‘Wild swimming’ is taking a dip in any natural body of water such as the ocean, a lake, river or waterfall, and for the most part, usually the water is quite cold. These are the places our almost all people went swimming before pools came along and in current times it’s a great way to connect with nature. Whether you are all or nothing and dive straight in or more of a tip-toe kind of person, wild swimming is for everyone and will make you feel wonderful.
There are so many benefits to cold water therapy, from boosting your immune system to flooding your body with feel good endorphins, you should definitely be adding a dip in the ocean to your adventure.
Time Of Year / Water Temperature
I’m not going to pretend that the sea here is anything but freezing. For the majority of the year, it’s really really cold. But if you are a seasoned sea swimmer, it’s nothing you can’t handle. I’ve been swimming throughout the year, and the warmest months are August, September and October – still cold, but slightly warmer than winter. If you haven’t done any sea swimming or cold water therapy before, take it slowly. The cold water can be very overwhelming and it takes about 5-10 minutes of being in the water before it becomes bearable.
Always always go with someone. Either a fellow swimmer who is going to join you in the water or as a watcher from the shore, this is the best way to keep safe. If you are travelling solo, look for the Hebridean sea swimming club and join one of their sessions for a safe experience.
Some of the beaches of the Hebrides have strong currents and although may look inviting, you should not swim at. Dail Mor and Dail Beag has some pretty strong undercurrents and would not be a good choice to swim. My rule of thumb would be if it’s popular surf spot, then it isn’t suitable for sea swimmers.
The water is going to be very cold, so wear a wetsuit, boots and a hat to keep your body temperature up. If you aren’t wearing a wetsuit, keep your ocean dip to 15 minutes so you don’t loose too much heat. Have a dry towel and warm clothes to bundle up in afterwards, and if it’s a little exposed on the beach, get back to your vehicle and warm up.
A popular spot with the locals, this little beach is a great spot for an ocean dip. There is parking at either end of the beach and you can stay overnight here as well. Check the weather conditions for this beach as it can sometime be a little choppy on a windy day from the Atlantic Ocean, remember to always have a swimming buddy!
The Braigh, Point
This is one of the sea swimming clubs favourite spots for swimming and for good reason. The shallow sandy bottom makes it a super easy and safe place to swim and and there is almost always someone walking along this beach so great for a first time swimmer.
My favourite spot for wild swimming is Bosta beach. This sheltered cove is the perfect place with white sand and (usually) calm waters. Be sure to swim out to the tide and time bell and give it a ring if you can! This is also a great place to watch the sunset from, so climb up one of the small hills to the right of the beach and relax while watching the sunset.
Let me know some of your favourite spots for wild swimming!
Going on a scuba diving trip is so exciting and having the right gear with you makes your dive so much more enjoyable and, more importantly, safe. Assuming you already have you mask, fins and snorkel, here are my other essential accessories you should have for every trip.
By far one of the most expensive but also essential piece of scuba gear you will need to buy is a dive computer. You’ll need to do a bit of research into the different types out there but mostly watches can be categorized into either conservative or liberal. Liberal algorithms tend to give you more bottom time and quicker surface times while a conservative will give you a very comfortable safety cushion where your NDL is concerned. Which you pick is up to your personal preference, age and physical fitness. Take your time to research which will be best suited to you
For all those exciting night dives, you will be needing a torch! Professional divers will have a main torch and a smaller backup torch, but if you are diving with a guide or a group – or just doing one or two night dives, then one will be sufficient. Torches are also really good for wall or wreck dives, peaking in the cracks and shadows for creatures that might be hiding! The two most important things to look at is the brightness – I’d recommend somewhere around 1000 lumens – and the run time should be around the two hour mark. Below is a handy video showing you the other important factors to consider when buying your torch.
