A typically calm Maldives beach, Angsana Velavaru. Photo by Timo Newton Syms.
World’s best beaches by month
A new threat to some of the world’s best beaches is a stinking but irresistable invasion of Sargassum seaweed slopping onto pristine beaches across the southern USA and Caribbean, including Texas, south Florida, Mexico, Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rica, Brazil and even across the ocean to Portugal, Spain, the British Isles, and Morocco.
Sargassum appears as vast mats of free-floating seaweed growing on the surface of seawater and has probably been around for thousands of years. The difference now is that it’s multiplied massively and is washing up on the world’s best beaches in thousands of tons.
The miles-wide masses of algae pile up on beaches and rot creating a stink and creating a home for biting sand flies as well as making the waters unpleasant to swim in.
Some blame the 2010 BP oil-spill cleanup, some say it’s a a natural response to global warming, toxic waste and sewage running from rivers into the seas.
The Bottom Line
When you book your vacation/honeymoon/one-in-a-lifetime world’s best beaches experience in the Caribbean/Mexico/south USA region ask the resort for clear evidence that there is no Sargassum situation there. Recent and dated photos? Refund guarantee?
It seems that some regions that are lying thru their teeth about Sargassum pollution. Hello Cancun? Anyone there? (In July Cancun workers removed 18, 000 cubic feet of seaweed from the beach only to have it reappear days later). Tobago has declared a ‘natural disaster’. Other popular beach resorts that have been badly affected are Galveston, Texas, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Low/wet seasons. Cheap vacations but…
Many tour operators and even guide books are pretty casual about recommending best beaches in any season, reasoning that during the rainy season it only pours down for a short time. This is true, but unfortunately there are other side effects to wet season weather that can change a great beach holiday into a dismal waste of time and money. e. g.
* High winds can make seas choppy, inter-island travel and fishing trips unpleasant, snorkelling waters murky with drifting sand and windsurfing or sailing impractical for all except pros. Even swimming becomes an exercise in battling muddy blue waves rather than floating tranquilly in clear turquoise waters. Furthermore, flotsam, jetsam and seaweed blown onto shores makes even the best beaches look grubby and unattractive.
* Constant clouds ruin the sunny seaside ambience, sunbathing possibilities shrink and photos look dull and dreary.
* High humidity creates an uncomfortably damp environment in rooms that are not well air-conditioned.
* Stagnant pools of water create the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, though high winds may prevent them from flying.
* Not often but occasionally it will rain for several days at a time, and then your beach paradise is really down the tubes and your bed, book or a bar are the only solution.
So, the moral is to check the best/worst seasons before you book your expensive trip and pay attention to the information!
Whether you buy the guide book first, check the Best Beaches calendar recommendations on the Bug’s Destination Finder, don’t risk the rainy season on the world’s best beaches unless you have no choice!
A Parrot Fish (Scaridae) nibbling coral in the Maldives. Photo by Uxbona.
Australian rip current advice
Dangerous sea currents, aka rips
A couple of years ago three parents drowned in a whirlpool off Tonel beach on Portugal’s Atlantic coast.
Whirlpools are an extreme example of dangerous currents but fundamentally need to be handled in the same way as any undertow – also known as a rip; they rarely drag people down, only around and around.
Monster waves are clearly visible but powerful rips that cycle wave water back to the ocean through a narrow channel are equally dangerous, can easily take swimmers out with them and are invisible to the inexperienced eye. Resistance is futile.
Parents should exercise caution on unfamiliar beaches. Beaches that are monitored by life guards around the world generally flag safe areas to swim – which may be narrow and crowded – as opposed to surf zones which can seem attractively uncrowded but conceal dangerous rips.
Most surfers are strong swimmers, know how to handle rips, and of course have a board to hang on to, so don’t think you can share their space.
What to do if caught in a rip
DO NOT PANIC. Desperate and exhausting thrashing is the killer as rips don’t usually drag swimmers under, even the whirlpool version, just away from the beach. If you fight the current you will tire rapidly and may lose the ability to keep your head up.
Rips do not flow indefinitely, they lose power within 5-40 metres though this may seem a long way when you’re trapped there, but just go with the flow. When the drag loosens, swim a few metres parallel to the beach i. e. perpendicular/away from the rip and then a safe return will be relatively easy.
Alternatively, calmly wave a hand and call for help, perhaps from a surfer.
Gay beaches in Europe
UK. Brighton on the south coast of England and an hour’s train ride from London is a famously colourful and bohemian gay town, perhaps the UK’s most LGBT-friendly region. Brighton’s main beach and pier are a popular, down-market but fun tourist destination while the beaches are covered by smooth pebbles. Gays tend to head south of the Kemptown area to a nudist beach, West Beach, Telscombe Cliffs Shoreham and Duke’s Mound.
Spain. Sitges, on the coast just south of bouncing Barcelona, is a busy little area that’s been gay for many years. Playa de la Bassa Rodona is one gay drop zone though it’s shared with the straight community. Nudists are better off at Playa del Muerto (playing dead? ) or Playa de las Balmins.
Spain’s Ibiza island in the Mediterranean is another wild place. Party central since Beatles roamed the earth, Ibiza also hosts some fine beaches including Es Cavallet’s nude and gay-populated strand in the south of the island, Port des Torrent, and Les Salinas for beach bars.
Greece’s Mykonos island is another superb, well-known gay holiday destination and the lovely Super Paradise beach is where to hang out, even if it is a bit remote and stony, while Elia further along the coast is positively awash with gays. Personal transport is useful, whether cars or scooters though little ferry boats make runs from main towns – but not much past sunset.
France. Nice on the Côte d’Azur is apparently the country’s second LGBT destination after Paris, though it’s a city visibly busy with regular tourists but also hosting some lively LGBT clubs and bars. Nice is large but attractive with pleasant shopping areas in both new and old towns, plenty of magnificent eating spots and of course the superb Promenade des Anglais lined with pebble beaches.
Coco and Castel beaches are the best known gay strips.