South African Expat Becomes First Woman to Swim Around Dubai’s Famous Palm

South African expat – and accomplished musician – Kieran Ballard-Tremeer has become the first woman to swim around Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, the iconic artificial island which can be viewed from space.

Palm Jumeirah aerial. Photo courtesy of Nakheel
Palm Jumeirah aerial. Photo courtesy of Nakheel

Kieran (38) completed the 14.5 km swim around the palm-shaped island last Saturday morning in four hours and 25 minutes. The 38-year-old undertook the swim in aid of Red Crescent, a humanitarian charity in the Emirates.

Kieran nearing finish strait - Dubai Marina in background with tallest residential towers in the world.
Photo: Linda Mensova. Kieran nearing finish strait – Dubai Marina in background with tallest residential towers in the world.

She was joined by elite endurance athlete Tobias Frenz from Germany and Australian Mitch Kennedy, who at 18 is now the youngest person to have achieved this swim in the Persian Gulf. Kieran says the swim “wouldn’t have happened without them.”

Tobias said: “The Palm Swim was great training for me to prepare for swimming the English Channel this July and I’m ever grateful to Kieran to make this happen.” Mitch said he did the swim because “Life is short and you only get one shot. So make it worth it and look back knowing you took every opportunity that came up and had fun.”


Photo: Linda Mensova. All three swimmers at the finish line.
Photo: Linda Mensova. All three swimmers at the finish line.

As the three swam past some of the most exclusive real estate in Dubai, including the impressive Atlantis Hotel, they were accompanied by dolphins and cormorants (a lot less frightening than the Great White sharks Kieran used to worry about in South Africa’s oceans).

 Kieran nearing Atlantis
Photo: Simon Lam. Kieran nearing Atlantis

Kieran is an accomplished clarinetist and saxophonist who has performed extensively throughout the world in ensembles and orchestras, and as a soloist.  Her career highlights have included performing with Pavarotti, Bono, The Corrs, Hugh Masekela, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Yehudi Menuhin.

Musician - and swimmer - Kieran Ballard-Tremeer
Musician – and swimmer – Kieran Ballard-Tremeer

After completing her music degree at the University of Pretoria Kieran won the South African bursary to study further at the Royal College of Music in London. Her passion for travel took her to Dubai in 2005…and she has remained there ever since.

Kieran has also completed the Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim, four Ironman triathlons, and is an age group podium finisher in this year’s UIPM Biathle held in Dubai.

Photo: Simon Lam. Mitch nearing Atlantis to become youngest to swim Palm Jumeirah
Photo: Simon Lam. Mitch nearing Atlantis to become youngest to swim around Palm Jumeirah

Swimming runs in the family as Kieran’s father is former South African Universities swimming captain Roger Ballard-Tremeer and her cousins have also represented SA.

When she’s not breaking records, Kieran teaches music and swimming at an international school in Dubai.

Photo: Lynette Warn / SkyDive Dubai
Photo: Lynette Warn / SkyDive Dubai

Her next dream is to form a Water Safety Charity to teach children in Dubai how to swim safely.  “A lot of unnecessary drownings are happening along the coast of Dubai and that is due to the fact that a lot of people do not know how to swim,” she told the Gulf News. “In South Africa and Australia, most children learn to swim at an early age but here they don’t.”

Palm Jumeirah was created by Nakheel and is one of the world’s largest man-made islands covering 560 hectares of land. It’s in the shape of the United Arab Emirates’ national plant, a date palm.

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