SMB or dSMB
Getting an SMB or dSMB is really important for your saftey in diving. These little guys roll up small enough to fit in your BCD pocket or clip onto a D-ring and either inflate at the beginning of your dive and tow behing you, or they are inflated towards the end of your dive as you are at your saftey stop. Having a SMB is a requirement on many dive sites across the world so learn how to use your SMB and practice using it on your first few dives so it’s not as scary.
Having a slate is going to come in useful if you’re not sure how to hand signal something or to ask questions to your dive buddy. They are super handy if you are doing any activity such as surveys or underwater clean ups, or you just want to ask what species that tiny fish is! They come in many different sizes and styles so pick one up next time your at the dive shop.
FISH ID GUIDE
When diving in a new area, you’re going to need to pick up a fish ID book, to learn which new species you are seeing. Back on the boat after a dive, everyone will be talking about what they saw, figuring out if it was a queen parrotfish or a princess parrotfish and whether the yellow snappers were adults or juveniles. So be sure to have a slate or guide with the areas common animals so you can begin learning which species you are seeing.
Your hands are one of the main points that a diver looses heat, so if you are diving in water that isn’t tropical, gloves will make your dive much more comfortable. Gloves will also come in useful for wreck dives or on dives with strong currents where you might need to hold onto rocks to rest or complete your safety stop. Gloves will also be essential if you are on an underwater clean up where you are picking up plastic and rubbish. But gloves are definitely not used for touching coral, fish or anything that isn’t plastic.
What are some of your dive essentials to take on a dive trip?
The most annoying part about diving is hair care. If only we came out the ocean looking like Ariel, dive life would be much easier! Here are some of my tips to keeping your hair in good condition!
SECURE YOUR HAIR
You’ll want either a low or high style – middle is no good as that is where your mask strap will be. I tend to do a high poytail and then tie hair bands all the way down the length which keeps my hair tangle free. Another popular option is braids, either a single or double, it keeps all your hair secure against your head. You could also just make a high bun which you can then take out in between dives, just make sure to take a spare hair band with you for flyaways and loose bits.
USE A MASK STRAP COVER
To save your hair from being pulled out every time you put your mask on or take it off, get a soft strap cover. They slip over the silicone strap and make it so much easier to remove and replace your mask. Have a look at this Girls That Scuba one here!
GET A HOOD OR BUFF
Another popular choice is a wearing a hood or buff! A hood is a good choice for cooler waters, making sure there is no movement of you hair underwater. Buffs are basically thick headbands which cover your hairline, so babyhairs don’t get trapped in the mask – I will be grabbing one for my next trip!
RINSE RINSE RINSE
This is the step to not miss. Once back on dry land, make sure to rinse the saltwater from your hair. Leaving it in makes your hair sticky and unmanageable, so a quick rinse when you can will keep it from turning into a horrible mess.
Coconut oil has many uses, but popping a little bit on the ends of your hair after your dive will help to keep the ends healthy and soft. Just rub a small amount on your hands and comb through the ends and it will do your hair wonders.
When it comes time to wash your hair, use cool water and make sure to let the conditioner soak in. Saltwater tends to make hair very dry, so try and give it some moisture back. Find a good leave in conditioner and comb it through.
The last thing your hair will need after diving all day, is a hot hairdryer. The best thing to do is to let your hair air dry but if you have to dry it, use the cold setting on your hairdryer. Remember saltwater is already damaging your hair so try to protect it by not using heat.
Got any other hair care tips you live by? Leave them in the comments below!
Today I’ve been thinking about all the long distance trails across the world after getting hooked on some beautiful creators thru-hiking on YouTube. After some deep diving into the world of thru-hiking, I have found some absolutely incredible trails to inspire your hiking adventures.
Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail & Central Divide Trail | USA 2650, 2180 & 3100 miles
The holy grail of US long distance hiking is the Triple Crown – the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. These three hikes will each take between 4 to 6 months to walk, leading you through some of the best wilderness the US has to offer. But these are no easy task, steep ascents, river crossing, deserts and hiking through snow are just some of the challenges these three trails will throw at you. There is a huge community spirit on the trails and you’ll become hiker trash and learn the kindness of trail angels in no time.
