Joe Zemaitis and John Zemaitis - Lago Titicaca

Copacabana to Templo del Sol

15.2 km (9.4 miles)

5 hours, 0 minutes on 27 March 2024

Observed and documented by Gerald George

First of this route



Name Gender Nationality Age Resides
Joe Zemaitis male USA 44 Scottsdale, AZ
John Zemaitis male USA 40 Scottsdale, AZ

Support Personnel

  • Amadeus Edison - crew


Gerald George. 19 Observed Swims during States Tour. 9 Recorded Marathon swims including SCAR Swim Challenge.

Escort Vessel

Name Type Port
Aguila fishing boat  

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Joe: Speedo Endurance Jammer, Speedo Hydrospex goggles, desitin. John: TYR Jammer, Speedo Hydrospex goggles, desitin.

Route Definition

Start at beach in front of Hotel Onkel Inn in Copacabana, Bolivia. Proceed past Isla Wilson, keeping all land on swimmers right. Proceed around Isla Chelleca CCW keeping island on swimmers left. Proceed to the finish.

  • Body of Water: Lago Titicaca
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Beach in front of Hotel Onkel Inn (-16.172333, -69.093651)
  • Finish Location: In front of Templo del Sol (-16.048821, -69.143756)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 15.2 km (9.4 miles) (map)


For a number of years, the Tennis Club of La Paz and the Bolivian Swim Federation have organized a 7.5km swim (“Nadando Cerca del Cielo”) in Lake Titicaca between Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna. The event is primarily contested by wetsuited swimmers.

The only documented solo marathon swim (10km+) in Lake Titicaca that we are aware of was a 15km route completed by Lynne Cox on May 26, 1991 (see LA Times article).

LongSwimsDB: Lago Titicaca

Swim Data

  • Start: 27 March 2024, 07:27:00 (Bolivia Time, America/La_Paz, UTC-4).
  • Finish: 27 March 2024, 12:27:25
  • Elapsed: 5 hours, 0 minutes, 25 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 61 61
Air Temp (F) 49.5 67.8
Wind (mph) 3 7

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Gatorade/Carbo Pro mix, every 45 min Gel offered at each feed.

Observer Log

Download PDF

Narrative Statement

by Joe and John Zemaitis

On our 6 Continents Swim Tour John and I enjoyed the two days we spent in Colombia and felt like we needed a reason to go back to South America.  We found the reason with an attempt at Lake Titicaca in Copacabana, Bolivia.

This was one of those "everything comes together at the last minute" kind of trips. We reunited with one of our observers from out 50 States Swim Tour, Jerry George, and planned a trip to Lake Titicaca.  We knew the challenges would be intense, specifically the 12,500 feet of elevation and the water temperature that we expected to be in the upper 50's or low 60s.

Since no established route has really been established in Lake Titicaca and only a few traditional marathon swims have ever occurred there we had the freedom to design what would be a fun route.  Our route started in the lakeside town of Copacabana, Bolivia and finished at the Island of the Sun, directly below what's left of the Temple of the Sun, believed to have been built in the last 1400's.

The route was 15.2 K and a very simple straight shot keeping one peninsula on our right around 11K into the swim and one island on our left about 700M from the finish.  Our boat captain, Amadeus, spoke essentially no English and had never piloted a swim before, but he gave us an excellent line and was fantastic throughout the swim in every way possible.

We arrived in Copacabana on Tuesday March 26th around 1pm and started the swim on Wednesday March 27th just before 7:30 am.  We wanted to see if we could sneak up on the altitude and get the swim in before it knew we were there!

We had a super-efficient morning, meeting the captain at 7:05AM and were underway before 7:30.  I was concerned about the altitude and John and I started off at a super conservative pace.  The water was between 60.8 and 61.0 essentially the whole way.  It was a challenge to find the balance of swimming easy enough to be able to keep our breathing in check but "hard" enough to stay warm.  Surprisingly the altitude seemed to have much less effect than I feared.  Our pace was about 5-10% slower than normal, but our strong rates were right on our normal swims and neither of us had much trouble with the altitude.  The water was super clear and clean from start to finish.

We knew that once we got to the peninsula (with a lone tree right at the tip of it) we knew we had just 4K to go.  For as exotic a location and as fresh a set of challenges it really was just a case of "swimming is swimming".  Once we cleared the island we could see the Palace of the Sun and finished up strong.  What had been a mostly cloudy day gave way to bright sunshine air that felt warmer than the 68 degrees it was.  Once we cleaned up we walked up the hill and toured the Temple of the Sun.  It was more than just ruins as much of the original structure remained.  An hour on the boat took us back to where we started.  Another swim complete and another adventure experienced.  Anyone looking for an amazing “adventure swim” this is it. John and I agree that it was one of the best we have ever done. We look forward to publishing more about our swim including travel tips to make this swim possible for anyone interested.


Click to enlarge.