The summer holiday season is coming to a close here in the UK and it has certainly been a strange one weatherwise, as well as for tragedies at the beach.  Ah, we Brits do love our bucket and spade and castle building days at the seaside.  However, every year there are reports of holidaymakers getting into difficulties on beach holidays, both at home and abroad.   With temperatures cooling down in the UK, holidaymakers inevitably turn to warmer overseas destinations for their sun and beach fix.

Perhaps there is too much focus on the perceived dangers of a beach holiday and the seas and oceans, with films about jaws, jellyfish and other potentially unfriendly sea creatures.  These dangers do exist in some places, of course, but more common hazards are often overlooked or not taken seriously enough.  In Portugal there are cases of drownings every year, both in the sea and in swimming pools.  Did you know that in Portugal they issue fines if you disobey lifeguard warning flags, or that many popular Spanish island beaches have strong undercurrents?  Here in the UK we have Weever fish that bury in the sand and deliver an indignant and nasty sting if trodden on (it’s a good idea to wear beach shoes when paddling).

If we allowed ourselves to worry about every possible thing that could go wrong on a beach holiday we would never go to our local beach, let alone anywhere abroad.  Accidents will always happen no matter how informed we are.  We can’t begin to provide all the tips and advice you need here,  but perhaps we can help avoid a tragedy by reminding you to do your research before going to the beach or getting into the water – or allowing your family to do so.  It makes sense to prepare before you go, and know what to do in an emergency.

Earlier this year a British holidaymaker in Antigua died in a bizarre accident after reportedly becoming trapped in quicksand on a beach.  There have been numerous incidents of people getting into difficulty while using inflatable boats at the beach. There was even a tragic case of a young woman killed when a cliff face collapsed while she was strolling along a beach in Dorset.  Recently a kite surfer was badly injured when a freak gust of wind slammed him into a sea wall.  There will always be freak accidents, but many situations are avoided with a little education and awareness.

The Foreign Office website is a good place to start by checking their travel advice for your destination country.  Also, check their Beach Safety guide which includes links to the RNLI and Directgov, and further links from there. The Marine Conservation Society is also a good source, providing lots of great information as well as guides to help identify potentially harmful jellyfish and other sea creatures.  Once you reach your destination talk to local lifeguards and make sure everyone in your party understands the lifeguard flags and any potential hazards.

Remember to check your travel insurance policy to see which water sports are included.  Many water sports are automatically covered if done on a casual basis, such as canoeing, inshore sailing, jet skiing/boating, kite surfing, wind surfing, parascending, and snorkelling.  It is important to check you policy if you plan to engage in more advanced water sports such as higher grades of white-water rafting or kayaking, scuba diving to greater depths, or going on a holiday based on a particular sport.

Flickr cc: Christian Steen (The Maldives)

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