So how do you go about swimming from Europe to Asia? The swim across the Dardanelles straits in north-western Turkey takes around an hour but, as Simon Murie found out, getting the necessary permissions and finding a willing boat to escort you across takes a great deal longer. “It’s a very hard swim to organise” he tells me, “Gallipoli on one side, Troy on the other. The area is so militarised.” But he did the groundwork and made the trip and there began an even longer journey: founding SwimTrek, the first open water swimming adventure holiday company. He’s still organising epic swims almost 20 years later.
“We can sort out anything to do with open water swimming. Whether that’s swimming from island to island, swimming down the river Thames, or taking people across the Hellespont, where Leander swam across to his lover Hero in Greek Mythology… It’s about swimming in places where there’s a reason to do it, where you wouldn’t normally be able to go.”
From their HQ in Hove, they organise swims in 40 worldwide locations, arranging local guides and safety boats for swims in Lithuania, Greece, Slovenia, Oman, the Maldives, Russia… Simon spends much of his time devising new itineraries. “We’re increasingly developing the wilder, more exotic destinations. Like Galapagos, Komodo and Vietnam. The sort of places that you might get to visit just once in your lifetime.”
As much as I like the idea of swimming in the Galapagos, aren’t there scary things in the water? “I wouldn’t say scary but, within the first minute of our first swim, one of the group shouted ‘shark!’ and we looked down and there was a Hammerhead circling. Within ten minutes there was another one. The whole trip was full of species that you wouldn’t ever otherwise get to see. A lot of the work is figuring out the safe places to swim and the sharks are so well fed that they’re not interested in swimmers. It’s an amazing way to experience the environment: from the water.” [read more]