10 Ways to avoid drowning on your beach holiday

Teach children to always ask permission to go near water and never leave them unattended.

Holiday beach-goers are urged to be extra cautious while swimming at the beaches, rivers or swimming pools.

This warning comes after a number of drownings recently in Ballito, Durban and on the South Coast.

“As the festive season approaches drowning is an ever-present risk when people go on outings to rivers, beaches, dams and swimming pools,” said Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane.

“Many incidents of drowning are linked to the misuse of alcohol and recklessness,” said Zwane.

KDM senior lifeguard supervisor Bongani Xulu said swimmers must avoid rocky areas because the rips flow out to sea from the rocks.

“If there is a red and yellow flag flying on the beach it means the lifeguards are on duty and it is safe to swim in the designated areas,” said Xulu.

“However, if there is a plain red flag flying, it means it is too dangerous to swim.

“People should speak to the lifeguards if they are unsure.”

Xulu said the lifeguards are working the summer season hours of 6am to 6pm.


Safe swimming in the sea 

  1. Check the weather and the tides before you leave home – if the sea is too rough, you could be swept away. Before entering the sea, take time to watch the waves and must avoid places where there is a strong backwash, obvious rip currents or a danger of being washed onto the rocks. Only enter where the waves are straight and gentle. If you experience a strong current, get out.

  2. Never swim while you are intoxicated. Alcohol impairs judgement and unnecessary risks are taken. An intoxicated swimmer will tire more easily, increasing the chance of an accident or drowning.

  3. Only swim in designated areas that are supervised by lifeguards. If the lifeguards give you directions or instructions from the beach, obey them.

  4.  Look out for warning signs and flags – a red flag means it is dangerous to swim.

    The beach is closed to swimming when you see this red flag.

    The beach is closed for swimming when you see this red flag.

  5. A red and yellow flag means lifeguards are on duty and you should only swim in the area between the flags.

  6. Avoid swimming immediately after a big meal, as there is a danger of having cramps.

  7. Do not dive into shallow seawater – many paraplegics broke their necks by diving into shallow pools and dams.

  8. Do not swim in river mouths, in dirty water, very early in the mornings, early evenings or after it has rained as shark activity increases in these conditions. Also do not swim when bluebottles are present as they are poisonous.

  9. Never leave a young child unattended near water and never make a child responsible for another child – not even for five minutes. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing drowning or permanent disability.

    The beach is a playground for children but the ocean can be deadly.

    The beach is a playground for children but the ocean can be deadly.

  10. Swimming aids, such as water wings or noodles, are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used instead of approved flotation devices and children wearing them must be watched.


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Michelle Dennis

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