Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cape Town Beaches – is it safe to go in the water ??

Recently, when the Cape was enjoying some really prolonged hot summer weather and thousands of people filled the beaches of Cape Town, a man was savaged by a shark at Fish Hoek Beach. This unfortunate swimmer was savaged several times by the shark which kept returning to feed on him according to eyewitnesses; creating the most sensational reporting in the media. For many of us who grew up having watched the spectacular Stephen Spielberg movie “Jaws”; the thought of such a horror makes the blood run cold.

Should this tragedy put visitors off swimming on the beautiful beaches of Cape Town or to have a negative impact on tourism? When you are planning your holiday and choosing your Cape Town, South Africa, holiday accommodation, will you wonder if the beaches are unsafe and that your life may be threatened by an ocean predator?
False Bay abounds with sharks, especially the fearsome great white shark, but an abundance of prey keeps them far offshore as a rule. I have been swimming in these waters since I was a boy, and shark attacks are relatively rare. Certainly this is the first ever recorded attack on Fish Hoek beach. Although there have been some 17 shark attacks off the Cape Town’s coastline since 2000, only 4 of them were fatal. Since the shark spotter programme was introduced, the incidence has decreased significantly. This active shark spotter programme began as a community programme that started at Muizenberg beach in October 2004. The huge success of the programme has shown shark spotting as an effective safety and resulted in funding being provided by WWF through the Table Mountain Fund and the City of Cape Town.
The website of the shark spotters gives the following information about their activities : Shark spotters programmes run from various beaches along the Cape Peninsula at these times: Muizenberg beach corner, St James beach, and Noordhoek beach: 7 days a week from 8 am to 7 pmFish Hoek beach: 7 days a week from 8 am to 6:45 pmClovelly beach: Weekends, public and school holidays 8 am to 4 pmGlencairn beach: Weekends, public and school holidays 8 am to 7 pm
Swimmers are encouraged to use areas where shark spotters are on duty. When you choose a beach for bathing or surfing, do chose one where you are able to see the shark warning flags and note that these are :
Black Flag: Shark spotter is on duty but the visibility is poor; difficult to determine if there are sharks in the area.Shark Flag (white flag with a black shark on it): A shark is currently in the area. Swimmers are advised to stay out of the water until this flag is lowered and the siren has stopped sounding.

If these measure do not reassure you , let me tell you something of the many lovely, walled tidal pools and protected beaches in our Bay, where both children and adults can swim and play without having to keep a wary eye out for any dangers, except perhaps too much sun, because Cape Town, South Africa, has such great summer sunshine.

Just past the popular surfing beach of Muizenberg lies the elite suburb of St James Beach which offers a large, gently sloping tidal pool which is great for children. Here you will find the brightly coloured bathing boxes that characterise so many picture postcards of Cape Town holiday destinations, and will offer you an opportunity to take great holiday snaps .
A larger, deep tidal pool for serious swimming with a smaller one for kids is found at Kalk Bay. This pool is right at the Brass Bell restaurant, famous for its sea food; both formal and casual dining options. Kalk Bay is an enticing little village with its main street lined with galleries, antique and collectible shops and restaurants with quaint Victorian shop fronts. Although there are many restaurants here, there is little more enjoyable than walking through the fishing harbour and standing in a queue with the locals waiting to be served at Kalky’s - said by some to serve the best fish and chips in Cape Town.

Travelling toward Simonstown and Cape Point, past Fish Hoek, is something of a hidden treasure often missed by visitors, which is Glencairn beach. There is a clean sandy beach which is seldom crowded and there is a large tidal pool jutting out from the beach into the sea, making it ideal for children to play and swim in safety. Just opposite the beach you will find the Southern Right hotel where from Fluke’s restaurant you can enjoy good food and spectacular views from the deck across the bay.

The historic Naval Town which is Simonstown, has much to attract the visitor, but here you will find the remarkable safe Seaforth Beach, where a family can spend the day relaxing on the verdant green lawns from which you can look out onto the sandy beach . A little Bay is formed by a number of very large boulders which makes it as protected as if it was a tidal pool and where one can really enjoy swimming in safety. Seaforth restaurant has a reputation for serving good seafood dishes and has a position on the rocks above the water from where you can enjoy a wonderful view to accompany your food.

On the outskirts of Simon's town on you will find Boulders Beach which has earned an international reputation as the breeding ground of a large population African penguin. This is a beach where one has to pay in order to control numbers and is one of the best and safest swimming beaches in Cape Town. It lies in a small cove and is protected from the wind and sea by giant granite boulders.

Finally, a little further on the road towards Cape point you will find Millers point which is a family friendly recreational area, it has a children’s tidal pool, and many water activities.

There is plenty of choice for extra- safe bathing places, but before you eschew the open beaches, consider the risk involved in swimming in the domain of the shark. Almost every day one gets into a car, and seldom thinks about the risk , yet you are far more likely to be involved in a motoring accident, or even one in your shower at home, than a shark attack. According to the Internet, these are the odds:

Chance of dying from a car accident: 1 in 18,585
Odds of fatally slipping in bath or shower: 1 in 2,232
Chance of dying from a shark attack: 1 in 3 million

Enjoy our beautiful Cape Town beaches – and don’t even think about the 3 million to one odds that your day might be spoiled !

Remember too that all of these beaches are conveniently situate from Horizon holiday Cottages where one can find affordable Cape Town holiday accommodation


  1. This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


  2. Cape Town is one of the best sun, sand and sea destinations in the world. South Africa is the first country outside of Europe to have blue flag beaches which intends a high level of water quality, facilities, cleanliness and safety.
    Moreover, Clifton Beach, Mnandi Beach and Bikini Beach are the top tourist attractions and safe as well. I’d definitely recommend these beaches for holiday vacation.