There are a lot of triathlon-oriented swim camps where you can go to improve your swimming technique, learn from the pros, or do brick workouts in a beautiful locale. But for a truly immersive experience, consider one of these open-water swim vacations.
Set in a range of exotic locations around the world, these adventure-oriented swim tours typically include three to ve days of moderate-distance swims (2K to 4K per day) during a weeklong stay in comfortable—or even luxury—accommodations.
In almost all cases, swimming vacation operators have escort swimmers and safety personnel on kayaks and SUPs who guide the group from start to finish.
A swimmer can choose to get out of the water and on the boat at any time, and there are options to swim longer for the über-ambitious amphibians, too. Plus you can get better as you get fitter—some tour operators offer expert swim technique analysis with underwater action cameras and staff coaches.
But it’s not just about swimming. Many tour groups offer a wide range of other activities tied to the culture or history of the area, plus fine dining and the camaraderie of new friends, says Nina Strel, an Arizona-based operator and lead guide with Strel Swimming, which organizes endurance swim vacations in Lake Powell and around the world.
“When most people go on vacations, even triathletes, they don’t tend to jump in the sea and swim several miles,” Strel says. “These types of tours attract a certain kind of people who are very successful, very fit, and make it a priority to do something different. The people who come on our tours don’t just want to go to the Caribbean and be on the beach or stay at a hotel. They want to swim and be active and have full days of activity.”
While most tour operators report that Europeans, South Africans, and Australians are more common participants than Americans, Strel says triathletes are among the most frequent participants in its tours. Here’s how to get in on the fun:
Open-Water Swim Vacation: Ionian Explorer Tour
Join SwimTrek for a seven-day trip of swimming in the crystal clear waters off the western coast of mainland Greece, in the Ionian Sea. Averaging 3K-4K of swimming per day, participants swim a series of circumnavigations around the three islands that make up the Mavro Oros Archipelago—during which swimmers experience a variety of cave, tunnel, and arch swimming. Participants stay in the historic Hotel Filakas, which overlooks Sivota’s harbor and offers views of the Ionian Sea. Other SwimTrek trips include seven-day excursions aboard a yacht in the remote islands of the Red Sea, visiting colorful reefs off the coast of Egypt, and exploring the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Open-Water Swim Vacation: Lake Powell
Founded by record-setting open-water marathon swimmer Martin Strel of Slovenia, Strel Swimming offers nine different five- to nine-day swim trips at exotic locations around the world. Want to stay close to home? Head to Page, Arizona, for four days of lake and canyon swimming in Lake Powell, the second-largest manmade lake on the Colorado River.
“Lake Powell is an amazing place just to go on a vacation,” says Nina Strel, who has been organizing the Strel Swimming tours in Lake Powell for nine years. “You can go out on a boat or hike around or just relax. But swimming there is extraordinary.”
The Lake Powell swim tours also include hiking on ancient Navajo trails, visiting Rainbow Bridge, the world’s largest natural rock bridge, and amazing sunsets against a backdrop of the red rock landscapes of Glen Canyon National Park.
Other Strel swim-cations include the chance to explore islands in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia; swim in the Mediterranean Sea off Turkey’s Lycian Coast; and explore the sea, fjords, lakes, and rivers around Montenegro.
Open-Water Swim Vacation: Ocean Swim Fiji
Denarai Island, Fiji
This four-night, ve-day event includes three epic ocean swims, the chance to mingle with Australian Olympic swimming legend Shane Gould, and a stay at So tel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island. The event kicks off with a welcome ceremony and dinner that includes a Fijian warrior welcome and toast with a traditional Kava drink. Each day offers options of a 1K or 3K swim followed by a festive lunch and activities including an ocean cleanup, post-swim massages, horseback riding on the beach, and traditional Fijian dance groups. An optional fifth day offers the possibility for a thermal mud pool experience or a Fijian village tour.
Open-Water Swim Vacation: Swimquest South Africa
Capetown, South Africa
Swimmers explore stunning waters along the Atlantic Seaboard, off the coast of Cape Town, in this seven-day, six-night trip—including 12 Apostles, Seal Island, and Clifton Bay. From there, participants spend two nights on a luxury houseboat and enjoy serene swims in Langebaan Lagoon. The trip concludes with a 7.5K swim off the coast of Bloubergstrand in Cape Town to Robben Island—a South African National Heritage Site and formerly one of the places where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for 18 years before the fall of apartheid.