August 2, 2016
Worldwide Swimming – Pt 2.
Oakie-doakie. On we
march front-crawl, to the next stop on the worldwide swimming bus – Europe.
6. Hot Sea, Santorini.
Santorini is a volcano-island, or island-volcano. It’s actually a ring of islands, which are the remains of the caldera of a huge volcano of yester-millennia, with a fresh volcano growing up inside the ring in the middle, which every now and then erupts and grows bigger. I was on Santorini not long ago, and wrote plenty of words about it here on this blog.
The only hot springs in the world that are situated in the sea reside here. At least, the only ones in the world known to me. The hot water spurts up from the seabed through the sea, making said sea the warmest sea you’ll ever know :).
There are quite a few spots around the islands where you can partake in hot-spring-sea-bathing. The one in the above pic isn’t the best; others are deeper and hotter, I’m told…
There are hot thermal springs of course all over the world. Even in Oymyakon (where?!), but I haven’t checked them out yet. Dipping in hot springs in such cold climates is a real buzz. Iceland‘s good for it too. But only on Santorini can you dip in hot thermal springs in the sea. Unique. ‘Must-Dip’ :).
7. Balos Lagoon and Beach: Knee-high sea for the lazy.
At the furthest northwestern point of the island of Crete there’s a wholly unique place called Balos, made up of both Balos Beach and Balos Lagoon.
The lagoon is about the size of a couple of soccer pitches and contains seawater to a height of a mere half-meter or less. This is perfect for the lazy: no swimming, just walking in the sea comfortably :). And after your hard slog of marine strolling you can take the weight off your poor feet and lie – also perfectly comfortably – in the shallow water of the lagoon, which in summer gets warmed up to near boiling temperature! In short, an ideal beach/lagoon for the less active seaside-tourist. One word of warning: this water has a knack of oxidizing silver – so just remember to leave it in the hotel or – better – at home.
Another great thing about this location is the fact there’s still no road that leads right to the lagoon/beach. This keeps quantities of tourists in check somewhat (remember, it’s a beach for the lazy – so they tend to be put off by the hilly walk to get to the place from the nearest (tiny) parking lot). On the other hand, a popular method of getting lazy tourists to the beach is by excursion boat.
So what else is there beach/lagoon/bay/swim/bath/dip/paddle-wise in Europe? Ah yes…
8. Hot and cold for the bold: Belomorsk.
Belomorsk (‘Of the White Sea’) is a town on the ‘Beloe Morye’ – the White Sea – up in Karelia near Finland. I was there in the year 2000, a year in which the summer was anomalously hot. I took a dip and was expecting the worst, for the White Sea in Russia is associated with cold just as much as, say, Siberia is to non-Russians throughout whole world. But to my surprise the water was a good 20 degrees Celsius. However, it turned out that only goes for the top meter or so of the water. For if you dive in and sink deeper, the White Sea’s infamous cold rears its head and chills you to the bone! Brrrr. All the same, lounging and chilling in a warm White Sea: an unforgettably wonderful experience.
So what was I doing up in Belomorsk? Me and pals had decided to undertake a summer holiday expedition to the White Sea islands. Later I was able to say: “Last year I vacationed on southern islands… of the White Sea!” :).
So what’s next on the globe on this tour d’swim?…
9. Alive water, Dead Sea.
Everyone knows about the Dead Sea in the Middle East and how you float in it as its sooooo salty. But not everyone’s been. But everyone should: a genuinely unique bathing experience; great fun too :).
10. Zanzibar: the craziest tides by far.
Zanzibar beaches are famed for their extreme tides. I mean, when the tide’s in, the beach is of a width that’s fairly typical. But when the tide’s out, suddenly the beach becomes more than a kilometer in width! Walking about on the smooth wet sands and inspecting the little sea creatures left behind the retreating tide is most pleasurable. Swimming here’s cool too, if you eventually reach it from your parasol :).
Btw, if any of you have any other natural bathing/water-themed location recommendations, do let me/us know in the comments!…
What’s next?… Oh yes: my favorite – Kamchatka!
11. The Khodutka Spa and Thermophile Resort.
Khodutka’s hot lake! Been here quite a few times – and always want to go back for more. Every time: rapturous blowing of the mind.
Now, I’ve seen a great many hot springs. But it’s Khodutka’s that are the world’s best. No, really! And there’s a bonus: no other tourists about at all (no roads come anywhere near the place; only helicopters – very infrequently). Hot springs all to yourself. Bliss!
Around a hundred liters of boiling water are emitted from the earth into the lake here every second – but just at one spot out of the whole lake. This means the water gradually becomes cooler the further you are from the source, so you can select the temperature that’s perfect for you – from piping hot to chilly cool. And it’s not just suitable for paddling. Full on swimming is easily doable too as the lake’s sufficiently wide and deep.
