Becoming one

In a bid to really immerse themselves into the deep blue, seatrekking has become increasingly popular over the years.

Words & photographs by Julian Muehlmeier

It is three in the afternoon on a remote island in Croatia. We have been doing the only thing we did not want to do for the whole day: staring on our phones, sleeping here and there and somehow killing the time. In the early morning, our little energetic group wanted to start off on an open water Seatrekking trail to reach another smaller uninhabited island a few kilometers away. But since a storm got stuck just above us, we have been glued to our screens, following the colorful satellite weather movements and different forecasts. We hoped for a small window of time without lightning and with the right wind direction that would make it safe for us to cross safely. Everybody has been looking forward to the trip for weeks, which explains the level of silent frustration that we all shared while sitting in a harbour cafe from which we could see our remote target wrapped with rain in the distance.

All equipment was packed and we were ready to go. There were two options: waiting until tomorrow (what would have crushed our plans) or starting at around 4pm when we expected less rain and no lightning. We were keen to head off and finally jump into the sea to start our long-awaited Seatrekking journey.

You might ask yourself, what exactly are these people doing? Seatrekking is a new and unique nature experience through which we explore coastal regions in and around the sea on trips that last several days. We spend most of our time in the water and move solely by snorkelling, freediving and flowdiving. Alternatively, we hike on land, right along the coast. We spend the nights on beaches under the open sky and cook on the campfire.

All needed things, such as food, sleeping bag, mattress and dry clothes are packed in a floating streampack, which can be blown up and gets pulled with an elastic, long leash that is fixed to your leg, enabling you to carry all your equipment in the sea. You can move freely, are able to dive down and have everything you need for a few days in nature. Just you and the sea.

Maybe it sounds extreme, but Seatrekking is something for everyone as long as you are not afraid of water. Back on the rocky beach, while we squeeze ourselves in our wetsuits, slip in on our freediving fins, put on our diving weight, snorkels and masks, the sky opens up sporadically and let some sun rays shine onto the flat ocean surface. We blow up the streampacks and immerse ourselves in the still grey and dark water. We’re happy to be back in the sea.

Suddenly, everything is quiet. We move steadily along the coast over seagrass fields fenced by broken rock boulders. We only encounter a few fish, while the sea bed deepens evenly to the left until. When we reach the tip of the bay, we head off into the blue.

The moment when you notice that you can’t see the seabed anymore is always special. Immersing yourself into the blue with all its forces gives you this new sensation that is linked to so many emotions. After a while, I found my flowdiving rhythm and gliding through the deep water became easier. Flowdiving is a diving technique that is inspired by dolphins. We use it to cover long distances in the water. During flowdiving you dive down below the surface for a few metres, before shortly breaking the water surface with the snorkel to breath and then immediately going back down again. It takes some training and breathing exercise to succeed but it is a very effective way to move from A to B.

While we dive, the colours of the deep are the nicest blue hues hat exist for me. They calm me down. We decide to take a little break so we pull the streampacks towards us, rest and are moistening our dry throats from breathing through the snorkel with some drinking water. Our little group is just in between the main island and the small isle. Our diving flags on the floating bags swirl in the wind, which seemed to have picked up a little. If the direction of the wind changes just a little, we could end up in the middle of the Adriatic Sea as the wind and its current are stronger than our muscles. That in mind, we keep on swimming and adapt our ‘trail‘ direction regularly, while the isle with its beautiful coastline slowly grows bigger.

After a few hours, we arrive on the shore of the island. My legs are not ready yet to carry the weight of my body in the shallows. We help each other, sit down on the beach and are full of endorphins that we finally managed to get here. We arrived at the very northern tip of the slim island that is very flat in its north and sports some mountains further south. We see classic Mediterranean in flora and some seagulls circling above us. I let my gaze wander over to the starting point on the other island and towards the Adriatic Sea. What a feeling of freedom and satisfaction, being out here in nature.

People are fascinated by movement, nomadism and supporting the awareness for nature. Seatrekking combines and embodies this. What also draws us to this sport is the feeling of pure freedom, because you are focussed so much on the moment at all time. You carry all equipment and food you need, dive down, hold your breath and explore the coastal cliffs and beaches. We visit wild and beautiful places that not many people get to see. Having this break, switching off our phones and only enjoying the time with friends in nature, that is unique. Seatrekking is not about any performance, holding your breath long enough, going the deepest or fastest. It is purely about experiencing nature. You decide how fast and how far you want to go.

On that same evening, we enjoyed an amazing sunset, while we cooked our food and set up the night camp next to the shore. The next few days we moved south along the coastline, with amazing sunshine and a calm sea, explored the underwater world and dove down, gliding over white sand and deep green seagrass meadows. We noticed a more wild, balanced and intact marine life around here in comparison to the closer shore, where people’s influence is obviously visible. Of course we know what responsibility that means for us; we have to be extremely careful and watch out where we move. All Seatrekkers follow the Seatrekking code, which is based on eight guiding rules, such as “Leave no trace”, “Reduce yourself”, “Hide & see”, “Learn from the animals” or “Travel in small groups”.

One afternoon we arrived in a beautiful wide bay which looked like something out of the Carribbean. A few sailing boats were anchored and we can immediately see the human impact: rubbish on the beach, in the water, stone towers built by some families, foot prints on the beach. But we were happy to find a little pirate shelter built out of drift wood and we decided to make it our little home for the night.

One dive spot that we encountered on this trip is still very present in my mind. A steep cliff characterised the landscape above and below the water surface. Combined with some little terraces of seagrass and massive rock boulders, the underwater world seemed like a perfect Japanese garden that was full of life and movement. We had the most amazing dives there and felt like dolphins playing and gliding in the 3D space of water.

Down at 20 metres, one member of our group interacted with a beautiful eagle ray, which was the only larger animal we encountered on that trail. We didn’t even see an octopus which is surprising in Croatia. I couldn’t help but think that you really realise what trouble our oceans are in when having spent that much time in it.

It is in this exposure to pure nature, that we discover who we really are and what role we want to play in that game. When wrestling with nature, you have this scary yet amazing realisation of your own cosmic insignificance. It calms me down and keeps me grounded long after the trail is over, regularly redirecting my course in life, making me focus on the important things.

On our last day, after we crossed the island on land. Poseidon was gentle to us and the currents pushed us back to the main island. Beautiful sun, the deep blue and perfect conditions to move. I love this movement as it helps me become a sea nomad. Seatrekking takes you out of your comfort zone. It is a lifestyle and philosophy that brings you back to the really important things in life.

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