Cala Romantica Facing Fears In Majorca

Many trips to Cala Romantica in Majorca aren’t always what most people expect given its name. They often start with a trek over sharp rocks, through the bush and end with a steep descent down a 20 metre cliff overhanging the blue sea. For some, this is actually an apt description of love and romance. For us, however, it was an adventure.


Few lads on holiday to Majorca can often escape the inertial vortex of self-loathing that is drinking and hangovers. It is uncommon to face real fears, unless a large group of fake tanned Brits descend like an avalanche of terracotta warriors to stir your fears. In Magaluf, the biggest challenge for most people is solving the problem of where to eat. Either a tavern or a shabby place that sells full English breakfasts all day long. There, you have to dodge a skinhead who tries to sell you an hour’s escort just to get a table. You come to expect this. Daily Mail readers love it, and they deserve a holiday too; a place where they don’t have to deal with the irony that they’re now foreigners.

For us, it’s a bit like a day at the zoo. We’re a bit cultured. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself; to be able to think critically and exercise self-control. So, we needed to do something different and see some of the island, which led us to this dizzying cliffside. What we didn’t realize is that soon we would all be acknowledging, facing and overcoming certain fears.

Deep Blue.

The rope slipped from my snaps and I leaned back, unable to see what was below. Fear of heights has never been a problem for me, it’s the ocean below that makes me nervous. Every time a wave crashed against the jagged rocks, a sound reminded me that I couldn’t swim. The wind picked up, and although the sky was the limit, the waves were enough to make me double my efforts to swim the less than 100 meters to the sea cave.

After dropping the last five meters into the sea, I waited as most of my friends had not yet dived. It had been nervously quiet at the top. Not everyone was feeling the high ground and this was the quietest we’d been on the trip. Jack* had plastered himself to the rocks, as far from the edge as possible. He waited, watching everyone else go before him, gathering his courage and rationalizing his fears. Fear of heights is not the same as fear of the sea; it makes your stomach churn.

My own fear is based on the complete unpredictability of the waves, not knowing what lies beneath. As a result, I’m very alert and expend far too much energy in staying afloat. Even with my wetsuit on, I could only float about a meter below the surface and things would be much more difficult. I had already swallowed a lot of seawater and the salty taste was starting to make me sick.


By the time we had all reached the water’s edge, I was getting tired. Jack, visibly relieved, dived happily into the water and swam again, rocking a few meters away. I’ve never understood how some people can swim so well, even in big waves. Everyone else was racing ahead, but when they realized I had messed up a simple swim, they all came back to me and gave me great support. This support was a great inspiration to me. Tony, our guide, offered me his bag as support, but I was determined to complete the job without help. It was necessary.

We rounded a bluff and steered towards a large cave called Cova de Coloms. The waves slammed into the rocks either side of the opening. I willed my tired arms to keep going and kicked my legs behind me inefficiently, if not doggedly. Before long there were walls either side of me, but much of the physical exertion was spent in not getting dragged back out to the open sea in the backwash, as the receding, post-wave water tugged my helpless form.

With a couple more strokes, another backwash, a few hefty kicks and then the grabbing of a rock protrusion to pull myself along I felt solid ground beneath me; the best thing a weak swimmer could ever hope for. I crawled onto the small sandy beach as the waves broke at a small opening to the cave. I was exhausted. My friends, far less so.

Pitch Black

My ordeal was over but for Simon, his was just beginning. We shimmied through a tiny gap in the rock in between waves, to avoid the chance of getting caught and trapped underwater beneath the rock. On the other side a huge cavern opened up like a nether world. The tightness of the cave in places, and the pitch darkness without our headlamps, were two new challenges that tapped into Simon’s subconscious.

With a little light encouragement we pressed on together, deeper into the vast sea cave system of Cova de Coloms. The combination of salt water and normal calcium deposits from water trickling through the limestone creates some remarkable stalactite and stalagmite formations. In places, thick columns had formed that were tens of thousands of years old. In others the stalactites spread out across the ceiling like a system of roots.

