It’s no secret that we love nature. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, we aren’t huge fans of crowds of tourists lying on our beaches. (We’ve said it before, we’re beach snobs.)
But our pictorials and videos from Goa to Palawan often show stunning, empty beaches completely devoid of much of the overdevelopment we complain about ad nauseum. Where are we getting these pictures?
On occasion, we are able to rent sea kayaks to get off the beaten track. But more commonly, we must resort to what we have come to call “water-hiking.” We often pack our beach sarongs and our smaller camera into a lightweight, good-quality Sea to Summit waterproof bag and put that into one of the low-cost, heavier Asian knock-off waterproof bags available everywhere and start exploring the coasts.
Walking through dense jungle without a good trail system is painful; thorns, vines, leeches, and pterodactyl-sized bugs don’t make it easy. This creates nice barriers between more populated beaches and small isolated beaches situated along undeveloped coastal areas. So if jungle trails start to disappear and rocky coasts become impassable, we dive into the water and start swimming.
Sometimes, we are out for an entire day working our way miles up the coast. On occasion, it is a lot of work for nothing. At other times, we hit the jackpot. No risk, no reward.
For us, water-hiking has become a favorite sport. But before you dive in and begin your water-hiking adventure, you need to keep a couple of things in mind.
Ten Tips for Water Hikers
1. You need to be a strong swimmer and you need to be comfortable in the water. Very comfortable. Know how to deal with riptides and never try to swim across a channel unless you are 100 percent sure of what the currents are doing. You really don’t want to get swept out to sea.
2. Always water-hike with a buddy.
3. Always water-hike with a snorkel and mask and avoid water-hiking through areas with unclear water. You need to be able to avoid potential dangers such as sea urchins, coral, sea snakes, and dangerous fish, such as lionfish, stonefish, and scorpionfish. Snorkeling also makes long swims much more enjoyable.
4. Make sure that there are no serious wildlife dangers where you are water-hiking, such as salt-water crocodiles, major shark problems, box jellyfish etc. You should approach regions such as southern Indonesia, northern Australia, Madagascar, etc. with caution. It’s always best to ask locals. Also watch out for jellyfish blooms.
5. In the developing world, many inaccessible areas can be associated with illegal activities. Make sure you don’t stumble upon drug runners, poachers, etc. Again, ask locals.
6. Take lots of drinking water with you. You’ll need it.
7. Take some emergency money with you in case you need/want to hire a boat to bring you back.
8. Wear waterproof shoes such as Tevas or Chacos for climbing in and out of the water along rocky coasts where bits of coral, barnacles, and urchins can be a problem.
9. Use a good waterproof sunblock and make sure you reapply block frequently while hiking. Sun in the tropics is a BIG issue. We use SPF 50 for everything. Lots of SPF 50. In addition, we usually use swimming shirts while snorkeling. Even with these precautions, we still get way too much sun.
10. Swim with a waterproof bag to hold your things. A more solid bag can also be used as a floatation device should you get caught in a riptide or swept away from the coast.