One of travel ‘s greatest virtues is its power to teach and open our eyes, sometimes, to the most obvious things. It also has the power to serve us reminders of long-forgotten lessons and make us appreciate those who are dear to us. This is one such incident.

reef-photoAn eye-opening incident

I was out on a snorkelling trip when a strong current swept me away. Two things saved me: a lesson I learned many years ago that if I were to be in this situation, I had to swim parallel to the shore before heading for the boat or the shoreline; and sheer willpower. I began to tire before I reached the boat. My body felt like a slab of lead and my mind was racing. I struggled to stay afloat as I felt waves of panic washing over me. As I sank for the third time, it suddenly occurred to me that I should start yelling for help. I fought my way back to the surface and shouted, “Help me please!”. Many thoughts flitted through my mind and it occurred to me that even in my dire state, I still remained polite – a bizarre thing to think of at that moment!

Fortunately, I was close enough to the boat for the crew to hear my cries and throw out a life buoy. I used my last reserves to reach out and grab the buoy. The waves played with me like a little doll, smashing me against the boat as the crew struggled to get me to the ladder. I somehow managed to catch the ladder and I knew I was safe.

I kicked myself for not listening to my instincts.

Before I went into the sea, I noticed the wind picking up and the swells growing. My instincts told me not to go in but I figured: I’m an experienced snorkeller, I’m a decent swimmer, I initiated this trip, I was there, I wanted to see the reefs and if I felt unsafe, I could always make my way back to the boat. I was swept away within minutes. The crew tried to haul me back into the boat but I couldn’t move. I hung onto the ladder in a state of shock. My throat choked on the salty water and my mind was reeling. I tried desperately to relax my breathing and calm my nerves. After what seemed like ages, I allowed the crew to pull me up. My first real thoughts were of my utter stupidity – I kicked myself for not listening to my instincts. I then started to think of my loved ones at home and how I wished they were there.

I was elated to return home to big hugs, kisses and smiling faces – it was all I needed to know that I was back with the people I love and I thanked them for simply being in my life.

There’s a lesson in every experience

I strongly believe that there’s a lesson in every experience, whilst the more dramatic ones have the power to truly open our eyes. My Dad’s passing several years ago taught me a great lesson about setting aside our differences to allow love to fluorish.

This near-drowning incident reminded me of how fragile life is and taught me to appreciate my loved ones and tell them as often as I can why they mean so much to me. It also taught me to listen carefully to my instincts. My mind may have a will of its own but when it comes to personal safety, it’s my instincts that I should trust.

18 Responses

  • Glad you are safe, Keith! Lesson learned indeed. Water is more deceptive than we think it is

  • Your experience reminded me of something I read, which forever changed how I think of drowning. Google “Drowning doesn’t look like drowning”. very very eye opening for anyone who spends time near the water.

  • Thats a great lesson learned – thanks for sharing! Its good to learn to never let your guard down when traveling – what ever the danger will be. I think thats the benefit of Solo Travel – in that you hardly ever let your guard down.

  • I’m so glad you were brave enough to share this personal story. If it had happened to me, I would not have known what to do, so your tips may help save some lives!

  • A really beautiful post Keith. And it’s good to stay polite, you never know what would have happened if you’d screamed,’ Hey!. Help me!. G@#=!@ned! i am drowning here, you m%$#@kers!!’ . someone might just think, ‘ well good for you’ and aim the buoy on top of your head.. Rob

  • Hi Stephanie,
    I know… it took a while but glad I shared it and thank you for pushing me to write and publish it.

    Lots of love & hugs,
    Keith xxx

  • Thank you Andy, Marianne & Jennifer for your lovely comments.

    – Andy: I think my politeness stems from my rather #unbelievablyBritish upbringing! LOL! 😉
    – Jennifer: Yup, that’s the lesson I learned here: your gut doesn’t lie.


  • Thanks Lorenzo for your kind comment! I do the occasional personal post – I should perhaps do more of them. 🙂
    I still chuckle when I think how I shouted “Please”! Hahaha!


  • Isn’t it frightening how an instant can change everything? One bad decision, one instinct ignored and so many peoples’ lives torn apart. It’s scary to read this now and to think that we might have been reading Tweets about your demise.

    And I know exactly what you mean about still being polite – I would probably have drowned rather than sound stupid or look weak by crying out – sigh #unbelievablyBritishanddumb

    Happier than ever to know you’re still here 🙂

  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love to snorkel and I’m an experienced swimmer but I have a huge respect for the ocean and always wear a life jacket when I snorkel. It’s so important to have a response and not a reaction when you’re caught in a situation like the one you described. Panic will kill you but knowing what to do will save your life. Thank you for posting this!

  • Thanks do much for sharing this experience, Keith! I think we sometimes look to experienced travelers like yourself as travel superheroes and this post is a reminder we’re all human. No matter how experienced we are, dangers are always around and your gut doesn’t lie.

  • Wow, I’m glad you’re ok. Keith, you did a great job with this post, I feel you made me as a reader really connect in a personal level with you. Keep safe and always trust your instincts. P.s. You made me laugh when you mentioned your “polite SOS.” lol

  • Thank you Leyla for sharing your experience. We both know how harrowing it is and I’m glad you made it back safe & posted this lovely comment. It was a horrible experience but I’m grateful I made it back ok and thankful for the lesson.


  • Your post really struck a chord, Keith… I almost drowned off the coast of Zanzibar by a hair. I swam out to a boat with some friends and when we turned around the tide had come in. The 100m swim was more like 500m (or at least it seemed to be). Everyone else joyfully swam back while I belatedly remembered I could only swim when my toes could touch.

    My own instincts had screamed to me not to go in the first place – but the pretty little boat seemed so close, the friends so cheerful, the water so clear… it never occurred to me that the friends could go off without me and distances change in an instant.

    As I tried to swim back I felt myself drowning. I vaguely remembered you could float on your back (really?? I’d never tried that!) so I flipped over and tried to stay afloat by paddling lightly with my hands. I kept repeating: “If I panic I die. If I panic I die.” I was very close to panic and hyperventilating and had to apply the fiercest willpower in my life to keep myself afloat. I did make it (or you wouldn’t be reading this) but I too learned that just because everyone else thinks OK, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you… Next time my instincts so much as whisper, I’ll be on the listening end. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Happy you’re safe. And yes, you’re right. You should always listen to your instincts. And I couldn’t help, but it made me smile to read you were polite even in a situation like this. I just thought, yes, that’s Keith.

  • Wow! I’m so glad u r safe. We all let our guard down on vacation often to our detriment. This was besutifully written. Stay safe!

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Appeared In