flight tips page features tips on how to secure the best deals to reach your destination. It is also updated weekly with price guides to a range of trips.

Can I book part of a trip?

Unfortunately, all of our trips must be booked as an entire package and no discount can be given for guests who are unable to take part in all activities/days.

Are there any age restrictions when joining a SwimTrek trip?

All guests must be 18 years or over at the beginning of our standard SwimTrek trips or be accompanied by a swimming adult if aged between 16 and 18. Teenagers can now join us on our families with teens trips.

Do you cater for solo travellers?

Absolutely! Many SwimTrekkers join our trips as solo travellers and end up with an incredible group of friends who share a love for the open water. A limited number of single supplement rooms are available on most of our trips, however, it’s also possible to book a ‘Roommate Share’ room, which means that we will match you up with a SwimTrekker of the same gender to share a twin room. Please note that single supplements and roommate shares are both subject to availability.

What will my fellow swimmers be like?

As swimming is a low impact, medium intensity activity, it enables a wide variety of ages and experience levels to take part in our trips. Your fellow guests could include young students, retired couples, solo travellers, groups of friends, experienced open water swimmers or those unfamiliar with life outside the pool. Whatever the makeup of your group, you can be sure that you’ll have a mix of fascinating personalities from all around the world who share a common love of swimming and the great outdoors.

Are there any non-swimming activities?

The number of non-swimming activities varies considerably from one trip to the next, so it’s worth taking a look at the ‘Itinerary’ tab of the trip page that you’re interested in to find out more about what’s involved. Many trips include great walks to and from the start/finish point of our swims, while there is usually also time to see some local sites and enjoy the culture and atmosphere of the location when you’re out of the water.

How long has SwimTrek been running tours for?

SwimTrek was founded by Simon Murie in 2003 and has been running open water swimming holidays all across the globe ever since. To find out more about SwimTrek’s story, please click here .

How safe are your destinations?

The safety of our guests, guides and other local partners is the number one priority in every decision that we make. From monitoring up-to-date travel advice for each of our locations, to making adjustments to a planned itinerary during your time away, the well-being of each and every person who is involved in a SwimTrek holiday is always at the forefront of our minds. For more information on travel advice for any of our trip, please click Travel Advice.

Do I need to take out travel insurance before joining a trip?

For all information regarding insurance requirements on our trips, please click here.

How often do you cancel a departure?

As a tour operator, there may be times where we need to cancel a departure due to a lack of bookings on a particular date, however, this is an extremely rare occurrence and we consistently run more than 97% of our scheduled departures. If we do need to cancel a particular departure, we will advise all affected guests at least eight weeks prior to the trip start date.

How can I make a booking?

Bookings can be made directly via the SwimTrek website or by calling our head office team on +44 (0)1273 739713. Generally, a 25% deposit is required in order to secure your bookings, however, please note that a larger deposit may be required for certain packages such as our Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim or our spectacular Galapagos Islands trip.

Am I Fit to Swim?

During the booking process we do ask you to complete a Health Declaration. SwimTrek Guides are first aid trained, however due to the nature of operating in open water, medical facilities are not always easily accessible. Conditions in open water can change quickly, and our trips can be physically challenging. We ask guests to complete a health declaration a copy of which can be found here

When is the final balance of my trip due and how can I pay it?

Payments can be made at any time in the lead up to your trip, however your final balance must be paid at least 90 days* before the start of your trip. To make a payment, you can log in and navigate to the ‘Costs and Payments’ section of your booking. Alternatively, you can call the SwimTrek office on +44 (0)1273 739713 to make a payment over the phone. *Please note, some trips require earlier final balance payments.

When you are on a SwimTrek trip

How far will I swim each day?

Daily swimming distances vary considerably from one trip to the next. The majority of our trips cover an average of 3-6km per day, usually split between one morning swim and one afternoon swim, however, we also have several Short Swims options and introductory trips with shorter daily swim distances. At the other end of the scale, we also have a number of Long Swims trips and Distance Training Camps which include daily swim distances of 7-8km. Please use the filters on our Trip Search page to find the daily swim distance that is just right for you.

Will I be able to swim the distances in the trip itinerary?

