SwimTrek founder Simon Murie reports from the Philippines and the Outer Hebrides
Remote Swimming: The water less travelled
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
Lord George Byron
Not only is this verse (part of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage) written by the person who I consider as the father of modern day open water swimming, Lord Byron, but it has also been my inspiration over the years for many of my activities and travels, both swimming and non-swimming alike.
To varying degrees, we are social creatures, but at times we all need moments of solitude. When I’m looking at new swim sites or just want to swim myself, remoteness and isolation is often one of the pre-requisites I look for.
Being currently located in Asia, home to 60% of the world’s population, you might think that finding somewhere off the beaten track is harder then most other regions, but get away from the cities and there are plenty of opportunities especially when you consider the vast number of islands that dot not only South-East Asia but also the South Pacific. If you want to fulfil that dream of owning that uninhabited island, then come my way and you’ve got a good chance of maybe finding it.
My recent trip to the Bacuit Archipelago in the Western Philippines was a case in point. The islands here are some of the most stunning that I have ever visited. The story goes that in late 70s, a team of commercial divers who were working in nearby Palawan had to anchor their boat overnight. A fishing line had jammed their propeller. Without knowing where they were, at sunrise they found themselves surrounded by high limestone cliffs, lush forests, white sand beaches, turquoise water, and deserted islands.
The scene that had greeted some of the early visitors to these islands only 40 years ago, is still pretty much what you see today. Day visitors come and visit a few of the archipelago’s sites but pretty much the vast majority is left as it was all those years ago with abundant colourful reefs and caves and islets that probably have never been visited let alone swum into.
Open water swimmer’s dreams
But you don’t have to go to the other side of the world for your isolation fix. You can find it all around you. One of my favourite places in the UK to swim is the Outer Hebrides, especially the lower half between North Uist and Barra Head in the island chain’s southern section. Mingulay, is one of these islands and was abandoned by its last inhabitants 100 years ago as the never-ending onslaught of the Atlantic finally took its toll.
Today this unsurprisingly uninhabited island, offers some of the best isolated coastal swimming around. After camping on the island’s only beach on the east coast you can visit the stunning sea stacks on the island’s west coast. They rise to over 200m high (some of the tallest in the British Isles) and host a series of caves and seabirds, which will make most open water swimmer’s dreams come true. Other island’s in the chain also offer great options for the adventurous type looking at getting away from it all.
I am sure you have your own selection of spots that fit the far-flung/secluded/ isolated criteria. Or if you want to get away from it all, just take out a map and start looking and maybe you will find a place where the words of Byron may resonate within you.