A trip to the beach is one of life’s great free pleasures. Sun, sand, swimming, a few friends and a few beers and you’ve got the makings of a perfect day. But you also need the right beach; all beaches are different and everyone has their favorites. However, course certain beaches contain hidden dangers that could not only put a blight on your summer’s day but your life – if you’re left with it! Dangerous currents, jellyfish, sharks, and reefs all lurk around some of the most popular beaches in the world; and that’s before you even begin to take man, the most dangerous animal, into account.
20. Gansbaai, South Africa
This is a popular beach for vacationing South Africans and foreign visitors, but the fact that the ocean offshore is known as Shark Alley should make you think twice about taking the plunge. The problem is caused by shark cage diving, in which tourists with scuba equipment can get into the sea in shark-proof cages and have the amazing experience of being just a few feet from a great white shark. To attract the creatures, the owners of the tourist boats pour huge amounts of chum – mixed blood and offal – into the water, which means a much higher prevalence of sharks than there would be naturally. If you decide to go swimming here, you’re basically diving into the middle of a shark’s banquet!
19. Kilauea Beaches, Hawaii
The beaches around the Kilauea volcano on Big Island have an amazing contrast of crystal blue seas and deep black sand. However, you need to think about where that black sand came from; for the last 35 years, the volcano has been erupting, with streams of deadly lava running down to the ocean and boiling the water into steam. Make sure you get good local safety advice as to areas to avoid before visiting.
18. Amazon Basin, Brazil
For eco-tourists, the Amazon basin is high on the bucket list. It’s very tempting to dive in so you can say you swam in the world’s mightiest river. However, unless you want to end up battling with the razor-sharp teeth of piranha fish, give it a miss. Piranhas aren’t the only danger either, electric eels and anaconda snakes (that can grow up to 5m long!) might also join you. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the Candiru as well, the parasitic catfish that will try to enter the human body through any available orifice – and we mean any – and once established it shoots out sharp spines to stop itself being removed. Eye-watering!
17. Fraser Island, Australia
Fraser Island is one of those beaches where you can’t escape danger on land or sea. The waters are swarming with Irukandji, one of the world’s most poisonous jellyfish. They are tiny, but if you are stung you can expect to suffer stomach pains, sweating, anxiety, vomiting, hypertension, pulmonary edema and, in a worst-case scenario, fatal heart attack. A number of people have been unlucky enough to be stung over the last few years. If that wasn’t enough, the island hosts around thirty packs of dingoes, a native Australian feral dog that will attack humans on occasion.
16. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Surfers love the massive Atlantic swells off the coast of Florida; unfortunately, so do sharks. An average of 29 people suffer shark attacks each year in the waters around Florida, with nine such attacks occurring just off this beach in 2017 alone. In recent years the number of attacks has dropped, but that’s not because the sharks have signed a peace treaty! Given that it’s thought that from below surfboards look like basking seals to a shark, you might want to think twice before catching that break.
15. Galveston County Beaches, Texas
All along the coastline of Texas there are “Swim at Your Own Risk” signs, and for good reason. Many of the beaches around Texas have hazardous pollution levels, with significant levels of fecal bacteria in the seawater as a result of overflowing sewers and storm runoff. Three of Galveston County’s beaches (Rettilon Road, Magnolia Lane, and Helen Boulevard) had some of the worst pollution levels on the coast in 2017 and 2018. The “slightly” good news is that if no more sewage is dumped the tides swiftly wash the sea clean again, but you should definitely get the latest information on water quality before taking a dip.
14. Acapulco, Mexico
Acapulco is a name that conjures up images of some of the world’s loveliest beaches, amazing scenery, luxury hotels, and fine dining. Unfortunately these days it’s also likely to remind you of the fact that it’s in a region that is the worst in Mexico for murders, and Mexico is one of the worst countries in the world on this score. Many years of battles between different drug cartels have left a legacy of violence in the city, with street robbery, car theft, and homicide at extraordinary levels.
13. Girgaum Chowpatty Beach, India
Mumbai has very serious problems with sewage and how to treat the wastewater of this enormous city. Due to inadequate sewage systems, wastewater is frequently simply channeled straight out into the ocean. Girgaum Chowpatty in Mumbai is one of the planet’s most polluted beaches with health-threateningly high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, and the situation shows no sign of clearing up anytime soon.
12. Skeleton Coast, Namibia
The name of this coastline is a pretty good clue to how dangerous it is, as is the name that Portuguese navigators gave it, “The Gates of Hell.” The Benguela current runs past the beach, regularly wrecking ships, and no fewer than eleven different shark species live in the water. If that makes you want to just stay on the beach and sunbathe, you’ll have to look out for the hyenas and lions that can regularly be seen there.
11. Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It’s one of the dirtiest and most dangerous beaches. The water and the sand have high levels of bacteria – just three teaspoons of the seawater are enough to give you a virus – and petty crime abounds, with pickpockets, con artists and stickup men prowling the beach from dawn to dusk. Keep a close eye on your wallet, and leave your expensive jewelry and telephone in the hotel safe.
10. Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii
Hanakapiai Beach on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast lies at the end of a beautiful hiking trail, and after you’ve toiled away in the blazing Hawaii sun for miles you’ll probably be feeling that you deserve a plunge in the crystal clear waters. One word of advice – don’t! There’s no reef around the bay so the swells come straight in from the ocean, the surf is high and strong, and hazardous shore breaks abound along with rip currents that can pull the strongest swimmer under. Many people have drowned swimming off this beach in the last 40 years; there’s a well-known warning sign with more than 80 tallies on it, marking the deaths of those who thought they could swim there safely. They couldn’t, and nor should you.
9. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Beautiful beaches are all very well but if the local environment isn’t good, you can be in just as much danger as you would in the sea with sharks. South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach was ranked as the 32nd most dangerous city in America in 2018, climbing to 20th in 2019. If you visit the city, you’ve got a one in sixty-two chance of becoming a crime victim. You should always be wary of crime on any beach anywhere in the world, unfortunately, but here more than most.
8. Reunion Island, France
Reunion Island is situated to the east of Madagascar, a beautiful tropical paradise very popular with surfers. Unfortunately, it’s also popular with sharks. Eight people have been killed in recent years swimming in the crystal blue waters, with 20 attacks happening since 2011. A 13-year-old boy was recently killed by a shark, and a surfer was killed in 2017. Maybe best to enjoy looking at the waters from the beach rather than swimming in them.
7. Playa Zipolite, Mexico
Nicknamed the “Beach of Death”, Playa Zipolite ticks the tropical paradise boxes, but the seas around it are rife with strong and sometimes deadly undercurrents. The beach is so popular that there is a special lifeguard team stationed there, but you might want to make sure you don’t put yourself in a position where you need their services.
6. Cape Tribulation, Australia
It’s highly inadvisable to visit this beautiful Australian beach without a guide from the locality who knows how to avoid the numerous natural dangers it contains. Saltwater crocodiles (even bigger and more deadly than normal crocodiles), poisonous snakes and venomous jellyfish abound. In addition, the area hosts the cassowary, a flightless bird the size of an ostrich that has claws so sharp that they can disembowel a fully grown man. Caution advised!
5. Morecambe Bay, UK
“A treacherous place” according to The Guardian newspaper, Morecambe Bay is a smorgasbord of hidden dangers, with shifting channels, river drainage, and quicksand all conspiring to trap the unwary. It is not just people the quicksands can capture either, whole horse-drawn carriages and more recently mechanical tractors have sunk without a trace in the past.
4. Utakleiv, Norway
The Lofoten Islands in Norway have some of the most stunning surrounding scenery of any beach in the world, and they are also a great place to watch the Northern Lights. However, when you consider you’ll need warm clothing even in summer, that should tell you something about what the sea temperatures are going to be like – it’s cold enough to give you hypothermia from a short dip, and that can be fatal. Best to stay on dry land and enjoy the scenery from there.
3. Monastery Beach, California
When a beach has the nickname “Mortuary Beach”, that tells you something, doesn’t it? This famous beauty spot in Carmel, California, is well worth a look, but don’t be tempted to enjoy the waves. Frequent freak waves, powerful river currents and a fatal undercurrent shaped by the steep drop off just offshore all contribute to the fact that every year the state authorities have to deal with drownings.
2. Mindanao Island, Philippines
Although stunningly beautiful, sadly the Philippines, and especially Mindanao Island, are currently highly unsafe due to terrorism which is part of a long-running war between Muslim fundamentalists and government forces. It’s not unknown for foreigners to be abducted. Until peace arrives, which doesn’t show any signs of happening anytime soon, stay away.
1. Dumas Beach, India
Situated along the Arabian Sea, Dumas Beach used to be a cremation ground, and many still believe that the spirits of the dead haunt its shores. Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, there is no denying the physical fact that numerous people have gone for a wander along the beach and never returned. Throw in a colony of king cobras, one of the world’s deadliest snakes, and you’re not talking about a place where you can have a nice relaxing picnic.