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Phuket Beach Safety

Phuket Activities | Ocean safety rules and life guards on Phuket Island

Each Flag Warning System
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In general Phuket Beaches are as safe as any other however every year there are cases of tourists drowning many if not all of these cases could have been avoided with a little knowledge. Some involve alcohol but most are the unfortunate result of bad judgement and inexperience.

Many of the most popular beaches do have life guards on duty during peak seasons but you should check that there is someone on duty and check the designated swim area they are watching.

Basics

  • Know how to swim and understand your limitations (strength, stamina and ability).
  • Observe the water before running in.
  • Don't swim alone.

At the end of the day your personal safety should be a personal concern. You should make every effort to ensure your own safety, this includes being able to swim and have basic knowledge of the conditions you might be exposed to.

More tips on staying safe in the sea

  • Observe the Warning Flags – RED MEANS DANGER!
  • Avoid the "it won't/didn't happen to me" syndrome. Obey all instructions/orders from lifeguards and posted signs. They are there for your wellbeing.
  • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water.
  • Never swim at night. Rip currents can be more dangerous at night simply because you cannot see them like you can during daylight hours.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist along side these structures.
  • Use polarized sunglasses. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean's surface.

Over the years, the majority of people I've personally helped out of potentially dangerous situations have all been fairly week swimmers with no knowledge of how to escape even a mild rip current. These swimmers all stared in shallow water but were not aware that a person standing waist deep in water can be dragged out quite easily into deeper waters.

How To Spot a Rip Current

When you first get to the beach and you intend to go swimming you should take a few moments to look for the tell tail sings of a rip current:

  • a channel of churning, choppy water
  • an area having a notable difference in water colour
  • a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
  • a break in the incoming wave pattern
  • This poster explains it in picture form. (Rip Current poster)
  • Alternatively watch this video

How to get out of a rip current

It's similar to being in a river and floating down stream, except when you're in the sea this often unexpected feeling of being dragged out to sea often causes panic. Panic is probably the biggest cause of rip current incidents that don't end well.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are caught in a rip current if you can remember a few basics you can get out yourself. Those of you who are also certified SCUBA Divers will be familiar with this mantra.

STOP - THINK - ACT

STOP
Remain calm. The current just moves away from the beach, you will not be pulled under the surface of the water. Rips only extend to the back of the surf, rarely more than 100m, often less. They also slow down as they get further from shore.

THINK
Which way are you going to swim, swim parallel to the shore to escape the current (about 20meters should do it) . As soon as you are out of the current, only then swim toward the beach.

Another option is to just float. Eventually you will reach the end of the current. Then either swim parallel to the shore to get out of the path of the rip current and once you do so, only then swim toward the beach OR Or you could just float and draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help (which you can do because you are not swimming alone...right?)

ACT
Swim nice and steady strokes. This is not a race! You should swim at a speed you can maintain. Once you have reached the edge of the rip you can take your time swimming back to shore.

If you see someone else in trouble

  • Get help from a lifeguard.
  • Throw the rip current victim something that floats--a life vest, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
  • Yell instructions on how to escape the rip current (Tell them which way to swim).

It doesn't matter who you are, or how strong a swimmer you are (or think you are) NEVER EVER try to swim against a rip current. You won't make it.

With a basic understanding of them, rip currents are just a natural phenomenon of the sea. And although they should definitely be respected and where possible avoided, armed with a little bit of knowledge the life that you save could be yours.


Last Updated: 31 May 2012