When I first read about Martin Strel swimming the Amazon in February 2007, his predicament took me back to a report years ago of an elephant spotted 50 miles out to sea in the Bay of Bengal.

It had lost all sense of direction. As a passing ship drew near, the crew noticed blood in the water and realised that the elephant was surrounded by sharks. It could offer no form of resistance and swam on desperately, nor could the sailors save it, and they looked on in helpless silence as the animal was torn apart and devoured in the waves.

Martin Strel Swims Amazon

There are sharks in the Amazon, too. It is home to the bull shark, widely believed to have killed more humans than any other shark species. But this is only one of a grotesque variety of deadly fish found there. Some are even more lethal than the piranha. Only six inches long, with their pugilists’ thick lips, saw-sharp teeth and red-gleaming eyes, piranha live in shoals and attack in concert. But most feared is the candiru, a vicious little fish that penetrates any orifice available, then locks itself into your entrails with a spike and feeds off your blood. Only surgery will remove it. And there are stingrays and anacondas lurking in the shallows, and the muscular undulations of the electric eel that can stun and drown a man in deeper water…

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This article was published in March 2012 edition of Business Day Sport Monthly, written by Charles Sprawson , photos by Martin Strel Swimming.