While the daily swim distances may be more than you're used to swimming in a single session, there are a couple of reasons why you may surprise yourself with how far you can swim on your trip. Firstly, while many people are used to doing all of their daily swimming in a single session, e.g. before work, during lunchtime or at the end of the day, by breaking up your daily distance into several shorter swims, often with one swim in the morning and another in the afternoon, most people find that they can cover significantly greater distance than what they expected. Secondly, while going up and down a pool can quickly become monotonous and cause you to end your session early, swimming in the open water means that there's always something interesting to look at, both above and below the water. This often means that you cover much more distance without even realising! Finally, the psychological effect of seeing your target destinations ahead of you, combined with the increased buoyancy that you'll experience in the open water, generally means that it's possible to swim greater distances in the open water than what you could manage in the pool. It's also worth mentioning that every swimming group is accompanied by its own support vessel, so if you do need to take a break at any stage throughout your swim, you're more than welcome to jump on the boat for a rest.

How fast do I need to be able to swim?

We often have a wide range of swimming speeds on a particular departure, with our guests covering 1km in the open water in anything from 10-40 minutes. As a guide, guests should be able to swim a minimum of 1km in 40 minutes. The average SwimTrek speed is 15-20 minutes per kilometre which works out at around 29 minutes a mile.

One of the great features of a SwimTrek trip is that we cater for this range of swimming speeds on each departure. At the start of your trip, your guides will carry out an acclimatisation swim with all guests, which will then be used to group together swimmers of a similar speed. Generally, there are 2-3 different speed groups per trip, however, this can vary depending on the makeup of the group on each particular departure.

By splitting swimmers into smaller speed groups, we are able to ensure that all guests are swimming at an appropriate pace. For most of our SwimTrek trips we ask that swimmers are able to swim 1km (0.6 miles) in 40 minutes to take part in our swimming trips.

Do I have to complete all of the swims?

No. This is a holiday, after all! If you need to take a break during a swim you are welcome to jump on the support boat at any time. On the trips where we use kayaks rather than main support boats, your guides will be able to advise you about the various options for getting out of the water and walking different sections of the route, where possible.

Which strokes do people swim?

Although the majority of our guests swim front crawl (freestyle), we often have a number of breast-strokers, too. Having different swimming groups means you can swim whatever stroke you want.

What type of support do we have on the swims?

Every swimming group is accompanied by its own support vessel on each swim. On most trips, these vessels usually consist of one main boat and two inflatable boats, however, on some of our lakes and rivers trips where we are unable to use motorised vessels, our guides accompany swimmers in support kayaks. Your support vessels and guides are there to provide safety cover, drinks and snacks, as well as assist with improving your technique over the course of your trip.

Will we see any marine life?

One of the great joys of open water swimming is that it gives you the chance to appreciate the incredible range of wildlife, natural topography and underwater vistas that most people never get the chance to see. The type of marine life that you may encounter on your trip varies considerably from once location to the next. We’ve been known to swim with everything from curious dolphins and inquisitive seals to laid back sea turtles to exotic fish.

What will the water temperature be?

Indicative location water and air temperatures can be found on each trip page, within the 'Trip Info' tab under 'Trip Grading’.

Swim gear and what you need to pack

What to wear for open water swimming?

Some open water swimmers will always swim ‘skins’ in open water - this doesn’t mean naked (although maybe sometimes it does) but in a light swim costume such as you would wear in a pool. If you want to be able to stay in cooler water longer or feel more comfortable with some protection then a wetsuit is a good option. Wetsuits come in various sizes and it’s important to get one that fits correctly to work effectively. You should still wear a swimming costume under a wetsuit for open water swimming. If swimming in really warm climates it can be a good idea to wear a rash vest that is a lightweight skin tight top that will protect your skin from harmful UV rays while swimming. Swim shoes can protect you from rocky terrain under and above water - or like us a SwimTrek HQ help you get down to the sea on the rocky Brighton beach!

What should I bring with me on a trip?

For detailed information on what we recommend that you bring with you on a particular trip, please see the ‘Trip Info’ tab of the relevant package page. You can also download the Trip Notes from the ‘Trip Overview’ sidebar of each package page. We will provide you with a SwimTrek swim hat on every trip.

Will I need a wetsuit on the swims?

Every swimmer has a different sensitivity to cold water, which makes it difficult to give a generic answer to this question. We have blog post here to help you decide whether you may need to wetsuit or not in certain water temperatures and, if so, which type and thickness might be right for you. Many of the locations we operate in can be remote and it will be hard to find a wetsuit appropriate for swimming. If in doubt, we recommend that you bring a wetsuit with you from home. Throughout a week of swimming, your body will become more susceptible to the cold and you will feel the water affecting you more. We recommend bringing a suit that you have tried and tested and are happy swimming in. If in doubt about whether you should take a wetsuit with you on your trip, we recommend that you follow our theory that “it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!”

