Why do we love to float? Is it because we feel light and free? Unshackled and adventurous as we drift towards the unknown? Perhaps it reminds us of being a kid and splashing about with pool toys. Maybe it’s because it gives us time to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of nature. Whatever the reason, business is booming as innovative float options continue to make a splash.
The relaxing and restorative health benefits of floating are well known. For thousands of years, the Dead Sea has lured bucket-list tickers and wellness seekers to bask in its floaty salty goodness – as have the multitude of ancient thermal springs dotted across the globe. The more recent demand for sensory deprivation float tanks no doubt reflects our desire to switch off from technology and make time for peace and quiet.
A popular nature-based wellness trend is spending time in one of the beautifully designed floating saunas, common in Nordic countries. I imagine emerging from a warm wooden cocoon to enjoy a dip in the waters of the surrounding forest lake or a Norwegian fjord would be quite invigorating!
Unique and eco-friendly accommodation options are also creating ripples as people search for ‘something different’. For an intimate and isolated view of the aurora borealis, you can sleep in an Artic Bath cabin, frozen into a northern Swedish river. For something warmer, luxury floating tents on Cambodia’s tranquil Tatai River offer guests a close encounter with the creatures of the Cardamoms Rainforest. A moveable eco-hotel on the Ivory Coast floats on a platform made from 700,000 discarded bottles and other buoyant debris and contributes to cleaning up the waterways.
Living and trading on the water is a way of life for many communities and floating villages, markets, and bars have long been drawing tourists to destinations such as South East Asia. In the Thailand village of Koh Panyee you can watch football played on a floating pitch, and guests of the Coeur d’Alene Resort, Idaho can putt their way to glory by conquering the pontoon golf course.
Being on the water and floating is one of life’s simple pleasures. Twenty years ago I stood on the banks of Zimbabwe’s churning Zambezi River and watched as grinning locals bobbed in the rapids, buoyed by plastic bottles full of enthusiasm. I see the same joy every summer in Australia on the faces of people riding giant inflatable pink flamingos, kayaks and stand up paddle-boards.
For those close enough to a gently flowing river, tubing is a novel way to have fun and hang with friends. From the cool, clear waters of the San Marcos River in Texas, the picturesque Dalmation Hinterland in Croatia, to the jungle-lined Palomino River in Colombia, spots abound to sink your butt into an inflatable donut and watch the world inch by.
And if all this bobbing about makes you hungry, self-drive pontoons, floating barbeques and cruising tiki boats offer plenty of room to bring snacks. Alternatively, you can consider making your own floating ensemble. In 2017 a bunch of my friends, along with hundreds of others, used re-purposed materials to create fanciful crafts and took part in Perth’s first annual floating picnic table regatta. If that sounds a bit frivolous (and it was), consider a guided timber rafting trip, where you build your own raft of logs and ropes and enjoy a multi-day expedition like the one in Klarälven, Sweden.
Can’t be bothered with boats? Grab your snorkel, catch the current and relax. Ogle bright fish and coral as the warm water tugs you along the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Or spot turtles and frogs as you float down the Mossman River, Queensland.
Whatever your mood, there is a perfect float experience out there waiting for a drifter just like you.