The Great Swim Safari

Over the last few months I’ve become a bit of a nomad after finishing work in London and deciding to head home. Adopting the nomadic backpacking life, I have covered a bit of ground in Europe (mostly Italy) and more recently in New Zealand.
While the long holiday has been great, everyone who has traveled will know that routine (and your regular swim schedule) go out the window. But being the fish that I am I wasn’t prepared to put the swimming completely on hold so instead I decided to put swimming front and centre and make my travels resemble a bit of a swim safari.
The Italian Swim Safari
I figured the best way to start my swim safari was to escape the cooling autumn temperatures in the UK and Northern Europe and head for the Mediterranean. I loved the cities and coast in Sicily. It has the friendly South Italian vibe combined with good weather and views.
For both my swimming spots (Taormina and Cefalu) I packed my tow float with a picnic lunch and spent the days mostly in the water. Taormina was the longer swim (~6km swimming to and from a nearby bay) and it was gorgeous with little sea caves to explore but if I’m honest it wasn’t the best swim spot. It is a popular tourist spot and boat traffic increased as the day went on and despite being close to the shore line and using my tow float I had a couple of close calls with fast boats. Cefalu was more swimmer friendly and was a gorgeous and wide bay that Sicilians themselves like to visit.
I continued my swim safari up the coast of Italy, doing swims in both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. Amalfi was probably my favourite here. I stayed in a village nearby but not in the tourist filled Amalfi and learnt my lesson about avoiding boat traffic by swimming away from Amalfi to the small town of Minori. I once again packed up my tow float and swam the few km along the coast to Minori where I stayed a couple of hours for lunch and gelato before swimming back.
A swim in Lake Garda marked the end of my Italian swim safari before I ventured into the Swiss mountains.
The NZ Swim Safari
Since being home I’ve been lucky to be able to spend a few months travelling around. My travels here weren’t always about swim destinations but I still packed my togs.
Being a North Islander, I hadn’t spend much time at the bottom of the country so I decided that after seeing the parents I would head south. My journey took me bush (walking the Kepler and Stewart Island/Rakiura walks). Cooler water temperatures and not wanting to get cold in the backcountry meant the swims were short but definitely worth it, especially after a day’s tramping. All up I managed swims in Lake Wakatipu, Lake Te Anau, Lake Manapouri and Stewart Island beaches.
Perhaps most special was the swim in the Catlins. At Porpoise beach the rare hector dolphin is known to swim close to shore. Staying at the campsite here I decided to head out for a swim before breakfast. Before I knew it I was joined by hector dolphins swimming beside me, in front of me and under me. Truly surreal.
Next up was my North Island trip. This wasn’t a long trip but a chance to say hello to a few people, do stuff in Wellington (I found a place to live!), and most importantly, get up to the Bay of Islands to do the iconic Paihia to Russell swim. Wellington has been enjoying a pretty stunning start to summer and while I was in town I managed to join in one of the coastline swim series swims to Days Bay. Warm water was a pleasant surprise but a bit of chop made for a challenging swim.
In the Bay of Islands it was nice to see familiar faces. The great thing about the national series is that you do get to know some of the regulars over the season. It was a bit strange being in the non wetsuit minority again after avoiding the wetsuit races in the UK. There’s no going back to the wetsuit however.
My swimming holiday adventures are now drawing to a close and I’ve been attempting to reestablish some kind of swim routine in the lead up to the Taupo Epic swim in Jan. Thankfully my parents are close to a beautiful (but tidal beach) which has been my training ground at high tide over the Christmas period. I’ve also joined the Nelson swimmers for a few swims and will take part in one of their iconic swims tomorrow, the 2km ‘Eyebright Mile’.
Lake Te Anau:
Tomorrow’s Swim Destination (Tahunanui):