This epic trail takes you across the greatest mountain range in the world, including the iconic Everest Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit. As of 2019, only 93 hikers have registered as completing the full trail! There are many multi-day trails that make up the Great Himalaya Trail, so there really is something for every ability. From city walks around Kathmandu to the incredible Everest hike and everything in between. Explore cities and temples, rural villages and mighty mountains. Hiking in this part of the world is much more expensive and will require higher insurance premiums as many of the hikes are at high altitude, which also means generally a higher level of fitness is required for some of the harder routes.
Completed over the warm months of summer in New Zealand, this long distance trail combines everything from beaches to mountains, cities to volcanoes, farmers fields to national parks. The trail is best tackled from south to north, walking on average 15 miles each day for 4 months. If that is too long for your hike, there are many multi-day section hikes for all abilities to enjoy.
The South West Coast Path is a gem, and while it may not have the extreme landscapes or terrain of other trails, it certainly does deserve a place on this list. The UK’s longest trail takes you through some of the best seaside towns England has to offer such as Weymouth, St Ives and Falmouth as well as some areas of outstanding beauty including Exmoor National Park, Jurassic Coast World Herritage Site and Lands End. Taking just 2 months to complete, this can easily be fitted into the summer months.
Greater Patagonia Trail | Chile & Argentina – 1864 miles
One of the most beautiful trekking regions on the planet has got to be Patagonia. The Greater Patagonian Trail takes you through the diverse and challenging Andean mountains. Much like the Great Himalaya Trail, this South American trail is made up of more than 9,000 miles of smaller trail, including the world famous W-Circuit in Torres Del Paine National Park and the Fitzroy Massif. This trail system are some of the least developed in the world and should only be attempted by the most experienced hikers. Outside of the national parks, trails become vague and very few are signposted, so wilderness trekking, navigation and survival techniques are all needed if you are undertaking this incredible challenge. There are many tour companies which will take you on the more accessible routes and show you the most beautiful mountain the Patagonia has to offer.
Although there is no one organization that cares for the trail, this page on wikiexplora has the most in depth information available.
What long distance trail would you like to hike? I’d love to know your favourites.
If there is one thing you must do while in Airlie Beach, it is this. Taking a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands was one of my top three experiences of my whole year in Australia. Although a little pricey, the incredible views were just breath-taking.
I had completed my PADI Open Water Cousre in Cairns which took us on a three day liveaboard visiting some beautiful reefs and exploring some of the uderwater life. And it was great to see the individual animals, corals and species up close. But I think to understand the sheer size of the reef, seeing it from above it so great.
You can find lots of companies along the main road in Airlie Beach to fly with, so ask around and get a feel for what you’ll get. I went with GSL Aviation on their Reef & Islands tour which lasts 60 minutes and included pick up/drop off from your hotel.
Right from take off, there is a full commentary from the pilot talking all about the reef system, islands and some history of the area which gave me an insight into the history of the islands. It was perfect weather and the turquoise waters were alive with colour.
We had views of Conway National Park, Airlie Beach, and the Whitsunday Islands where I had spent the last three days sailing around. We had incredible views of Hill Inlet and the famous Whitehaven Beach which was exactly how you see it on postcards. Past the Whitsunday Islands, you reach the extensive reef systems and you see the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef. We glided above the iconic heart reef where we circled around so each side of passengers could get a photo.
So if there is one activity to splash out on while in the Whitsundays, this would be it. Seeing the extensive reef system from the sky was magical and so worth the money. Have you ever been to the Whitsundays? Let me know in the comments below!
This series is about practical ways travelers can help make a positive impact on the areas they visit.
Hi my beautiful,
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef was an incredible experience I will never forget. The whole experience brought me so much joy, exploring such a special corner of our planet has really been a dream of mine for so many years. And the sadness I feel when I hear of its degradation really breaks my heart. Enjoying the reef should be a joy experienced for generations to come. So if you are planning to visit this natural wonder of our world, here are a few tips to make sure your visit safeguards its beauty for many more years.
