My criteria for an “adventure swim” classification is purposefully a bit vague. It usually includes some sort of new and unchartered swim territory, an element of risk and an attitude of exploration. My recent two Oudekraal-to-Koel Bay (distance about 2.7km) swims in Cape Town were definitely adventure swims offering possibly the most magnificent and picturesque of swim routes. It was so beautiful I had to swim it twice in three weeks.
The logistics for a one-way swim are always a bit tricky with cars being parked at different ends, surf locks or swim keys being engaged or even an Uber. They also usually end up with you standing on the side of the road with nothing more than a bikini, cap and goggles while getting into a car to take you to the start while the passing motorists hoot and cyclists roar in their approval. It’s like they have never seen a girl in a bikini.
Our adventure swim started in the beautiful beach spot of Oudekraal that is part of the Table Mountain National Park on the Atlantic Seaboard en-route between Camps Bay and Llandudno. It offers scenic views of the coast line back towards Lion’s Head, braai or picnic spots and a small swim area with kelp forests to explore. It is a little gem of a spot for any Cape Town summer visit and is blissfully quiet during the week.
The start of the swim at Oudekraal involved a fair amount of crawling through kelp forests before being able to swim properly out into the open ocean. We were literally pushing kelp down with hands and knees trying not to get scratched. The swim hugs the coast line past the 12 Apostles hotel, taking in the kelp forests, fishes and the occasional seal below. Being able to glance up at that part of the coastline, and peer into the secret treasures of the water below, is a feast for the eyes and offers an entirely new perspective from a route that only takes a few minutes by car. On our second swim our group even spotted a sunfish (which fin is somewhat shark-like so it’s a bit disconcerting) but basically it looks like a prehistoric giant fish. And then, almost too soon the beach area of Koel Bay is in sight but that’s when we hit the jellie patch (which we did on both of our swims).
No-one is a big fan of jellies and unfortunately, I am particularly allergic. A jellie sting forms red, itchy welts that usually lasts for a couple of days and looks like I have the plague. When swimming in jellie soup, I usually employ a number of evasive techniques more creative than avoiding an unwelcome lunge (kiss) from a guy at a night club. These include swimming as high on top of the water as possible, keeping my head out of the water to avoid a sting on the money maker (aka my face), breathing every two strokes to allow more time to spot jellies and shortening my strokes. I also admittedly sometimes swim behind fellow swimmers so that hopefully they can clear the path. And although this is a somewhat shady practice, I never get any grief from fellow swimmers for this because they all know how allergic I am. I successfully avoided all stings on my first time but on the second swim I got nailed twice by jellies on my right arm and will have some red welts for days. But thank goodness nothing on the face!
Once you land on the beach in Koel Bay, there is some scrambling up rocks and slipping/sliding up the dubious steep path off the beach to get back to the car. And then while shivering, you change into warm clothes and recount moments of the swim with your fellow swimmers. Being stung by jellies is all part of the adventure and is woven into the narrative. We also always discuss the sea conditions (flat, bumpy, windy, clear or cloudy visibility, cold or warm temperature) and what you saw en-route (kelp, fish, seals, jellies, dolphins, whales etc.). Each and every time it’s a different story, a new adventure and it keeps me coming back for more.