Plan your trip
I flew to London with Emirates; from R9 800 return ( emirates. com). From there I flew to Corfu with Easyjet; from R3 600 return ( easyjet.com). I then took a bus from the airport in Corfu to the small town of Agios Stefanos for R57 and then a water taxi to Mathraki, organised by the hotel I’d be staying at. From R749 return. corfuparadise.com
WHEN TO GO
SwimQuest runs its Mathraki holidays from May to September, when the weather is generally sunny and the sea about 24˚C. Corfu and surrounds were still relatively un-swamped by tourists when I went in the first week of June.
NEED TO KNOW
There are no ATMs on Mathraki, so take enough cash. Beers cost about R30, a carafe of wine is R75 and an ice cream from R22. Take sufficient good-quality sunscreen as you’re out in the sun most of the day – and a quality bottle of the stuff on Corfu costs the equivalent of R200. I bought a ‘cheap’ R70 bottle on the third day and paid the price. South African passport holders need a Schengen visa (R900). vfsglobal.com/greece/southafrica
SWIMMING TOUR COST
The holiday in Mathraki costs from R13 078 and includes accommodation, breakfast, lunch and guided swims assisted by safety boats, plus you get a SwimQuest dry bag and swimming cap. Dinner, drinks and extras are for your own account but to make matters simple, SwimQuest collects R1 722 from each person to cover dinners for the entire week. While SwimQuest adjusts the swims according to competency, you should be able to comfortably swim a kilometre to sign up. SwimQuest also offers swimming holidays in Croatia, Italy, the Maldives, Egypt and even the Arctic Circle. swimquest.uk.com
Corfu Paradise Mathraki is the only hotel on Mathraki. Accommodation is simple and comfortable and the beach is 10 metres from the hotel. Opt for the upstairs sea-facing double room, which has doors that open onto a large shared terrace and views of the ocean. From R449 per double room, excluding breakfast. corfuparadise.com
Walk to Apidies harbour. About 1,5km from Corfu Paradise Mathraki, you’ll take in the scent of wild herbs and pine before cooling off with a dip off the jetty. Sip a beer in the vinedappled courtyard at the small bar next to the tiny St Spiridon church. It’s best to phone ahead (a hotel staff member will do this for you) to ask Christos to open up. The church contains several chandeliers with engraved metal tags attached in memory of parishioners. Snorkel around the rocks of the old pier. The area is to the right of the hotel (if you’re looking out to sea). You’ll spot a range of fish – most quite small – and, if you’re lucky, a turtle or two. EAT HERE Dolphins Restaurant is at Mathraki’s main port of Plakes, and its large terrace is a great sundowner spot. Meals are generous and hearty, served by amiable owner Kostas Soukeras. A three-course dinner (meze starters, mains and dessert) plus wine is about R270 pp. Find it on Facebook. Levante Taverna, perched on a hill above the harbour, has incredible views across the sea to Corfu. Owners Jimmy and Tasoula Katechis lived in New York for 27 years and recently returned to the island. Barbecued fresh fish and meat can be made to order and vegetarians will be spoilt for choice by the myriad meze offerings. Find it on Facebook. Portofino is a homely tavern on the seafront in Arillas, Corfu, serving Greek dishes. Despite emerging from the sea after our swim looking like sucked mango pips, we were welcomed to a table on the terrace where we fell upon the tasty meze. R197 for two.
*Prices and conversions correct at time of going to print
Doing a swimming holiday allows you to explore an area’s underwater beauty.