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It may seem obvious to head to an island destination if you enjoy being around water. However, there’s more to the Greek Islands than meets the eye. Whether you want to sail, scuba dive, learn a new water sport or even train with the Greek national swim team, this might just be the place for you.
Exploring the Greek Islands by boat
There are lots of options for exploring the Greek Islands by boat. You may want to live aboard a boat and visit the islands or simply take day trips from your hotel. If a huge ship is more your thing, it is possible to visit the Greek Islands on a cruise. For me though, the beauty of the area is best seen from a small boat. Anchoring up in beautiful bays with nobody else around. Discovering hidden gems and swimming in crystal clear waters.
It’s possible to book onto an organised excursion either independently or from a hotel. These are usually just for a day. So if you’d like to be on the water a bit longer, there are other options to explore. A Greek Island hopping tour could take you around the islands for up to a fortnight. However, the boats are small and there’s no escape if you’re not keen on the strangers who end up as crew mates.
A fantastic alternative is to explore using a private yacht charter in Greece. You’ll need some experience and sailing qualifications for this, but you get to choose who you sail with. The choice of where to moor up, how long to stay and where to eat is yours as well.
Swimming in the Greek Islands
If you’re more of a swimmer than a sailor, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of wild swimming opportunities around the Greek Islands. Organised sea swims vary between one-off swim or swim-run events, right through to extreme swimming adventure holidays.
If you’d prefer a pool to swim in, fear not. It’s possible to take a swim training or triathlon holiday on a Greek Island. Expert coaching will get your technique spot on. Long sessions build stamina and strength and fellow swimmers encourage you along the way. Ideal for anyone who is getting ready for a big competition.
As a teenager, I spent a week on Crete with my mum. At the time, I swam competitively and trained day in, day out. Surprisingly, after a few days off training I was starting to miss it. We went along to the 50 metre outdoor pool in Heraklion to see if it was open to the public. When we arrived, a club were just starting a training session. We approached the coach and asked if I could swim with them. It turned out to be the Greek national team, who happily welcomed me to train with them. It was a surreal experience.
Scuba diving from the Greek Islands
Another fantastic experience I had on a Greek Island holiday was when I visited as an adult. My friend and I decided to book some excursions. We both wanted to dive, but had no experience or qualifications. Thankfully, this didn’t matter. We were able to book a day of scuba diving with qualified instructors.
Anyone who doesn’t have a scuba qualification such as PADI stays with an instructor. They take care of depth and pressure for you, ensuring you’re not at risk of going too deep, running out of air or ending up with ‘the bends’. I did wonder whether this would mean we wouldn’t be able to see anything particularly exciting. Thankfully though, that wasn’t the case at all.
Scuba schools ensure that they take you somewhere of an appropriate depth. We saw a plethora of fish and sea creatures. Strangely, being a good swimmer isn’t a prerequisite for diving. You’ll wear flippers to ensure you can swim along relatively quickly. This means minimal effort and swimming technique is required, making basic scuba diving really accessible.
Other water sports
There’s no better time than a holiday to the Greek Islands to learn a new water sport. When researching where on the islands to go, it’s worth checking which places have a water sports school or equipment to hire. This is a helpful guide, telling you a bit about each area and what water sports it offers.
If you’re looking to surf, it’s even more important to do your research. Whilst Greece isn’t known for its surfing, it is starting to develop a surf scene. For all the reasons they’re not a well known surf destination, the Greek Islands can be the ideal place to go as a beginner. Waves aren’t too fierce, you’re unlikely to be thrown around in the surf. However, there is enough surf in many places to make it ideal for learning to plant your feet on the board.
There’s nothing quite like the sense of achievement you feel the first time you ride a wave into the shore. Instruction starts on the beach, with students lying on the board and learning to leap to their feet. When everyone feels comfortable with the action, you head out into the sea. Instructors will tell you the best place to catch a wave and how big it needs to be to carry you in. I won’t say you’ll be a surfing pro in no time, because that’s simply not true. It takes years of practice to do anything flash on a surf board, but it’s entirely possible to go from complete beginner to able to stand up within a day.
What to take with you and what to hire
It’s always a dilemma when travelling. How much kit do you pack to take with you and how much do you hire when there. Let’s face it, most water sports equipment will be easier to hire. Unless you’re a real pro, you’re not going to want to lug diving kit or a stand up paddle board over with you. There are a few things to consider though before you go.
If you’re going to be swimming, pack your usual goggles. There’s nothing worse than spending the duration of an otherwise glorious sea swim adjusting a pair of leaky goggles. If you’re a hardy wild swimmer, you probably won’t need a wetsuit. However if you do want one, check the types of wetsuit that will be available for you to hire.
If you can only hire a surfing wetsuit and you’re going to be swimming, you’d be much better off taking one with you. Swim wetsuits are quite different to surfing ones, allowing a lot more movement – particularly in the arms. They are also thinner, making them a more practical thing to pack in a suitcase.
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