He had put in a lot of energy to complete the toughest swim across the North Pole way back in 2007. He spent many days in Namibia's Skeleton Coast, where he swam hours and hours to develop stronger muscles, ran up and down the sand dunes many times to make his legs ready for the gruelling expedition that highlighted the issue of melting ice in the Arctic Sea.
Three years later, he almost lost his life while attempting to swim across the Imja Glacial Lake that invited the world's attention towards the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas. It was supposed to be a cakewalk for the experienced swimmer, but he struggled to breathe and abandoned the attempt, only to accomplish the mission three days later.
But renowned ocean advocate, inspirational speaker and author, Lewis Pugh, does not count them as the thrilling moment in his 27-year-long career. "It is undoubtedly the 10-kilometre swim which I did on August 25, 2014, along the Ras Al Hadd near Sur, as part of my 7 Seas Expedition," he reveals.
What made the accomplished swimmer who completed long distance expeditions in every ocean of the World to fall in love with a sleepy coastal stretch? "The water is absolutely gorgeous and magnificent. As I walked into the sea, I saw hundreds of turtles going into the water. I saw some mothers laying eggs. During the 10-kilometre swim, I could see around hundreds of turtles underneath me. It was a magnificent scene. I have never seen so many green turtles together in my life," he explains.
It is not just about the turtles alone. The courteous fishermen in the area, who helped him complete his mission, too left an indelible imprint in his mind. "I landed in Oman a day prior to my swim (August 22). The plan was not yet ready. I just drove to Ras Al Hadd in the company of an interpreter, Abdullah. It was too late when we arrived there. The beach was almost empty. But we could see group of fishermen who were returning home. We walked up to one of them (his name is Rabi) and requested him to hire his boat for the next day.
He agreed to come, and the rate was extraordinarily reasonable," Lewis recollects. The next day morning, Rabi came on time. "Rabi was the best 'pilot' I had in my life so far. He was neither too fast nor too slow. He didn't come close to me during the three hours and 15 minutes of my swim. He always encouraged me with a lovely smile. It was a great experience to come to Oman and swim in one of its lovely coasts."
Oman was just an option for Lewis and his crew when they finalised the Seven Seas Expedition where they planned to swim in the Adriatic Sea, Agean Sea, Black Sea Red Sea, Arabian Sea and North Sea to inspire people around the world to protect and preserve the oceans.
"When the time came to decide the swimming spot in Arabian Sea, we decided to go to India, Pakistan, Maldives, Yemen, Somalia or Oman. In fact, I wanted to swim in Mumbai (India). I had to shelve the plan as swimming was banned off the coast during Monsoon. Somalia was also dropped due to the piracy threats. Then we decided to focus on Oman"
Later, when he approached Oman officials, he got an immediate green signal. "The Sultanate welcomed us and gave us wholehearted support. I am happy to be here."
Soon after finishing the Oman leg, Lewis was slated to fly to London the same night where he will complete the campaign today (August 29) with a swim in the North Sea in London. And he hopes that the policymakers will take steps to protect at least 10 per cent of our seas in a network of well-managed Marine Protected Areas.
"When I saw the green turtles in Oman, the images of Hawksbill Turtles who suffered 80% reduction in their population in just one decade came to mind. We need to double our efforts to protect the endangered species. Imagine a world without Serengeti (ecosystem in Africa) or Yellow Stone (National Park in the United States) or Kruger National Park (one of the largest game reserves in Africa). That is what our oceans are like now. We can change it and we have to change it."
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