We swam through a series of lakes that became less saline the deeper we forayed into the cave. To this point the fear factor was completely surrogated by wonder. Then we left the water and began to climb. The rock was slippery, made more so by the water dripping from our clothes. As we made our way up through a narrow opening, Simon began to feel uneasy. It was my turn to join the chorus of support. I was second from the top. Tony had decided this was a good place to jump into the water below.

“Make sure you jump out as much as possible so you clear this rock sticking out below,” he said, not all that reassuringly.

I tested how much grip I could get from the lip of the drop. It was not looking too safe. I braced, ready to jump, “wait!”

Tony reached over and turned off my headlamp. He then motioned for everybody to do the same. We were plunged into complete darkness. There was not even the faintest whisper of light.

“Don’t worry, it’s only about 10 metres down” said a fell voice in the ink. “Go”

It is one thing to feel weightless when jumping from height. It is another entirely to not know which way is which as you fall. For what felt like some seconds I had no idea if I was falling up or down. I tried not to move too much but felt the water crack hard across my face and ribs. I must have leaned forwards. As I surfaced, there was a light once more way above me. I flapped about until I was out of the way of the next person to jump. Simon was understandably holding back, although the claustrophobia would have to be faced once more if he were to back out and return from whence he’d came.

After another jump he pushed to the front of the queue to get it over and done with. My last sight before all light was extinguished was him balanced precariously. Uncertain. Then I heard a scream, what could only be described as an almighty belly flop, and finally laughter. Another fear conquered, or at least overcome with a little pain to boot.

Towards the Sky

We made our way back out into the sea. Emerging from the cave felt more laborious than before. My limbs were still tired from the first swim. Fortunately this time the swim was somewhat shorter. Just out of the cave’s mouth we hauled ourselves up onto a precipice only licked by the larger waves. This was the final challenge, a climb back up to where we had first started.

Although I had little climbing experience it immediately made sense to me. The idea of climbing up and away from the sea possibly gave me the motivation to enjoy each new foothold, but the idea of being in control was what I really appreciated about the activity. By inches I gained distance from the unpredictable waves by means of a rock face that presented you a full range of options, based on which you could make strong choices in plain daylight. Bill was less enthusiastic about the idea, and even with a rope was not looking forward to the idea. He had been more than comfortable in the waves.

Gaining the top rather rapidly I shouted down some support, but realised concentration would be Bill’s key ally once on the wall. By inches he made his way up, clearly not enjoying this process of being just a tiny mistake away from a fall.

It may not have been the toughest series of activities we’ll ever face, but the experience had drawn out different fears in each one of us. Something about sharing that experience, even if you don’t share the same fear, was far more bonding than another round of shots. For everything Majorca is infamous for, it is this remarkable side to the island’s nature and topography that has come to define the island for me now.


Towards the Sky
We made our way back out into the sea. Emerging from the cave felt more laborious than before. My limbs were still tired from the first swim. Fortunately this time the swim was somewhat shorter. Just out of the cave’s mouth we hauled ourselves up onto a precipice only licked by the larger waves. This was the final challenge, a climb back up to where we had first started.

Although I had little climbing experience it immediately made sense to me. The idea of climbing up and away from the sea possibly gave me the motivation to enjoy each new foothold, but the idea of being in control was what I really appreciated about the activity. By inches I gained distance from the unpredictable waves by means of a rock face that presented you a full range of options, based on which you could make strong choices in plain daylight. Bill was less enthusiastic about the idea, and even with a rope was not looking forward to the idea. He had been more than comfortable in the waves.

Gaining the top rather rapidly I shouted down some support, but realised concentration would be Bill’s key ally once on the wall. By inches he made his way up, clearly not enjoying this process of being just a tiny mistake away from a fall.

It may not have been the toughest series of activities we’ll ever face, but the experience had drawn out different fears in each one of us. Something about sharing that experience, even if you don’t share the same fear, was far more bonding than another round of shots. For everything Majorca is infamous for, it is this remarkable side to the island’s nature and topography that has come to define the island for me now.

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