Choose An Accredited Company
There are a few key signs to look for if you want to choose an eco-friendly company. Ecotourism Australia and EarthCheck both provide two levels of certification in which tour operators can commit to using sustainable practices and high quality tourism experiences. These companies are actively protecting the environment by adhering to safe practices and maintaining the high standard of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). You can see the list of approved operators on the GBRMPA website.
Follow The Responsible Reef Practices
There are some basic rules to follow when in the water, whether you are snorkelling or scuba diving, these few guideline will save not only the reef from harm but also yourself. Here are just a few points to remember while on the reef.
Practice good scuba diving – have good buoyancy, be aware of your equipment and move slowly
Avoid holding or touching any part of the reef, including corals and animals
Observe animals like whales or turtles from a safe distance
Enhance the quality of your dive experience by learning about the environment you’ll visit
Don’t take anything from the reef including dead coral or shells
See the full list of responsible reef practices at GBRMPA.
Contribute To Citizen Science
As the reef is so large, it is quite a challenge for scientists to collect frequent information across the entire length of the reef, and that is where citizen science (and you!) come in. ‘Eye On The Reef’ is a way for every visitor to contribute towards the long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef by recording animals sightings, reef health data and other valuable information. However you are enjoying the reef, you can join in with citizen science by downloading the Eye On The Reef app and start contributing immediately to data collection. You can submit locations of animal sightings, photos of what you have encountered like marine pollution or coral spawning and it can also help you to identify the wildlife you come across.
Fight For The Planet
The biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is climate change caused by humans. And this will only change with action. So start right now to help give the Great Barrier Reef a fighting chance of survival. So here are just a few things to do today for a better future.
Make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint
Commit to only taking one long haul flight per year
Change your diet to include more local produce and less animal products
Have your say at local council meetings and elections
Vote with your money by researching companies sustainability pledges.
I hope when you visit, you will take the time to explore the reef with the care it deserves and let it inspire you to help change its future.
I woke early, pulled on my clothes and grabbed my bag, thankful I had packed the night before. In my sleepy haze I brushed my teeth and left my hostel, waiting outside for the minibus to arrive. We hopped in along with a few others and begun driving, parking up before we had even drove for five minutes. The guide opened the sliding door and said a few words of Spanish, gesturing to the coffee shop across the road. ‘Ten minutes’ he repeated in English when there was no response from the seats. I stayed put, not wanting to move from my seat and closed my eyes. In what seemed like a few moments, the van was twisting and turning up narrow village paths. We arrived in a small car park and we shuffled out, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. We were told to queue up and buy our ticket from the small counter, use the bathroom and find our guide for the walk and off we set.
Top tip : Before setting off on your hike, buy a stick from one of the children at the entrance, it will help steady you at the top and on the way down.
The hike began fairly easy, a earthy path surrounded by plants and trees, the sun shining through. But after ten minutes, the path become steep and uneven, I quickly fell to the back of the group. I didn’t mind, the shade was lovely and watching for birds and other small creatures while I took sips of water. The guide would stop every so often, giving a chance for us to regroup and stop at the lookouts. A woman with a gentle smile followed at the back of the group with a horse, occasionally asking if we wanted to ride the rest of the way, but most of the time quietly walking with the sound of hooves. The walking was hard, but after 40 minutes, the tunnel of trees gave way to large expanses of loose black rock. Rounding the corner and reaching the final climb, Vulcan de Pacaya stood, towering above us with steam billowing from the top. ‘Wow’. ‘Right!’ the girl next to me said, before powering up the final ascent.
