Summertime and the swimming is easy...10 spots worth packing your trunks for...
Ik Kil, Mexico: just four kilometres from the Chichen Itza pyramids in Yucatan is the the magnificent fresh-water swimming hole of Il Kil. It's the most famous cenote in the area, which is an old Mayan word meaning 'sacred well', which are sinkholes formed when the roof of a limestone cave collapses. The pool is 35 metres deep, is home to shoals of black catfish, and the jungle scene is topped off by a curtain of vines dripping with beads of water.
The Mayans had a penchant for human sacrifice, so its no surprise that a giant steep-sided pool would be a green light for some drownings - in this case young people thrown in sacrifice to their rain god.
These days getting out of the water and back to the top of the cenote is a synch, as steps and tunnels have been carved into the walls and through the living rock.
Practicalities: some coach tours to Chichen Itza from Cancun call in at Ik Kil and it gets busy at times. There's a restaurant and a few stalls around the rim now too. If you want to dodge the hoards and sleepover to enjoy a morning or evening swim, then Hotel Ik Kil is right by the rim, or the Hotel Dolores is a 10-minute walk away. The swimming hole is about midway-ish between Merida (140 kilometres) and Cancun (205 kilometres) airports.
Erawan Falls, Thailand: this gentle 7-tier cascade fills numerous emerald green ponds along its 1.5 kilometre descent and is named after the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology because its top tier is supposed to resemble an elephant’s head.
Practicalities: the falls are in the Erewan National Park, a three-hour drive west of Bangkok. There are walking trails and footbridges as far as the 7th tier - which takes about an hour and a half to reach from the base. The national park is open daily from 7am to 4:30pm: it gets packed at weekends, so arrive early in the day if you can to beat the crowds. There are places to eat, bungalows and a camp site if you want to stay overnight, and frequent busses from Kanchanaburi. The nearest airports are Bangkok's Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, about 200 kilometres away.
Fairy Pools, Scotland: on the Hebredian island of Skye, the Fairy Pools are a delightful waterfall and pool complex backed by textbook Scottish scenery and wildlife. While you are jumping off the rocks and splashing about keep an eye out for deer, sheep, rabbits, curlews, herons and plovers.
Practicalities: the pools are about a 20 minute walk from the car park in tiny village of Glen Brittle. Go Skye run shuttle busses from Portree to the Fairy Pools car park in summer. People bathe and swim here in high summer in swimsuits, but most people most of the time you'll be better off with a wetsuit. The best airport to use is Inverness, 196 kilometres away.
Pamukkale Pools, Turkey: okay okay, I know it's not exactly wild swimming, more wild paddling really, but this surreal phenomenon in southwestern Turkey is an unforgettable place to dip. Pamukkale means 'Cotton Castle' in Turkish, and the shallow pools are filled with slow-flowing water and are made form travertine - a sort of limestone that's deposited by the calcium-rich hot springs. It's what stalactites and 'mites are made from in grottos and caverns. It's a popular tourist site, but at 2,700 metres long and 600 metres wide, there's always space for you to strike to find a pool of one's own.
Practicalities: the closest airport and train station are at Denizili, 65 kilometres from the pools. This cascade has been attracting tourists for over a thousand years and it's now protected as a World Heritage Site. Strictly speaking, visitors are only supposed to dip their feet in the pools, although this is hard to police.
Las Grietas, Ecuador: the extraordinary atmosphere of the Galapagos Islands gives this remote flooded crevasse a decidedly Jurassic Park-like twist. There are a couple of steep-sided cool-water pools of dazzling clarity, and a submerged one-metre swim-through tunnel that connects them.
A cleft in the rocks reveals the perfect finger of water at Las Grietas. Photo Gringos Abroad.com
Practicalities: take a speedboat taxi from Puerto Ayora to the ‘otro lado’ (other side) and follow the signs to the Finch Bay Hotel. Pass to the left of the hotel and follow the path across a lava field and through a forest of cacti for about 15-minutes, then descend the winding wooden steps. The nearest airport is one on the adjascent island of Baltra, which is connected to Santa Cruz Island by a short 5-minute ferry crossing.
Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa: this sublime natural swimming hole is by the village of Lotofaga on the south coast of Samoa's main island, Upolu. A volcanic eruption led to some ground collapsing to form a 30-metre deep circular pool that's fed from the Pacific Ocean via a number of small channels and tunnels. There is now a flight of wooden steps leading down to a diving and swimming platform.
Practicalities: the tropical climate means that this swimming spot is good year round. The main airport on Samoa is Faleolo Airport, 47 kilometres away. See Beautiful Samoa
Cummins Falls, USA: this handsome waterfall has been a hit with bathers for over a century. It's Tennessee's largest falls by volume of water, and the main drop is 23 metres, reached along a two-kilometre hiking trail. The main curtain of water splashes onto a wide and worn-smooth shallow terrace of rock pools.
The waterfall and bathing plinths at Cummins Falls. Photo Michael Hicks/Flickr
Ghasri Valley, Malta: on the north western coast of Malta's sleepier and smaller island of Gozo you'll find a sinuous inlet that looks purpose made for swimming and snorkelling. It winds between rugged limestone ridges for 300 metres before reaching the sea at the pebbly Ghasri Bay.
Practicalities: the Gozo Channel ferry from Malta to Gozo takes just 30 minutes, and the nearest place to stay is the nearby village of Gharsi, which is home to the Gordian Lighthouse, with a light that began scanning the horizon in 1853. There's a road from the centre of the village to the Ghasri Valley. See Visit Gozo
Agua Azul, Mexico: this dramatic cascade of waterfalls is a cracking place for a jungle-fringed dip. This gorgeous stretch of the River Shumulha has plenty of pools upstream of the main area too. In fact, it’s best to head a little upstream to put some distance between you and the the tourist kiosks by the car park - that way you'll probably find a pool all to yourself.
Practicalities: the falls are popular and you’ll find that many hostels and tour operators offer day trips or excursions to them from Palenque or San Cristobel de las Cassas. The car park is four kilometres from the main road. The nearest airport is Palenque, a 90 minute drive away.
Devil's Pool, Zambia: a small plunge pool on the lip of the Victoria Falls in Zambia isn't a place for a leisurely swim, but with tons of water plummeting 108 metres down into the gorge right behind you, it is perhaps the world's most terrifying dip.
The Devil's Pool is next to Livingstone Island. Hotel staff guide swimmers to the pool for safety. Photo Tongabezi
Practicalities: the Devil's Pool can only be attempted safely in the dry season - mid August to mid January - when the river level is low enough not to sweep swimmers over the edge. The falls are almost two kilometres wide and are shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe, but the pool can only be reached from the Zambian side, after a walk over rocks and a swim. The Tongabezi is a riverside lodge that offers escorted trips to the pool. The Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Zambia is 10 kilometres from the falls, or Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe is 20 kilometres away.