Jellyfish and Sopranos

More accurately one big jellyfish and the Soprano, both of which we encountered on this morning’s swim from Cabo Camarinal passing Atlanterra and finishing 5,800 metres later in front of the hotel Antonio in Zahara de los Atunes. This was the most perfect morning, especially happy as we were pushed along by a mild current and no wind to throw waves in our faces.

Ignacio rounding Cabo Camarinal with the lighthouse visible above

As often happens last minute plans are just the sweetest; the conditions of tide, wind and waves all coincided when my swim partner Ignacio Soto rang me up last minute and suggested the swim. As a skipper who knows this coast like the back of his hand Ignacio has the knack of picking the right moment. A dawn start and a 30 minute drive from the house took us to the Camarinal lighthouse and the Parque Natural del Estrecho a protected marine and land nature reserve that runs between the Atlantic (where we are) and the Mediterranean. A 20 minute walk down sandy trails through a forest of stone pine takes us to the Playa del Cañuelo, only the fisherman got there before, in fact it looked like they’d been there all night by the look of the crate of beer empties they must have lugged down the cliff.

Playa del Cañuelo

The water was fresh and welcoming after the walk, although early morning the temperature was rising fast, a sure sign the Levante wind this coast is famous for would click in at some point during the morning. We swam over shoals of silver lubina and shimmering anchovies and rounding the headland we stopped for a breather and marvelled at the stillness of the water. In the distance a huge motor yacht was moored up, rare for these shores as usually the waves and wind keep the bigger boats a fair distance off shore.

As calm as a pool with the Soprano in the distance

It was an easy 1,000m. to the big gin palace, I particularly wanted a shot of Ignacio swimming near the boat so we slowed down as we swam under the bows. Later that evening I looked up ‘Soprano’ online, a mega charter sailing in from the mediterranean. 120,000€ a week to rent! Surely a typo I thought, but no – low season was 110,000€ a week!!! The company blurb has a fine testimonial “THE CREW SPOILT US ROTTEN WHILE BEING DISCRETE AND WARM. YOU COULD NOT IMAGINE IT TO BE ANY BETTER”. For that amount a week you would expect not just to be spoilt but to be pampered, cosseted, over indulged, coddled and any other relevant synonym that fitted. A couple looked leaned over the railing and waved, breakfast champagne glasses in their hands. They looked a bit bored, I think we were having more fun.

Ignacio alongside the 120,000€ a week superyacht ‘Soprano’ – 38m. length and a gross tonnage of 360

Crossing the bay we swam on to the waters fronting the famous beach of Zahara de los Atunes, 11km. of white sand and dunes from end to end. The current seemed to pick up, from an empty beach and a rocky cape we swam on to umbrellas, sun beds and sand dotted with towels and sunbathers. We were now swimming only about a 100m. off shore with a depth of just 5 or 6 metres of water. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ignacio waving to me gesticulating downwards, I looked down to see a magnificent translucent jellyfish pulsing through the water. The cap was at least 60cm. wide and the length with his tendrils almost a metre and a half long. We swam around him marvelling at the purply, blue sheen of the light shining through his jelly head. He was so large he had a little cohort of fish feeding around him. I sort of sense that a jellyfish has trouble expressing anger, but nevertheless we kept at arms distance just in case.

Rhizostema Luteum, you can just see the little fish cleaning the tendrils

This was the most perfect example of a large Rhizostoma Luteum, a species native to the mediterranean and our Atlantic coast. Curiously although it was first described in 1827 it wasn’t until 2012 that it was officially recognised by the scientific community as so few examples had been found. The Luteum is harmless unlike its very similar cousin the Rhizostoma Nomadica a dangerous Indian Ocean species that has found its way in to the Mediterranean by swimming up the Suez Canal. Fingers crossed they don’t get through the Strait of Gibraltar and in to the Atlantic.

James and the jellyfish – best of friends

End of the swim, a good 5800m. not taken too seriously as we stopped to film so frequently. It looks like Morocco might open their borders soon, the political deadlock is over and COVID restrictions are easing. Meanwhile we’ll just keep on swimming until we get the call up. If we get a day as good as this for the crossing we might even have a chance of completing it. Inshallah.

End of the swim – a perfect September Saturday

My brother Justin, a confirmed pescatarian who enjoys eating all forms of marine life (as long as its sustainable!!) sent me this recipe for jellyfish salad. Justin lives near the beach on the edge of the Cape of Good Hope national park so he knows a thing or two about fish and sea creatures. Apparently jellyfish is very good for your skin due to the high amount of collagen it contains. First catch your jellyfish!