We clambered over the lava flow, being careful to step on the flat rocks – it was this point I was glad I had bought a stick off the child at the entrance, it came in useful for balancing over the unsteady terrain. And then I turned to look at the view. The view was spectacular, with three volcanoes (Acatenango, Agua, & Fuego) rising from the Earth, it really was amazing. The sun made them look so detailed and smoke spewed from them. It was then I realized – I was standing on an active volcano. And then I was told, the lava flow I was currently standing on was made only a month before which the guide then followed up with ‘Who wants marshmallows?’
Top tip : Take the morning tour – it is usually cooler, has less cloud cover and a lower chance of rain.
Sure enough, he produced a big bag of fluffy marshmallows and proceeded to poke them onto sticks. We made out way to some of the volcanic rocks, and boy could you feel the heat. He prodded the gravel and a glowing red center was reveled, allowing us to toast marshmallows on an active volcano. Now that’s something you don’t do everyday! After eating the warm treats and taking many photos we slowly made our way back down the volcano, being careful to take our time and not slip down the loose rocks. On the way, our guide handed me a piece of lava which he had collected for each of us, a little souvenir of our hike up one of Guatemala’s beautiful volcanoes.
HOW TO DO IT YOURSELF!
When in Antigua or Guatemala City, ask at your accommodation for the best tour recommendation. The tour should cost about 100Q ($14) and will take up to 6 hours return. There is a 50Q ($7) entrance fee and its 5Q for a walking stick. The hike itself is 8km return and will take about an hour to reach the top. Horses will follow your group half way and will cost extra if you decide to take one to the top. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and take a hat and water for the trip.
Learning to dive has been number one on my must-do list for a very very long time, for years actually. I had THE BEST time and super happy I waited to do it on the Great Barrier Reef. It was much more enjoyable diving in the warm tropical waters as I get cold easily so the thought of getting into cold water and getting out into a cold climate just wasn’t for me. I had previously done an introductory dive in the UK and I would recommend to do one before diving in and paying for the whole course – diving is not for everyone. This is my experience of the PADI Open Water Course with Pro Dive Cairns and I loved every second of it.
The day was finally here! I had been waiting for y e a r s to get under the ocean and see what I have been missing out on so I practically jumped out of bed that morning. After an intro talk we did some classroom work, watched some videos, went over the theory of diving, safety bits and pieces which was all very interesting and a vital part of diving but I was eager to jump into the water.
The first of two pool training sessions begun after lunch where we all picked up a wetsuit, a BDC (buoyancy control device), a mask, a snorkel and fins. After doing the mandatory swim and float tests, I wriggled into the wetsuit and set up my gear.. and took it apart and set it up and took it apart and set it up.. you get the point. Understanding how to work the gear is the most important part of diving (after breathing of course) so we ran through all the little bits and what goes where and so on until we were each comfortable with our gear. This set up remained with us for the whole trip as it is important to be familiar with how your personal set up works.
It was a long stride into the pool and then we were all breathing and floating and learning that if you laugh water comes into your mask and blinds you and that this is a no laughing sport (joking – its so hard not to laugh and smile!). So we were taught how to clear our mask of water, breathe correctly, control our position in the water, equalise the pressure in our ears etc. The first day was a lot of fun and doing it with friends made it even better.
The second pool training session started off day two and we went through the skills from the previous day, focusing on our buoyancy control. We practised an out of air situation, emergency ascent methods and breathing with a broken regulator (mouthpiece) which I hope I never have do again – it is quite scary to think about that happening while I’m diving.
We also got to try on lots of different brands and models of fins/masks/snorkels – there are a lot of options out there! Having a mask that fits you correctly is so so important, we were shown how to fit a mask properly and which mask we should get for our face shape. Post-lunch there was time to look around the store and purchase anything we would need for the boat – I ended up buying a mask/snorkel set, fins and boots and I l o v e them. They do take up room in my suitcase but I plan on doing a lot more diving so having my own gear makes me a happy diver.
Then came the final classroom session and the final exam. The multiple choice questions were fairly easy and with all the course material you can’t fail. With theory training complete it was time to take to the ocean for our first reef dive!
