wild swimming

Lakes, rivers and pools: Wild swimming in open water

In Nature, Travel Inspiration, Water by Kai

Top image: Flickr

Water is everywhere. It’s in the pool, it’s in the sky and it’s in us. 70% of the human body is water. 70 is also the percentage of the earth’s surface that’s covered by water.

Despite the abundance of H20, we’re weird when it comes to swimming. We’ll balk at splashing in a stream – “Who knows that’s in there?” – yet we’ll plunge into a pool with a bunch of strangers.

“A sun-dappled pool of awesomeness”

The public baths? Who knows what’s in there? 

There are many reasons why you might want to swim wild: it’s free, it’s invigorating and it doesn’t involve stinging chlorine and floating sticking plasters. There’s also the spectacular scenery to soak up, from horseshoe lagoons to cascading waterfalls.

We’ve rounded up ten beautiful spots for swimming, diving and frolicking. Why immerse yourself in nature when you can submerge yourself in it?


1. Cummins Falls, Tennessee, USA

Cummins Falls, Tennessee
Cummins Falls. Image: Flickr

You can swim wild at Cummins Falls but you can’t swim alone – this sunken waterhole is for the people. The young people mostly, who’ve hiked, waded and climbed to reach this sun-dappled pool of awesomeness. In days gone by, buffalo would cool down here, but today Cummins Falls attracts a livelier clientele.

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Wild flowers shimmer gently, stirred by invisible Alpine currents

2. Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy

Bellagio, Lake Como
Bellagio. Image: Flickr

Wild flowers shimmer gently, stirred by invisible Alpine currents. Boats bob languidly on the Y-shaped lake. Tourists linger in cafes flanked by cobbled stairways. But you don’t notice any of this, cos you’re too busy splashing in the cool waters of Bellagio’s old harbour. Climb out, dive in, repeat. Culture and sightseeing can wait when Lake Como is calling your name.

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3. Kouang Si Falls, Laos

Why swim in one waterfall when you can swim in all the waterfalls? Cascading for 60 metres, this otherworldly series of falls woos butterflies and bathers alike.

Kouang Si Falls, Laos
Kouang Si Falls. Image: Flickr

4. Crystal River, Florida, USA

Whoa, what’s that waddling in the water? Oh, that’s just a manatee – why, did you think humans were the only species who bathed here? Don’t worry about the lumbering sea cows; like the rest of us, they just want to kick back in a river that’s as clear as its name.

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Crystal River, Florida
Crystal River. Image: Flickr

Swim beneath the mother of all backdrops

5. Pont du Gard, France

Pont Du Gard panorama
Pont du Gard. Image: Flickr

Sometimes it’s the warm, turquoise water that lures you in. At other times, it’s the prospect of swimming beneath the mother of all backdrops. The Gardon River feels pretty good, but it can’t compete with the majestic spectacle that looms overhead. That’ll be the Pont du Gard, a 1st-century Roman aqueduct that once carried more water than the river it spans.

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Pont Du Gard, France
Pont du Gard. Image: Flickr

6. Cueva del Gato, Andalucia, Spain

You don’t have to dive into this cool cave pool – you can plunge, jump or tiptoe. The main thing is that you make it to this cave complex, whose entrance supposedly resembles a cat’s face. Situated close to the town of Ronda, Cueva del Gato extends for 8km into the limestone rock. How deep can you go?

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Cueva del Gato, Andalucia
Cueva del Gato. Image: Flickr

Echoes of wonder and shrieks of excitement 

7. Ik Kil, Yucatán, Mexico

Woah, get a load of this. A carved stairway leads to a 40-metre-deep pool, fringed by hanging vines. Black catfish dart about, while on the surface, swimmers frolic. Located in the north of Yucatán Peninsula, this wild swimming spot echoes with wonder and shrieks of excitement.

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Ik Kil, Mexico
Ik Kil. Image: Flickr

8. Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman

Depending on where you are in the world, an invitation to “swim with the fishes” can invoke delight or dread. In the case of Oman’s Bimmah Sinkhole, it’s certainly the former – its aquamarine waters are utterly inviting. Google “sinkhole” and you’ll find all sorts of scare stories on the internet. This one’s a gentle giant however, replete with a handrail that guides you to the bottom of the former sea cave.

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Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
Bimmah Sinkhole. Image: Flickr

9. Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

What’s going on here then? All kinds of stuff. This is the Devil’s Pool, a swirling maelstrom that gives way to Victoria Falls, 360 feet below. You’ll want to tread carefully and swim cautiously then. Despite the impending peril, Devil’s Pool is safe when water levels dip – or at least as safe as any whirlpool on the precipice of a waterfall can be.

Devil's Pool, Victoria Falls
Devil’s Pool. Image: Flickr

Once you’ve gone wild, swimming tame just feels lame 

10. Kakadu, Northern Territory, Australia

Kakadu, with its famous infinity edge
Kakadu. Image: Flickr

To the south of Kakadu National Park lies a natural plunge pool that is prized for its infinity edge. It’s also prized for its spectacular view and deliciously clear water. After taking a trip to Gunlom Falls, your municipal baths will never feel the same again. Once you’ve gone wild, swimming tame just feels lame. Still, it’s a small price to pay for the dip of a lifetime.

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Kakadu, 170km south-east of Darwin
Kakadu. Image: Flickr

Learn more

  Wild Swimming   Wild Swimming

Got a favourite swimming spot to share? Pop your suggestions in the comment box below.


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KaiLakes, rivers and pools: Wild swimming in open water