While planning my time in Sydney, I was strongly advised to check out nearby Manly Beach’s Bold and Beautiful Swim Squad, which gathers at 7:00 a.m. every day for a short swim over a marine reserve to a neighboring beach. We followed this good advice on day 3, zipping out to the Manly Surf Pavilion in plenty of time.
From studying the B&B website, we knew that hundreds had been showing up daily this holiday week. The penultimate swim of the year drew a large, genial crowd. “Snorkels, fins, wetsuits, whatever it takes, everything is welcome for all of our swims,” the organizers kindly proclaim.
We signed in at 6:45, mugging for headshots and picking up pink caps–all free. At the appointed time, we eased our way into the water along with our new friends and headed off along the seawall. Plenty of pictures from the swim are on the blog, including us in the seaward parade in the second one.
I like to have my space in the water, so for the 750 meters across Cabbage Tree Bay to Shelly Beach, I swam far out on the ocean side of the group. The water was a lovely shade of green and quite clear, but I couldn’t see much that far out.
At Shelly Beach, everyone exits the water and waits for the group to reassemble. This is about camaraderie and enjoying the water, not speed.
As we got ready for the return, Frankie recommended that I swim closer in to shore, for better views of the aquatic life. WOW, what a difference. I was more of a snorkler for the return trying to take in all the beautiful fish and plants.
What did I see? The only creature I can identify by name is the common ray, a sand-colored ray about the size of my torso that fluttered along the bottom. The many, many other fishies included foot-long light gray ones with dark stripes, similarly sized but more oblong black ones with white eyes, colorful little blue and yellow stripy ones, a long and skinny greenish brown one with a bulging head, small flittery minnows, and plenty more. The most interesting plants were bright green bursts that undulated with the passing waves. According to a sign on the shoreside path between Manly and Shelly, there were many other things in the water too, begging future exploration.
I got so wrapped up in the scenery that I very nearly swam straight into some rocks, but fortunately I noticed them in the nick of time. There I am at right waving to Jo, who was perfectly positioned in view of a sculpture.
What do the fish think of this strange human migration that occurs at the same time every day, I wonder. Do we look like different species to them depending on our swim attire and strokes?
Having already completed an incredible swim by 7:45 a.m., we now found ourselves on a beautiful beach that was coming to life with exercisers and sun bathers, many sporting MANLY attire that made me smile. We claimed a patch of sand to stretch out on, enjoying watching the nippers paddle out on their boogie boards, ride the waves in, and then run back out to do it again and again.
In order to make the early start time, we had to drive out to Manly. The more traditional way to get there is by ferry. To complete the experience and have another go at this beautiful patch of water, we will squeeze in a return visit by boat. The downside of that, of course, is missing the B&B Swim, but at least we are now on the official list.