South Africa’s beautiful coastline draws in millions of visitors every December as temperatures soar and people look to soak away the stress of another busy year. While swimming pools and the sea make for ideal fun spots for tourists of all ages, it’s essential to remember to take safety precautions around the water and always remain alert.
Education is Prevention
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) doesn’t only rescue swimmers, water sports lovers and those in vessels when they run into trouble – they run a number of swimming and beach safety initiatives year-round. The organisation launched its Water Safety Education Program in 2006 with a focus on teaching people throughout South Africa to be safe in and around water, especially the most vulnerable – children aged 14 and younger. Drowning is one of the top five causes of accidental death in South Africa and an estimated 30-40% of these fatalities are children younger than 15.
The program presents an effective Water Safety curriculum to create awareness about the dangers of water, what to do if someone gets into trouble, how to help a friend in need, how to perform bystander CPR and who to call for help. Its full-time instructors visit schools and clubs around the country and teach people about water safety issues, reaching a milestone of 3.5 million students educated in 2022 and aiming to reach one million students per year to educate every single child of school-going age in South Africa about drowning prevention. The organisation also offers online courses via their Bravo Bravo platform.
In a water-related emergency, call the NSRI Emergency Operations Centre on 087 094 9774, dial 112 from any cellphone, irrespective of your network or call 10111 for ambulance services.
Safe Seaside Swimming
When swimming at the beach, bathers should only swim at beaches protected by lifeguards and swim between the red and yellow ‘safe swimming zone’ flags posted by the lifeguards on the beach – which can move regularly as rip currents are spotted.
Here are a few other beach safety tips:
- Make sure that lifeguards can see you when you’re in the water and only swim in areas where other people are present.
- Surfers and body-boarders shouldn’t surf in areas where bait and game fish are running, where seals are present, or seabirds are diving.
- If you find yourself in trouble, raise your arm to attract the lifeguards’ attention and don’t panic.
- If you see someone in trouble in the sea, alert the lifeguards or find help. Don’t put your own life in danger as well.
- Don’t swim or participate in water sports while under the influence of alcohol.
- Know how to do Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) until the help you’ve summoned, arrives.
Some ninety-eight species of shark can be found in South African waters and, since records started for South Africa in 1905, there have been a total of 248 recorded, unprovoked attacks in the country’s oceans. The majority (103) have occurred in the Eastern Cape, 90 in KZN and 55 in the Western Cape. There are three species of shark in South Africa which are responsible for the majority of attacks – tiger, bull (or Zambezi) and white sharks.
Shark Spotters is a pioneering shark safety and research organisation that works to proactively reduce interactions and conflict between recreational water users and white sharks.
Started in 2004, the organisation is now the primary shark safety strategy used in Cape Town.
Shark Spotters improves beach safety by applying innovative and responsible shark safety solutions that reduce the spatial overlap between people and sharks, thereby reducing the risk of a shark bite – as well as providing emergency response in the event of a shark incident. They also conduct cutting-edge applied research on shark behaviour and ecology, raise awareness about shark safety and conservation issues, and provide employment opportunities and skills development for shark spotters.
“MySchool supporters can add organisations like the NSRI and Shark Spotters as beneficiaries and earn vital funds to support their life-saving work and incredible research, with every swipe at a retail partner,” says MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet General Manager, Pieter Twine. “A swipe could save a life, having taught someone to swim, how to administer CPR or made them more aware about how quickly drowning can happen.”