Going to the beach is a lot of fun– but it can sometimes be a dangerous place. Pay attention to these Caribbean beach safety tips, and ensure that your vacation plans aren’t ruined by beach mishaps!
1. Never swim alone
This is the #1 safety tip for any beach, whether in the Caribbean or elsewhere. You should never swim alone, even if you’re an experienced swimmer. In addition, you should learn how to swim in bodies of water, since it’s not the same as swimming in a pool.
No matter how calm the Caribbean Sea may look at times, wind can stir up rough waves when you least expect it. In addition, a sudden undertow and catch you by surprise. The danger of drowning increases when storms are near. Another risk is getting stung by a jellyfish, or injured by another marine animal, which can render your swimming abilities useless.
Always go to the beach with at least one other person, and make sure you are both within each other’s site at all time. Never allow children to go to the beach alone without an adult, even if they insist that they are good swimmers.
2. Swim only within the designated area
Adventurous swimmers may be tempted to venture outside the designated swimming area. Resist the temptation– those lines are there for a reason! Many Caribbean beaches have no lifeguards, and the swim areas are marked to prevent people from entering dangerous areas. Dangerous areas could include sharp rocks, sudden undertows, rip currents, or harmful sea creatures. In addition, many beaches mark off the swimming areas so that boats cannot enter them and harm swimmers.
3. Watch out for jellyfish
Yes, there are jellyfish in the Caribbean. In general, the warmer the water, the more prevalent these creatures may be. Sea wasps, also known as box jellyfish, are known as the most dangerous kinds to inhabit the Caribbean Sea. However, their poison is not nearly as lethal as one species (Chironex fleckeri) of box jellyfish found only in the Pacific. Stings from a sea wasp can cause nausea, back pain, and limb cramps, among other symptoms. If stung, you should immerse the area in hot water and seek medical attention immediately.
To avoid jellyfish and other harmful creatures, stay away from patches of plants. Wear water shoes when walking in areas with sea urchins. Do not attempt to touch coral, which can be known to cause cuts, or other marine life.
4. Always swim sober
You may have heard that it’s not good to swim right after eating, because it can cause cramps. While that’s apparently just a myth, swimming and drinking definitely don’t mix. It’s no secret that alcohol impairs your coordination and judgment. So keep your drinks on the beach and out of the water, and don’t drink if you plan on going for a swim.
5. Check weather conditions
In some parts of the Caribbean, the weather can be very unpredictable. Sunny skies can quickly be replaced by ominous dark clouds and sudden winds. If you see a storm brewing, get out of the water and find shelter. Usually when it rains in the Caribbean, it pours, and you won’t want to be caught in a downpour.
In addition, many parts of the Caribbean are affected by hurricanes from June to September. (Here are the ones that are hurricane-free). Check weather forecasts and avoid the beach if big storms are near. These can drastically change wave conditions and make a normally safe beach hazardous.
6. If you can’t swim there, don’t float there
Sometimes non-swimmers mistakenly believe that they are perfectly safe in deep waters, as long as they have a flotation device. Anything but a life jacket is susceptible to punctures that can cause deflation, including inner tubes, “floaties” and beach rafts. If you use one of these and float out to a place where you can’t touch bottom, wear a life jacket in case you accidentally fall off the float or it deflates.
7. Do not dive headfirst into the water
Every year, tourists suffer grave injuries from diving headfirst into the ocean. Always jump in feet first, and avoid diving altogether if you are unsure as to the depth of the water. The only exception where diving headfirst may be permissible, is in designated diving areas that are clearly marked.
8. Prevent heat stroke
The water isn’t the only potential danger of a Caribbean beach. Caribbean beach safety also includes taking precautions during hot weather. Heat stroke and dehydration can occur when a person stays on a hot beach for a prolonged amount of time. Here are some tips for keeping your body healthy while spending the day on the beach:
- Bring bottled water. Preferably, a reusable container, since plastic water bottles left on the beach can become an eyesore and a hazard to marine life.
- Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The sun’s rays can reflect off the the water, putting you at a higher risk for burning while swimming.
- Wear footwear while walking on hot sand, especially black sand beaches.
- Stay in the shade when possible.
Signs of heat stroke include a weak pulse, rapid, shallow breathing, and hot, red skin. If you suspect someone is suffering from this condition, have them lie down in the shade. Apply wet towels to the person’s skin, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
9. Secure your belongings
Since you probably rarely leave the house without your smartphone and your card or cash, chances are you’ll need to bring those things to the beach. However, chances are some thieves are hoping you’ll bring those items, too. They know that most tourists won’t be watching their belongings while swimming.
That’s not to say that all Caribbean beaches are full of thieves. However, a little research will show you that some areas are more susceptible than others (especially famous, crowded beaches). To protect your stuff, bring only what you need, and have at least one person stay with your belongings. Alternatively, you can put your phone and cash in a waterproof bag or pouch like this one, which you can keep with you while you swim.
Main image source: traveller.com.au
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