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Is it safe to swim in the sea in Cape Town

edited September 2011 in - Southern Africa
Hello, we are booked in for our holiday in Cape Town, I knew about the safety issues with regard to crime but didnt know about the risk of swimming in the sea. Tell me, is it safe to swim in the sea around Cape Town? Or rather what is the risk - I am not that excited about my family swimming in shark infested waters... should we stick to the swimming pool?
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  • edited 10:05PM
    dont worry, the water is so damn cold in cape town that you wont want to swim in the sea for long anyway! The sea temperature is slightly warmer in false bay, which is where the two most recent shark attacks have happened - probably as there are more swimmers and sufers. The most beautiful and popular beaches are on the Atlantic side, and most people don't do more than put their toes in there. Stick to swimming pools if you are worried.
  • edited 10:05PM
    Hi Mathieu

    You're probably thinking about the much-publicised shark attack in Cape Town a few days ago. While it's true that there are great white sharks in the waters near Cape Town, there are sophisticated systems in place to keep swimmers and surfers safe. These include sirens, warning signs, and dedicated shark spotters at many of the beaches. The swimmer who was attacked this week was hurt specifically because he ignored the warnings and swam in a beach that was closed because the sharks had been spotted.

    If you are worried, I'd suggest Boulder Beach. It's more sheltered and there is a penguin colony there that kids will love!
  • edited 10:05PM
    The other replies you see here have covered most of it. The water on the east side of the Peninsula (the so called Indian Ocean side) is significantly warmer and pleasanter to swim in than that on the western, Atlantic coast where even in summer it seldom gets much above the mid teens Celsius. There are exceptions when sometimes pockets of warmer water can be found on this coast. So far as safety is concerned yes, we do have Great White and other species of shark in our waters and it's worth remembering that if you enter the water where such sharks are commonly found you are the invader in their space. Sharks almost never actually attack anyone; when they bite a human it is as a result of their form of investigation where they bite to check what they have encountered. Unfortunately, a big shark bite even of the exploratory kind can be fatal. Great Whites most commonly prey on seals so a good rule of thumb for starters is don't swim where there is a seal colony in the vicinity. Also don't swim in murky water or near a river mouth where the river is flowing out with a lot of debris. As the others say above we do have limited shark warning systems in place around Cape Town but they are not foolproof and do not cover every possible place to swim in the sea. You should also be aware of rip currents that are found close to some beaches in certain conditions. As mentioned here Boulders beach near Simonstown where there is a colony of penguins is a great place to swim but get there early and preferably at or near high tide - it can get busy in school holidays and at weekends.The best bet is stick to the popular and safe beaches and especially where at weekends there are lifesavers on duty. Our volunteer lifesavers are world class and you should heed their advice about swimming. It's worth remembering though that the statistical chance of being bitten by a shark in terms of the numbers of people who enter the water around any coast is minute. You probably should take more notice how you cross the street! Have fun in Cape Town. It's the best.
  • edited 10:05PM
    The popular Atlantic seaboard beaches are GORGEOUS but COOOOLD! 10°C - 15°C (i.e. 50°F - 59°F).

    False bay waters are MUCH warmer! I've swum in them HUNDREDS of times, and between December and March it's normal to have temps in the low 20s°C (High 60s°F / low 70s°F). This last summer when I was there the commonest temp I registered using my own thermometer was 23°C / 24°C ( that's 73/75°F), which is very warm for Cape Town on a consistent basis.

    The warmest I ever recorded, but this is exceptional, was in the tidal pool at Glencairn near Fish Hoek. 26°C / 79°F in the depths - 28°C / 82°F in the shallows! The city of Cape Town maintains 19 tidal pools magnificently, and these are obviously shark safe! They're also usually Olympic size, so just awesome!

    Also re crime, TOTALLY exaggerated! I've had way more trouble in Europe than CT, which has become my favourite city on Earth. Obviously use common sense, but I'm willing to bet you'll have one of the best holidays of your life!
  • edited 10:05PM
    Tony is 100% right! The popular beaches (Clifton, Camps Bay) on the Atlantic Seaboard are frigid, even in the middle of summer! I'd also like to put in a good word for Muizenberg, as there are good facilities and it's family-friendly. You can also take the train there (or to Simon's Town) from the city centre, which makes a great day trip.
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