the "great white" visitor at sa dragonera
the 10km of Sa Dragonera
It is still dark and a little chilly when we leave the hotel in Palma. A last check on the swimming gear and off we go heading for Sant Elm, a beautiful little coastal town at the south-west end of Isla Mallorca. It is just before sunrise but the city is still crowded with people. Palma never sleeps. A little later the country roads lead us through this amazing mountainous landscape that many beach party tourists do not know.
At 6:30am we meet with the hosts from Neda el Mon and the other swimmers at the port of Sant Elm. It is not the first time that we come here. Two years ago I was already competing in the Sa Dragonera Island race, fighting strong winds and annoying waves. But today the sea looks calm, for now at least.
Around 7am we take off to Sa Dragonera harbour by ferry boats. The water is unbelievable clear and the closer we come to the island we understand why this natural beauty is under environmental protection. Getting closer, the island becomes larger, its size more real und latest now everybody understands, this is a 10 km open water race that will push your limits. Near the harbour we are convinced that the weather will hold and the sea will stay calm. But there is one more thing - jellyfish everywhere. We all decide to wear wetsuits for the race to be more protected in the water.
8am sharp, the race is on. During the start phase it is important to keep my nerves and to be cool, even if others swim ahead of me. For a long distance like this I have to find my own pace first. We are heading north-east to swim around the northern tip of the island. The closer we come to that point, the water current is getting stronger. Time to increase the pace, to make every stroke count and to get out of the current ahead of the others. For the first time in this race I take the lead. Reaching the other side of the island we are now swimming in the shadow of a long cliff coast. This will take more than half of the race time. Although protected by my wetsuit the Jellyfish still find their way to sting me all over my hands, feet and face. Around the Island's south tip the current comes back and now the months of hard training are paying off. Finally, after 2:54 hours, I reach as the second swimmer the finish line.
the great white visitor
But the story doesn't end here. A couple of days later interesting news arrive. Local newspapers from the Balearic islands report a historical sighting of a great white shark in the waters of Isla Mallorca. A scientific expedition had discovered and filmed, for about 70 minutes, a five meter big specimen. The discovery is notable because of the size of the shark, the location and its observation in a natural environment. Over the last years there were already unconfirmed sightings of big sharks in the region, but this is the first scientific verification of the presence of great white sharks in Spanish waters for at least 30 years.
I still have a little mixed feelings when I imagine that our swim race had a "great white" visitor during that day. Watching a documentary about them is enjoyable, but being at risk to meet a 5 meter great white during an open water swim is something else. At least we know now that big sharks are around and that they don't care about us as long as we don't provoke them. It is also noteworthy that great white sharks are a species threatened with extinction. Let's protect these majestic creatures of the open sea. Nevertheless, there was another species in the water that day, attacking us all badly during the race. I really don't like jellyfish.