Stories and Traveltips

ID #1266

Beaches, Southern Africa.

South and Southern Africa’s beaches are exceptionally beautiful. In many places, one is able to walk or ride horses for miles without encountering a soul.  While it was once possible to getaway by driving a motor vehicle to remote and isolated spots, this practise has since been banned for environmental reasons.

Tests have been conducted that reveal that sea water off South Africa’s beaches is amongst the cleanest in the world.  Samples from ten bathing spots between Camp’s Bay in the Western Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Umhlanga Rocks showed no traces of contamination by sewerage, salmonella or chemicals. Most beaches in Kwa-Zulu Natal are protected by shark nets. No attacks have been recorded on those beaches where nets have been installed.

Beware however -- appearances can be deceptive. Because of our proximity to the Southern Ocean, surf on South African beaches is often heavy. Water arriving on the beach has to go somewhere and it does – back out to sea in a tidal rip. A diagram that illustrates the flow of water on a typical beach is presented in the attached diagram. Such rips are normally narrow – sometimes only a few meters wide and not easy to spot. But the water velocity is so high that, if incautious, one can be whisked out to sea in a matter of minutes. 

If that happens, it is important to appeciate that swimming against the current is hopeless because the water velocity is too high. One should instead swim parallel to the beach until one exits the tidal rip, after which the waves make it easier to swim back to the beach. Failure to remember this simple warning often results in panic, exhaustion and drowning.  How do I know? Because, in spite of the fact that I am an experienced swimmer, I have been swept out to sea and do not recommend it. Thankfully no one drowned. Alan McIver. ATTrabea

attached files: Tidal Rip Diagram November 2010.ppt

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Last update: 2014-05-14 14:03
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.6

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