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Think island-hopping and images of crisp white-sailed yachts cruising languidly on sparkling, swimming in blue waters with the sun warm on your back…
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I have an inordinate love for water and being in it, whether it be the ocean or the pool, so when I came across Swimtrek, a company that runs swimming holidays, I knew I had found my perfect holiday.
Running tours throughout the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and Mexico, Swimtrek caters for all levels of swimmer, ranging from the super-fit to scenic swimmers, with all of the swimming done in the ocean. I chose to swim in Croatia as it’s a country I have always wanted to visit. I wasn’t disappointed.
On flying into Split, it takes a bit of a journey to get to the little island of Prvić Luka, where the tour is based and run from, but well worth it once you get there.
Catching a ferry from Ŝibenik on the mainland to get to it, the tiny island only has 180 permanent inhabitants on it, one hotel, a couple of restaurants, and one small market where you can get your essentials, so you really feel like you are in a uniquely special place.
After a 45-minute ferry journey on the Jadrolinija, an old lady who churns out six round trips a day, we arrived on the little island of Prvić Luka, and I felt as if I was transported back in time.
Quaint little cobblestone houses with red-tiled roofs nestled comfortably in the sun and colourful fishing boats gently rocked in the small harbour. Local people slowly went about their business, and it was almost as if I could feel time slowing down to the crawl of this island pace as soon as I stepped off the ferry. And I fell instantly in love.
The island’s only hotel, the Maestral, is a gorgeous white stone building with green shutters and sits on the water’s edge with views over the village square and the little harbour.
Once the local schoolhouse, the building was converted into a hotel to cater to the ever-growing tourist industry as Croatia emerged from the ashes of the Yugoslavian war.
With crisp, clean lines and freshly starched bed linen, the hotel has all the modern comforts one needs, yet still manages to maintain an air of quaint simplicity that can only be found on a tiny island.
After checking in and having a swim in the warmest and most crystal clear water I have ever been in, it was time to meet the group with whom I would be swimming for the week.
Sipping local brews while watching the sun drop below the horizon, we were introduced to our guides and other fellow swimmers and given a safety briefing and the plan for the week, after which followed a sumptuous dinner of local cuisine, including fresh sea bass, grilled octopus and black risotto.
The next morning saw an early start in the water where we did a short “acclimatisation” swim for the guides to place us in our three swimming groups.
The way that Swimtrek works is that swimmers are divided into three swimming groups according to their speed and fitness, which each group having a safety boat and a trained guide with them at all times during the swim to ensure the swimmer’s safety while in the water.
After a hearty breakfast in the warming sun, our charge for the week, a chunky dive boat — with plenty of space for sun-lounging — and her pilot arrived to pick us up, and we set off for our first day of swimming in the Adriatic.
Swimtrek runs most of their tours on the same formula – six days of swimming, which consists of a swim in the morning, followed by a delicious and healthy lunch cooked by the guides and another swim in the afternoon, with evenings free to do your own thing. Swim distances range between 2-4km, depending on which tour you choose, and there is a good combination of both coastal swims (along the coast of an island) and crossings (swimming from one island to another).
What followed was the most fantastic week of fun-filled laughter, enthusiasm, determination, motivation, and of course…lots of swimming!
Each day our boat pilot, Jadran, a hardened local who smoked endlessly and only ever opened his mouth to gustily croon Croatian love songs which floated across the still water to us whilst we were swimming, picked us up in front of the hotel and took us to some of the most beautiful swimming locations Croatia has to offer.
We swam along the coastlines of tiny islands with no inhabitants save for a few goats, whose tinkling bells we could hear while swimming along. We swam under waterfalls and down the mighty Krka River, racing the superyachts of the rich and famous sailing from Skradin.
We saw dolphins play in the wake of our bow in the Kornati National Park and floated amongst schools of tiny electric blue fish as we swam through what can only be described as a lunar landscape. We spent long hours lounging in the sun after feasting on tiny fried fish freshly caught by our boat pilot off the dock on Kaprije and lazily played cards on the deck after a long swim while cruising home through the azure blue waters off Zlarin.
By the end of the week, we were sated — sun-kissed and swum out, but happy. We finished off the week with a delicious dinner at one of the local restaurants with a magnificent view over the Dalmatian islands, toasting our guides for their superb organisation of the week and to our personal successes in overcoming whatever challenges we had set out to achieve.
The final morning dawned bright and blue and after a last swim and hearty breakfast, we set off across the village square towards the ferry, where the regal Jadrolinija, would carry us back to the mainland and homeward bound. After one of the best holidays of my life, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Croatia, but definitely not farewell.
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