Be aware of spring tide this week + how to stay safe on SA beaches

2019-12-09 04:45 - Marisa Crous
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The festive season is upon us and with South Africans heading for beach holidays across the country, it’s now particularly pertinent to discuss beach safety. 

From the remote to the super crowded, South Africans love beaching. Whether it’s the jam-packed slice of sand stretching along Clifton’s shores, to the more remote warmers waters of beaches like Uvongo Beach, safety should always be top of mind.  

READ: Coastal SA dorpies you might have never heard of

For this first week of school holidays, the SA Weather Service released a spring tide warning, which will be at its highest on Thursday and Friday along South Africa's coastline. Special caution should be taken in the ocean before, during and afterwards as the ocean will be extra salty during this time.

Low tide will also be lower-than-normal, and when it hits high tide flooding might occur in low-lying places like rocky outcrops and headlands. 

Below is a list of the times when the tidal level will be at its highest for the major coastal towns and cities:

ALSO SEE: From Bikini to uShaka: See SA's 45 Blue Flag beaches for the festive season

Thursday 12 December

  • Cape Columbine - 15:42/0.81m
  • Cape Town - 15:22/0.73m
  • Mossel Bay - 16:16/0.94m
  • Port Elizabeth - 15:51/0.83m
  • East London - 15:49/0.79m
  • Durban - 15:51/0.84m
  • Richard's Bay - 15:50/0.88m

Friday 13 December

  • Cape Columbine - 16:22/0.81m
  • Cape Town - 16:02/0.73m
  • Mossel Bay - 16:54/0.94m
  • Port Elizabeth - 16:28/0.83m
  • East London - 16:26/0.80m
  • Durban - 16:27/0.85m
  • Richard's Bay - 16:26/0.89m 

READ: 10 SA beaches that will make you feel like you're living on an island 

There are still other ways you need to stay safe on the beaches this summer, even if it isn't spring tide.


Do your research before heading to the beach. Enquire whether there will be a lifeguard on duty that day or during the times you and you family decide to go to the beach. It’s important to ensure you also stay in between the lifeguard flags, as this is the cordoned off area reserved for swimming.

If a lifeguard is not on duty at a beach known for its tides and strong currents, do not swim there. 

TIP: Know your Sea Rescue bases. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is manned by over 1 000 volunteers at rescue bases around the coast and on inland dams. If you have an emergency, call them instead of trying to do the rescue yourself if untrained. If you try to be a hero, you’d only be jeopardising your own safety as well as the person that’s in distress. So be sure to have the contact numbers of emergency services at hand. A second could change everything!


(A stretch of beach in iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Leisa Tyler. Getty Images) 

Rip currents

Rip currents are super dangerous, especially as they move slowly enough to barely be detected. Much quicker than a tide, they move faster than any of us can swim. But if anything, don't panic if you find yourself caught in one. And try to keep your head above water at all costs. 

How to spot them? 

The water will be a different colour than the surrounding water. It’s darker, and can also be identified by a change in the incoming pattern as the water will present  with choppy waves.  It also always flows in a channel or river type shape, away from the beach. 

Familiarise yourself with the colour-coded flag system:

A red flag - The most serious of all beach warning flags, red flags warn swimmers of serious hazards in the water. One red flag means that the surf is high or there are dangerous currents, or both. Though you can still swim if there is a red flag, you should use extreme caution and go in the water only if you're a strong swimmer.

A green flag means that the spotting conditions are good and no sharks have been seen. 

A black flag means that the spotting conditions are poor, but no sharks have been seen. 

A white flag with a black shark diagram means that a shark is currently near the beach, and beach users must get out of the water. A siren is sounded and the white flag is raised. 

ALSO SEE: Safe surfing with this Shark Spotters app!

To make summer shark safety even easier, Shark Spotters has also released and app that provides current and accurate shark safety information on smartphones.  


It’s illegal to drink in public on SA beaches. Of course, during festive season many turn a blind eye to this and take drinks to the beach – particularly during New Years and other celebratory dates like Boxing Day (26 December). 

READ: Quick Guide to St Lucia: Where hippos roam the streets

Keep in mind:

• Be aware of stepping on broken glass

• Swimming after consuming alcohol – even if consumed at home before reaching the beach – is a big no-no as this could greatly increase your risk of drowning. And even if you're not swimming, but  you’re in charge of watching others swim, like children, being intoxicated could hamper your ability to focus.

• Drinking gives you a false sense of security, which means you could be flippant with your valuables, etc. 


No one is immune from the harmful effects of the sun. But a lot of people choose sunscreen with lower SPF counts because they want to ‘still tan’.

However, the SPF number is not the strength, the number simply tells you how long the sun's UV radiation would take to redden your skin. An SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% - the real difference between the two is in fact just about 1%. 

So, apply that 50 all over!

Get a beach buddy

Depends on the time of day and the remoteness of the beach, but safety is a concern - especially for those solo beachgoers. Take a friend or go as a group as this will not only increase your safety on the beach itself, but having a friend with you in the ocean or watching you swim is a much safer way to beach. 

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