Who doesn’t love a beach vacation? The sun, the sand, the radiation…hang on, what was that last part again? Yes, seems like there are some beaches out there that are less than idyllic. Whether your particular phobia is shark bites, jellyfish or being kidnapped, don’t worry – we can find a beach that’s just wrong for you. Grab an atlas, and a big red pen to mark these Top 10 Most Dangerous Beaches off your list of holiday destinations!
10. Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii
One criticism you can’t throw at this beach is that it covers up how dangerous it is. A sign leading to the beach shows a tally of how many visitors have died there, with space for more. The problem is the currents – with no reef separating the beach from the open ocean, riptides can drag even good swimmers out to sea with no option of returning. The beach is also a hike away from any help, so don’t expect a fully-trained lifeguard on hand if you do get into trouble. A guide to Kaua’i island says that most deaths are out-of-state visitors who don’t understand the tides. The sign seems pretty straightforward, I think.
On the upside, it’s meant to be beautiful. Just don’t go into the water.
9. Gansbaai, South Africa
Another beautiful spot, with miles of white sand and dramatic cliffs. So beautiful in fact, that you’d think working for the Gansbaai Tourist Office would be a breeze. It has all these features, and it’s also the Great White Shark capital of the world. Who wouldn’t want to visit?
Well, people who are afraid of sharks for one. Maybe it’s just me, but selling a beach as being the Shark Capital of the World is a bit like selling a restaurant as being Cockroach HQ. Just look at this terrifying photo of a shark stalking a kayak, taken at Gansbaai – doesn’t it make your blood run a little bit cold? It’s been said that the photo has been faked, but the photographer denies this and also says that sharks don’t attack kayaks. So that’s a bit reassuring, but I’m still not rushing to visit.
8. Southern Mindanao Islands, Philippines
What happens when you venture “off the grid”? Well, book a trip to some of the more remote islands of the Philippines and you might find out. Away from the tourist destinations like Siargao, you might think there are exciting new places to discover and you’d be right, but not exciting in a good way. The southern end of the Mindanao Islands are frequented by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who have been in a state of “All Out War” with President Estrada since 2000. In that time in one province, 45% of residents have reported their homes being destroyed, while 16% have known of witnesses to crimes being killed. So, your survival chances as a Western tourist? Depends whether the MILF are in need of a hostage that week or not…
Oh, and there are pirates about as well. Again, in a tourist-kidnapping sense. Still, lovely beaches…
7. Darwin, Australia
Not one beach in specific, but dipping your toes in the waters anywhere near this Northern Australian city would require a nerve of steel. Delights in and around Darwin Harbor include box jellyfish, crocodiles and …more sharks! The jellyfish tend to only be a problem between October and May, but the salt-water crocodiles are visitors to Darwin all year round. One source reports that 4 crocodiles a week are caught in the harbor.
In case this is all sounding too enticing, bear in mind that a 2011 report into the state of Darwin’s beaches found higher-than-average levels of bacteria in the water. Australia has many beautiful and clean beaches to visit, with less chance of being eaten or stung…visit those instead!
6. Kilauea, Hawaii
One of the chief things you need in a beach vacation is heat. Lying on the beach when it’s chilly is just disappointing, really. So in some ways, visiting a beach on top of an active volcano is perfect. But there’s an obvious downside, in the form of the risk of death. But if you don’t much care about such things, Kilauea beach in Hawaii is worth a visit. The volcano has been constantly erupting since January 3rd 1983, so there’s little chance of catching it on an “off” day and it’s a beautiful natural phenomenon…from a distance.
5. Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai
Like Gansbaai, there is someone working hard in the tourist office to promote this beach. But even the official spiel doesn’t make it sound overly appealing: “During the day, it is the hangout of the happily unemployed who snooze under the shade of its stunted trees”. Wow, I would love to hang out with the “happily unemployed” – or hobos, as some other people call them. And I’d love to see those stunted trees too.
But there’s more action to be had in the evening….”kids screaming on Ferris wheels…..wayside astrologers making a quick buck”. Screaming children and astrologers looking to fleece tourists out of their money? Maybe not so attractive. And then, of course there’s its reputation as one of the world’s most polluted beaches, with water so full of faecal matter that one site says “Spending time in this water may therefore result in bacterial and swimming-associated gastrointestinal illnesses”. Matters were worsened when the MV Rak sank nearby in 2011, spilling oil over the water. Avoid it – this is one beach that won’t look good in the holiday photos.
4. Schitovaya Bukhta (Shield Bay), Russia
According to Surf Atlas, this is one great spot to go surfing, although you may need to chat to the local authorities about getting a surf permit, due to the number of restricted military facilities in the area. But the excitement doesn’t stop there! On the other side of the peninsula is Vladivostock, home to the Russian navy…and their disused nuclear submarines. Radiation from these submarines has already caused some incidents, although the secretive nature of the Russian media means it’s difficult to get details on exactly what has happened.
But there are also reports of cracked, underground radioactive storage units in Zvezda naval yard in Bolshoi Kamen, almost directly opposite Shield Bay, across Ussuri Bay (pictured). So, with radioactive waste spills on either side, these waters may be thrilling surfing but chances are they’re a little too thrilling…
3. Heard Island, Antarctica
Another recommendation from Surf Atlas, this would be an extreme surfing experience, if you survive the cold. Heard Island is made up of a giant volcano known as Big Ben and is owned by Australia, but is a world away from an Aussie surf paradise, as it’s permanently covered by ice and the sea is dangerously cold. It’s also a long way away from any kind of help, being 4,100 km south west of Perth and closer to Antarctica than anywhere else. It’s another natural beauty spot, but carries a very real risk of hypothermia.
2. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Gansbaai may be the world’s Great White Shark capital of the world, but aren’t you wondering where the Shark Bite capital of the world might be? Well, that honor goes to New Smyrna Beach in Florida. Out of 112 worldwide shark attacks in 2007, 17 happened at Smyrna. The next year, there were 24. It’s basically a party town for sharks. Its tourist board describes is as “no stranger to attention”, which is true but getting attention because people keep getting attacked by sharks is nothing to boast about.
Despite that, it still made it onto a list of Top 10 Florida beach towns, compiled by Dr Stephen P. Leatherman of the Florida International University. One of its selling points on the list was that you can still drive on the beach – so if the sharks don’t get you, maybe the cars will…
1. North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands
This island technically falls under the jurisdiction of India, but effectively it is independent, as the natives there have never submitted to any other authority. In fact, they verge on unwelcoming, which might pose a problem if you were hoping to check out the reef formations that lie nearby. At one point, the Indian government did try and form relations with the Sentinelese, by landing peacefully and leaving gifts for them. However, they were greeted with angry arrow-fire, as can be seen on video, and eventually gave up on any hope of contacting them.
The Sentinelese are almost entirely unknown – clearly, they have a different name for themselves than “Sentinelese” but no-one in the world has any idea what that might be. There’s somewhere between 25 and 500 of them, although these figures could be wildly inaccurate. They appear primitive, although with the paucity of knowledge we have, it’s possible that they have their own version of the internet run on super-computers in those trees. One thing is certain – they don’t like outsiders and they are dangerous. In 2006, two fishermen ran aground on their island by mistake and were killed by the natives. A helicopter attempt to pick up the corpses failed, although the bodies were spotted from the air. However lovely the beach may look, forget it. It is definitely not worth the risk.