Beach safety tips to follow on your KZN South Coast getaway

KZN South Coast getaway

With these warm, sunny days, there’s no better place to head than the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal South Coast beaches. For visitors planning a well-deserved breakaway, the South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise (SCTIE) shares some important beach safety tips to follow.

As a top adventure destination with family-friendly offerings, the KZN South Coast is fortunate to be home to the highest number of Blue Flag beaches and the highest number of tidal pools in the province. The Blue Flag is an international certification of environmental management relating to water quality, safety and public environmental education, and a highly sought-after certification in the tourism industry.

Marine, Trafalgar, Southport, Umzumbe and Hibberdene beaches all have Blue Flag status, with pilot Blue Flag status awarded to Pennington, Rocky Bay, Preston, Umthwalume, Scottburgh, St Michael’s and Ramsgate beaches.

There are also three marine protected areas found within the region at Trafalgar, Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks – the latter two being world-renowned dive sites. Tour operators take visitors out to snorkel, free dive, scuba dive and shark-cage dive in these famous waters.

“With our Blue Flag beaches, world-class dive sites and the highest number of tidal pools in the province, it’s unsurprising our coastline is a firm favourite with visitors,” comments Deborah Ludick, manager of Finance & CS of SCTIE. “To ensure all our breakaway visitors are kept safe while on our shores, we’re sharing vital beach safety tips supplied by the National Sea Rescue Institute [NSRI].”

Tip #1: Only swim at beaches where lifeguards are on duty

The KZN South Coast has 58 golden beaches, but it’s important to note that lifeguards are only on duty at selected beaches, with times varying from beach to beach. Check whether there is a lifeguard on duty before entering the water and listen to lifeguards’ advice. If you have any concerns, talk to the lifeguards about the safety of the beach you are visiting, as they can instruct on possible rip tides and currents.

Tip #2: Only swim between the designated flags

All beaches monitored by lifeguards will have designated yellow and red flags to indicate where you should swim. Only swim between these flags, as this is the safest area for swimming, and wave your arm if you’re in the water and need help.

Tip #3: Never drink alcohol before swimming

Swimming while intoxicated is incredibly dangerous, as you’re more inclined to take risks you normally wouldn’t. You could also pass out, or injure yourself and drown.

Tip #4: Never swim alone

It’s best to swim with a buddy so that you always have someone who can help if you need, it or if you are unable to wave down the lifeguards yourself.

Tip #5: Adult supervision is vital for children

Parents and caregivers must always supervise their children near and in the ocean. Children must be watched at all times, and adults are advised to avoid looking at their cellphones or checking social media, as this may distract them. It’s important to remember that drowning is silent.

Tip #6: Call for help if you witness a bather in distress

If you see someone in difficulty in the ocean, call a lifeguard or dial the nearest NSRI station or 112 from your phone. The NSRI launched its Pink Rescue Buoy initiative in 2017 with these lifesaving devices placed strategically at rivers, dams and beaches. Throw a lifebuoy or other flotation device to the bather in distress until emergency help arrives. If you attempt a bystander rescue, do so only if you can swim AND have a flotation device with you. Tell someone on the beach to call 112 before you go in.

Tip #7: Beware of inflatable toys

Lightweight inflatables such as boats or lilos should not be used at the beach or on dams where currents and wind can blow them – and you – offshore. They are extremely dangerous, and should only be used at a swimming pool with adult supervision.

Tip #8: Beware of rip currents

Given the right circumstances of waves and beach profile, rip currents can move at speeds of up to 2 metres per second – faster than any of us can swim. Ranging in width from just a few metres to a hundred metres, they pull to just behind where the waves form and then lose their power. The best way to avoid rip currents is to swim only where lifeguards are on duty. If you are caught in a rip current, the most important thing to remember is not to panic. Stay calm and force yourself to relax. You are not going to win a fight with the ocean. Swim slowly and conservatively out of the current, or relax and let it carry you out past the breakers until it slacks.

Tip #9: Beware of spring tides

At every full moon and every new moon, spring tides occur, causing the two daily high tides to be higher than normal, and two daily low tides to be lower than normal. Spring tides may cause stronger than normal rip currents and risks may be increased at the tide change, when the high tide peak recedes toward low tide. Be especially cautious around the coastline when there are spring tides, but bear in mind every day rip currents form at different locations around the coast constantly and are always a risk factor.

Image credit: SCTIE

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