How to protect the environment when wild swimming

Love wild swimming? It’s an activity that has boomed in popularity, with nature lovers heading out to the great outdoors to enjoy a dip in soothing waters. While it’s important to keep yourself safe, it's essential to limit your impact on the environment too.

When heading out for a wild swim, there are a number of things you can do to help protect the environment and limit any negative effects of your dip.

Read our tips to discover how you and nature can thrive together.

How to protect the environment when wild swimming

Know your swim spot

It’s always best to do your homework when looking for a wild swimming spot – and not just because it’ll help to keep you safe.

Some areas are often designated as nature reserves or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). SSSIs are places that have scientific value – whether it’s due to the animals that call it home, or the geology of the space. It varies on a site-by-site basis, so look a spot up online to see whether swimming is permitted in that area.

Consider breeding times

Once you’ve chosen your designated swim spot, consider the other beings that call this site home.

Researching the area will give you a good idea of some of the species that live there. It'll also help you understand their habits.

Breeding seasons are times of year where we need to take particular caution. Birds will avoid nesting in noisy spots that are highly trafficked, so keep any sounds to a minimum and never approach potential nests. Plus, be aware that any birds with young can become aggressive, so avoid swimming up to any that may be sharing the water with you.

Many fish lay eggs in gravel beds or vegetation. With this in mind, be gentle when you enter the water to avoid stirring up silt and potentially disturbing eggs. Doing so will also help you to protect any bugs that may be breeding in the area.

What are you wearing

Keep waters clean by ensuring you’ve no chemicals on your body. Lotions, moisturisers, makeup and sunscreen can contain a plethora of chemicals, many of which can be damaging to natural flora and fauna.

If it’s a sunny day, opt for reef-friendly sunscreen or head out when the sun isn’t so powerful. You can also cover up with long sleeves – whether it’s a wetsuit, long-sleeve swimsuit or rashguard. We love the options from We Are Blue Wild.

Protect the banks

When arriving at your swim spot, take a look around the edge of the water to look for any signs of life.

If you spot any burrows or nests, try and find an alternative place for your swim. Disruption and the erosion of banks are key factors in the decline of many water-loving species, including otters and kingfishers.

Keep things quiet

Wild swimming is an ideal opportunity to switch off from everyday life and enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet.

Keep noise to a minimum, avoid shouting and don’t play music. The wildlife (and your nervous system) will thank you for it.

Leave no trace

It might sound obvious, but one of the simplest things you can do when wild swimming is to make sure you take anything you brought with you back home again. Plus, keep an eye out for any other litter that may be lingering around the area that you can remove.

It can be incredibly tempting – especially in the age of social media – to share a gorgeous swim spot online but this can bring hordes of people flocking. Instead, perhaps just let your closest friends know, and encourage them to read this guide to ensure they’re protecting the area.