I was up super early and ready to get diving, the boat left at 7am and we headed out to our first dive site on the outer reef. The purpose built dive boat had about 20 students and 5 instructors on board and there was still lots of room – everyone is really friendly and making friends is so easy. Three hours, one breakfast and one safety briefing later we were gearing up for the very first dive and let me tell you jumping into that water was incredibly exciting. This dive was fairly short as expected and we stayed knelt down on the sand but as we were all equalising, practising our buoyancy and doing a few skills a small spotted ray swam past – our instructor pointed and we all just stopped to watch it float on by. The second dive was similar to the first but we did get to do some swimming around the reef, adjusting our gear and getting used to moving in this completely new way – zero gravity is fun!
We ended the day with a snorkel around the shallow side of the reef as the sun was setting. There is so much so see from the surface so even if you aren’t a diver then still grab your fins and head out into the ocean – you will be amazed at the creatures you spot. We saw a white tipped reef shark resting on the bottom about 8m below us and we carefully followed a turtle as it gracefully went on its way.
Moving to a different location each time allowed us to see so many different types of dive sites from bommies and swim throughs to huge coral walls. Dives three and four allowed us to explore the dive sites more fully and gave us time to look around as they were slightly longer and not as much training was done. By the end of the fourth dive I was feeling so much more confident in the gear, my buoyancy and the way I was moving that I could almost not think about it – almost. We surfaced as certified open water divers and celebrated by filling out our log books, eating lunch and having a quick nap before the next dive. It’s true when they say all you will be doing is eating, sleeping and diving on a liveaboard.
The first dive without the instructors went well and we didn’t get lost or run out of air so I call that a success. We even went through a little swim through which up until that point I did not want to do any cave diving – but I loved it so I will probably do that at some point. I also learnt that navigation underwater is slightly more difficult than on land but we found our way back to the anchor rope without having to surface.
At this point in the trip we were offered to become further certified to Adventure Diver, so of course I said yes, and so our remaining four dives were also training dives. This involves doing a night dive, a deep dive and two elective dives which were photography and naturalist.
The night dive was a highlight as I was pretty nervous about jumping in after dark and the dive brief did not help with talk about getting eaten by sharks and disappearing forever. With a torch and a glow stick attached to our tank so we could see each other, I hesitantly jumped in and we descended down the rope together. We stuck with the same site from the previous dive so I had a slight understanding of where we were going but it was still quite difficult to navigate – I would have definitely be lost and still out there if the directions were left to me. Surprisingly it was not as scary as it was made out to be and we could see quite a lot with all our torches. There was a significant lack of fish around with only the larger fish in the open water and close to the boat lights on the surface but we did get to see a nudibranch and a huuuge hermit crab. There were no shark sightings unfortunately as it would have been awesome to see one patrolling the reef but it sure was an awesome dive anyway.
The earliest dive so far started at 6.30am which was also our deepest dive. After learning about the added risks of deeper diving (narcosis, decompression sickness, oxygen toxicity – sounds scary right?) we descended down a huge sand slope. I got to 27 meters all too soon and I just wanted to keep on going, there was so much more to see. The colours you are able to see also change with depth so my red fins were now a weird brown colour as the red light is filtered out through the water.
Our final two dives were the photography and naturalist training dives and for these we moved a lot slower, looking more closely at the animals and trying to get some photos – it is a lot more difficult than you think trying to get still images when there is nothing holding you in one spot. These last dives were my favourite dives, I felt sure of how I was moving and breathing and felt confident in both my own and my dive buddys abilities. There is for sure a whole lot more to learn and a bunch more courses yet to be taken but I cannot recommend diving highly enough to anyone. It has been the best course I have done in anything, having studied the marine world for a few years it was amazing to be able to see it for myself. And what better place than the reef of all reefs.
A huge thankyou to the team at ProDive Cairns and to my instructor Rafi, they were all amazing.
If anyone is a little bit more interested in the specific locations or other info I’ve included a few extra information bits below.