By Niamh Hegarty (attended the 23-29 September 2023 week)

I swim with a large group of women in Galway in the west of Ireland. Most of them have been on several swimming holidays over the years but this was my first. And now I’m wondering why I waited so long!
A friend found the SwimQuest Croatia trip to the Pakleni Islands. We liked the look of it, so a group of us booked. First time for all of us with SwimQuest.


As we came close to the time of the holiday SwimQuest were in touch with very helpful details for airport transfers, ferries and everything we needed to know to get there. So the holiday certainly started with some drama. We had some rain in Split while waiting for the ferry to Hvar. But it had all seemed to settle – until we were on the taxi ferry to our island, getting to know our fellow swimmers. We spotted the blackest sky I have ever seen sitting right over the harbour as we approached. So of course it started raining as we got off the ferry and to say we were soaked is an understatement!! I’ve never experienced rain like it! But, we were shown to our lovely rooms, unpacked our soaking wet clothes out of our bags and headed in for lunch.
Oh, the bruschetta.
We ate so much bruschetta that week! In fact, we just ate so much of everything for the week. All of our meals in Palmizana Meneghello were delicious. We’d think we were full, and then they’d bring out more amazing food – and sure we just had to eat it! Mealtimes were always fun. The whole group ate together joined by our fabulous guides, John and Bertie, who we just loved. So many interesting chats with people from different walks of life.

The colourful restaurant at Palmizana

John and Bertie also arranged some meals in other restaurants – one in Hvar – so we got the taxi ferry back over there one night with time for a wander around the town and lovely dinner. That was a special evening.

I suppose I should mention the swimming!!!

Beautiful clear blue green swimming

Palmizana Croatia

The Pakleni Islands

The rain went away, the sun came out and the water was warm, clear and blue. Or was it green?! Either way, it was crystal clear – for me, on my first holiday like this, I couldn’t believe all that I could see.
We started by doing a little swim just in the swimming area at the beach. And even there, there were loads of fish to see. And all week we saw so many fish. And starfish – big colourful ones – oranges, reds and purples.
A few of us were lucky enough the first day to spot an octopus – hiding on the rocks, camouflaged but as he moved he turned a light blue colour – the exact same colour as my SwimQuest hat!
If you take a look at a map of the Pakleni Islands they are the weirdest shape! But because of their odd formation, we got to swim in secluded, safe, protected coves, where we just followed the line of rocks in calm waters. We swam in different locations every day – heading off by boat waiting to see what John and Bertie had in store for us.

Happy swimmers!

There were two islands which we swam around. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would swim around an island, but somehow, with some great encouragement from John, I did it.
What was really great about the swimming was that there was no pressure to swim fast, or that you had to do a certain distance. Some days I got out a bit before the end of the swim and that was ok. Once I got in about halfway through the swim – that was also ok. John and Bertie always wanted to make sure we were totally comfortable. There were times I wasn’t sure about my own ability but they’d encourage me to give it a go and you know what, they were always right!
We also did some technique sessions at the beach before breakfast. Just 15 minutes any morning we wanted it. And the little tips they gave me made a huge difference to my stroke, and I can still hear their voices in my ear when I’m swimming at home again now!
While we were all there because we wanted to swim, we also wanted it to be a holiday. And in between swims, when we weren’t eating massive amounts of food, we had time to hang out in our rooms or our favourite spot – the sun loungers on the beach!!! We spent some lovely hours hanging out there reading and chatting and dipping.
The whole week feels like a dream now. It was just so perfect – ( even with the damp start!!!) – I can’t believe it really happened.

I would definitely recommend SwimQuest. They made everything so easy – we were just told where and when we had to be somewhere and they looked after everything else. I’m having trouble deciding where to go next year but I’m sure I’ll be booking again!

Check out our Croatia trips at