Tri Wetsuit Hire offer a range of high quality entry and performance wetsuits for open water swimming. Their hire periods are 2 weeks, 4 weeks and a full season (Winter Season: 1st October - 1st April / Summer Season: 1st April - 1st October). Please use 'SWIMTREK5' when booking your wetsuit to receive a special discount.

Which wetsuit for open water swimming

The best wetsuit for open water swimming depends a lot on personal preference, reason for wearing the suit and the conditions of the water in which you are swimming. Almost all wetsuits come in standard sizing by gender - XS, S, M, ML (medium long), L, XL. The best way to find out which is right for you is to try them on. A wetsuit should be tight but able to do up and undo by yourself. Here’s our review of some swimming wetsuits in conjunction with the Open Water Swimming Society.

Can I use a snorkel on the swims?

Whilst snorkels are permitted on our organised trips, swimmers are advised to discuss this with their guides at the welcome meeting. It is incredibly vital that if you choose to wear a snorkel, you continue to listen for instructions or warnings which may be issued by the guides and to maintain sighting at all times.

How to put on a swim cap

A tried and tested method here at SwimTrek HQ is to get a fellow swimmer to help you out by holding the front of the hat while you put any hair on top and pull it over. If you’re swimming solo then first make sure any hair you have is tied up and hold it in a bun on top of your head with one hand. With the other hand stretch the hat from front to back of your head stuffing your hair in as you go. Once the hat is firmly on your head covering your hair you can push any stray wisps under with your fingers. Move the hat around until it is comfortable, strap on your goggles and away you go! If you have trouble getting the hat to stretch or to grip onto your head putting a drop of water into the hat and swishing it around can help.

Can you swim with a fitbit?

No, most styles of a fitbit are described as strictly water resistant, meaning it will withstand a splash of rain but is not designed to be submerged. Lots of general fitness trackers are unsuitable for swimming so we would advise purchasing a specially made swim tracker.

Swimming Technique and Fitness - Answers from SwimTrek guide Ricky!

Will I have a chance to improve my swimming technique?

Many people take part in our trips in order to improve their open water swimming technique. Whether you’re new to the open water or have been out of the pool for your whole life, our guides will work closely with you to get the most out of every stroke that you take.

Is open water swimming good for you?

Swimming is a great exercise for your body and mind. Unlike running or a gym workout, swimming is very kind to your body as it doesn’t put stress on your bones due to the water buoyancy. There has also been much research into the positive effects that open water swimming can have on mental health - being in the water allows you to take a break from the busy pressures of modern life.

Does swimming build muscle?

Swimming can improve fitness and building muscle is a side effect of getting fitter. If your aim is to predominantly work on building muscle then swimming will not be as helpful as other activities. The amount of muscle you are likely to build will depend on the way you swim. A causal swim is unlikely to help you bulk up however high intensity interval training workout in the water will make your muscles stronger. In relation to our SwimTrek trips other than events and coaching trips you are not under pressure to workout or swim anymore than you feel comfortable.

Is swimming cardio?

Swimming does work your cardiovascular system and it does use most of the muscles of the body, working your heart. Once again it depends on the amount of energy you put into your swims. On our trips it is likely that your fitness will improve, especially if you are generally a pool or outdoor swimmer that swims less than 2km a day. Lots of our swimmers come back to their clubs or swim groups and find that they can swim with much more stamina and ease than before their SwimTrek trip.

Is swimming good for toning?

If combined with a healthy lifestyle and you are swimming frequently then it can help you to tone. Depending on your fitness level, body type and the swim workouts that you are achieving will determine how it will change your body.

What muscles does swimming work?

One of the great aspects of swimming is that it works the muscles all over your body. With regards to good technique and what stroke you are doing these will differ. For freestyle we try to work the lats - the larger muscles rather than the smaller muscles in the shoulder, your obliques on your core along the side of your stomach. The leg muscles glutes are worked with kicking. Breastroke swimmers with the wide legs movements work the abductor and adductor thigh muscles.

What to eat before swimming?

Contrary to the popular belief old wives tale that you have to leave an hour after eating to swim or you’ll drown there’s no evidence of this being true however swimming on a full stomach can make you feel sluggish and unwell. However it is best not to try to not eat too much before swimming if your blood is busy digesting then it will affect your session. Don’t think too much about eating before a swim as most swimmers know you’ll be ravenous as soon as you leave the water.