To Tangier and Back

It’s 30km between Tarifa (Spain) and Tangiers (Morocco) by boat, which is the best way to travel to Morocco from Spain. The ride takes 30 minutes and there are plenty of services that run on an hourly basis. The one we opted for was FRS Iberia, who run excursions as well as crossings. If given time, we would have preferred to travel by camel, mule or 4×4 once in Morocco, but we’ll save that for another journey.

Getting a visa to enter Morocco is easy and can be done on the boat ride across (tip: line up as soon as you get on the boat and make sure you bring a pen). Getting an exit stamp on the way back is a different story; line ups are huge and require a lot of patience. On the day we travelled, there was only one customs official working and the line up was hours long.

The actual distance between the European and African continents is less than the journey to Tangier. It’s roughly 20k, which is shorter than the distance of the English Channel. As we crossed, I wondered how many people have swum the distance between Spain and Africa — because many complete the English Channel every year; and, people like Alison Streeter do it all the time.

Apparently, swimming the Strait of Gibraltar is fairly common; for swimmers who train, 20k is not a huge huge deal — I’ll easily do a 4k in one swim practice. What I didn’t know is that there’s an Ocean’s Seven list of top swims to do worldwide; and, the Strait of Gibraltar is one of these swims.

The key is pace. In some open water swims, it doesn’t matter how fast you go. However, because of the currents, tides, and the “you should only cross during certain times” recommendation, you have to maintain a certain pace in order to be successful on the crossing. Anything that is 2k or less per hour will make it impossible to do the swim. Again, for a swimmer who trains, this isn’t a problem… however, open water has a whole different set of challenges (though on a Spain to Morocco crossing you can use the currents to your advantage). For someone who swims a 3km per hour pace, it would take roughly 5 hours to complete the swim.

Here’s the list of successful Strait crossings [link removed]. Note: there are a number of 12-year olds who have completed the swim.

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