Being outdoors in the sun and the salt water is great for freeing your mind and feeling alive.
Samantha Stosur

Where Africa and Europe kiss

The Straits are a narrow watery connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. On the northern side is Spain and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. On the southern side is Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

It’s even busier over head

Swimming the Straits is challenging in more ways than one and it’s not something I’d do without a support boat nearby. What with ferries, fishing vessels, container ships and cruise liners, the Straits can be hazardous to a swimmer. The skies overhead are just as busy as they are an important route for hundreds of thousands of seabirds passing between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Not quite as fast as a ferry

Although the Straits are often used by illegal immigrants, they don’t often swim. In fact, not that many people have ever done it. Since 1928, approximately 625 people have reached the other side. I did it in 4 hours 35 minutes. Four hours longer than the average ferry.

Pillars of myth and legend

Greek mythology tells us that Hercules, while on his way to the garden of the Hesprides came across the Atlas Mountains, at the time running unbroken from Africa to Spain. Instead of climbing over, he simply smashed his way through, creating the Straits. An alternative version says the strong man narrowed the Straits to keep the Atlantic sea-monsters out. Plato reckoned that the lost city of Atlantis was situated ‘beyond the Pillars of Hercules’. Considering that encompasses the entire Atlantic Ocean, he was pretty safe in saying it.


Strait as an arrow

In June 2012, I was training to swim the English Channel. I decided to use the Straits of Gibraltar as a part of that training. I set off from Tarifa in Spain on a cool and windy morning. Swimming a shipping lane is not quite the same as doing laps in the pool. With the wind in the Straits the water was quite choppy and a cool 19°C. Although I swam solo, I was accompanied by support boats from ACNEG.

The feeling of accomplishment when I reached Ahmiar Point in Morocco was great, despite the curious looks I got from some Moroccan fisherman when I walked out the water! Perhaps they thought I was lost! I think they were relieved when after a few moments of savouring my accomplishment, I swum back to the boat and returned to Spain.


Swimming is a confusing sport, because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it to not die.

Demetri Martin