12. The boiling beaches of Ksudach.
About 50 kilometers to the south of Khodutka is the Ksudach volcano and its surrounding cosmic landscapes. I’ve been here plenty of times too, and have even walked the perimeter of its caldera (out of this world – one of the best trekking routes I’ve ever tried).
The water in the volcanic lake is rather cool in August, but practically boiling water oozes up into the sand from inside the earth below – just along the edges of the ‘beach’. This makes for a very unique experience: you have to run and then jump over the edge of the sand and into the water. If you go slow or don’t jump far enough you get scalded!
Another unique feature: if you wade into the lake, you’ll feel the cold of the water pretty badly. But you can burrow into the deep layer of loose stones under the lake – and hot water starts to come up through them. Oh my word!
On every visit we make little makeshift paddling pools in the pebbles on the beach. We then add the warm water from the lake with the use of a handily on-hand spade that resides on same beach…
13. Iturup: the water falls, the temperature goes up.
Ever bathed in thermal… waterfalls? If not – get yourself here, fast.
There’s nothing much more to say besides the basics here: thermal waters fall down a mountainside – thermal waters that are 42 degrees centigrade!
It’s real tricky getting here; the local climate is the harsh subtropical Kuril one; all around is icy-cold ocean. Maybe all that is why the thermal-waterfall bathing experience is all the more appreciated when you finally get round to it. Unmistakably 42!
The Kurils on the whole are a really special set of islands. Inaccessible somewhat, but really worth the extra effort to check out once in a lifetime. Oh, there’s another mega-bathing location on the Kurils I almost forgot about…
14. Swimming in formation – among rock formations.
Cape Stolbchaty, Kunashir Island. What makes the bathing here so special is the surrounding landscape: a lattice of volcanic columns a bit similar to the Giant’s Causeway, only better. The rock formations got to look like they do due to Rayleigh-Bénard convection. In short here it’s stone columns everywhere: under the water, all around on land, and even the steps down to the seaside are made out of these columns…
The water is decidedly icily Okhotsky, but it doesn’t really matter: it doesn’t numb the senses – they’re too busy in their state of excitation for that :).
Oh, here’s a surprise! Turns out Russia comes out top of the table for ‘Best Bathing in the World’! I’m glad, for in my Top-100 Must-See Places in the World it’s way down the table.
Next up on this whirlwindpool tour of the world…
This vast land has vast volumes of natural beauty, and that includes its beaches. As you can probably imagine, they’re pretty darn ‘endless’ in Oz – a lot more than, say, in Europe. After all, the whole of its landmass, not just its edges, is covered in ‘beaches’ :). And with beaches always come bodies of water to dip into…
15. Deadly dips in northern Australia.
Just one look at these pics and you want to strip off and dive into their tropical scenes.
Sure, the scene looks sublime; however, this is northern Oz, near Cairns – a region where the signs are insistent that you be very careful, albeit in a laidback Australian kind of way: a bottle of vinegar is the extent of first-aid measures :).
Oh those Aussies. A sign not far from the vinegar bottle (dyed vinegar – in case anyone might want to steal it!) says ‘Beware of the crocodiles’! And that’s it – no mandatory ‘not allowed’ rules anywhere. But, back to the (dyed) vinegar: why vinegar? It turns out it’s the best antidote to stingers, aka chironex fleckeri, aka sea wasps. So it’s just the thing for stings, not an example of laidbackness :). I was told a sting, left un-vinegared, kills a human being twice: once by drowning caused by pain shock, twice by the heart stopping from the nerve-paralyzing poison. Oh my ghoulishness.
Because of these deadly jellyfish the beaches here are mostly completely empty, and special nets are installed around sections of coastal waters where swimmers insist on a dip in the ocean. Swimming outside the nets can be fatal. Oh my grim!
One of my fave places in the world: Surfers Paradise on the easternmost – ‘Gold‘ – coast of Australia. This place was named just right: it is a paradise, and not just for surfers but everyone – including mere ocean-dippers. There’s also the azure tones of the coastal sea, the fierce tides that nearly whip your trunks off with their waves (!), the sharks (!), and the 80-story hotels (imagine the views!). Don’t imagine any longer – get there asap!
But you’ve got to be lucky with the weather. Sometimes (I think rarely) it gets to be like this:
In Australia there are plenty more amazing water locations; some I’ve checked out already (e.g., Hamilton Island), others are still on my to-dip list (e.g., Fraser Island).
I’ll finish with some aqua-dessert – some icing ocean on the cake – going out with a bang splash…
17. New Zwimland.
The must-swim here is a place called Piha. A simple beach, cold sea and climate, but…it’s in New Zealand! The seasons here are of course the opposite to those of the northern hemisphere, so you can easily be taking a dip here in late December! Oh my kiwi!
Piha was the warmest bit of bathing we experienced in NZ. We were quite surprised how, though not far from famously tropical Oz, NZ’s climate is very temperate. It’s all the oceans surrounding the small islands or some such. Still, doesn’t make the water activities any less mandatory – especially when they’re unusual…