Blue Flag beaches
The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to over 3200 beaches and marinas in 37 countries across Europe, Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean.
This eco-compliance/hygiene award is given for one season only and is based on many factors. Some of the most important:
bathing water quality (no noxious effluent); care of offshore coral; cleanliness and maintenance of the sand; provision of waste bins; adequate, clean toilets; lifesaving equipment and/or lifeguards; first-aid equipment; safe access to the beach; drinking water available; the beach must be patrolled.
beach water tests for bacterial pollution - especially Streptococcus and Enterococcus, usually caused by sewage
or decaying matter.
The best water in the last few years consistently washed the beaches of Cyprus
and Greece, with Spain 3rd, Italy 4th, Portugal 7th, Britain 13th,
The worst beach water quality was found
in Poland and Belgium though French sand is surprisingly washed
by a lot of dirty seas.
In some cases - such as the UK - the Environment Agency blames unseasonal
rainfall washing farming residue into rivers and down to beaches but there's no question that water companies during heavy rains allow sewage to enter some overflow pipes that end up in the sea.
Inland beaches: the best freshwater
bathing sites tested by the EU were in Denmark, Estonia, Germany
and Austria. Britain's, including Hampstead Heath ponds were very
Click here to see Blue Flag beaches for the current year.
life forms off the world's
In summertime some of the Mediterranean - from Spain's Costa del
Sol thru France's south coast and down Italy as far as Sicily -
can suffer from jellyfish invasion, varying in intensity depending on the year.
The nasty critter is generally the mauve stinger
or Pelagia noctiluca (so called because they glow
at night). The stings are painful and unpleasant but not
life-threatening unless a swimmer has a weak heart, a sever allergic
reaction or panics on encountering a shoal of blobbies and drowns...
The cause of the stinger explosion is the usual suspect, global
warming boosting water temperatures by a couple of degrees as well
as increased pollution-derived nutrients and reduced cool freshwater
entering from rivers.
However, overfishing of anchovies (which compete
with jellies for plankton salad), turtles and tuna fish (which eat
jellies for dessert) has also aided the mauve climate avenger's
Pelagia noctiluca, Mediterranean jellyfish, Cap d'Antibes, France 2009
Med jellies, however unpleasant are not even near to deadly and stings can often be dealt with by rinsing the area with SEA water, putting sand on it and rubbing with something hard such as a credit card.
For information on nastier jellies usually found only in tropical waters such as the Portuguese Man-o-War (big and blue but not too bad, and we speak from personal experience), Irukandji (tiny but terrible) and Box Jellies (huge and hellishly life-threatening), see seriously
Stingers get zapped
Getting wacked by a jellies off popular NE coast resorts of Cairns
and Airlie beach is a dying custom as both towns have constructed
such spectacular, user-friendly, free salt water lagoons on the
shore that no longer does one feel the need to brave the turgid, toxic waters
of the sea.
Brisbane also has a terrific lagoon on a city river bank.
special precautions if you have a heart condition as jellyfish deaths
are normally attributed to cardiac arrest or pulmonary congestion.
Avoid swimming off northern Australia's beaches in the Oct-May high-jelly
season, especially in the seas north of Brisbane in Northern Australia,
but also around India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Wetsuits or
Lycra 'stinger suits ' offer good though not complete protection.
Dead jellyfish on beaches may look like gelatinous blobs, but while
there is still moisture there can be life in the cells and you may
be stung. Don't tread on them and don't pick them up.
on the Best Beaches in the World?
Try not to lie in the sun in the middle of the day while on a beach holiday. This may not only win
you a prize in the melanoma lottery, but will give you wrinkles and sagging
skin at an early age and add an unpleasant red highlight
to your tan; in fact it may burn the tan off altogether.
You will brown up more smoothly and enduringly if you hit the sun before
11am and after 3pm. And you may live longer too.
In addition, be
careful when swimming, snorkelling (wear a T shirt and put waterproof
sunblock on other exposed areas, especially the backs of your legs,
back of the neck and balding heads), motorcycling and getting
wrecked on the beach.
Force yourself to drink water, lots of it, if you want to avoid
headaches and lethargy from dehydration.
Water requirements generally are six glasses per day, so multiply that
by at least three for baking beaches or other toasty environments.
Most at risk are fair haired/skinned folk or those with a lot of freckles or moles, but everyone - including those with dark skin - can get skin cancer from the sun.
The UK has 75,000 new cases of skin cancer every year, Australia 380,000 (the highest in the world) but the UK sees more melanoma deaths as British are less experienced at recognising symptoms and leave things too late. Catch a melanoma early and it can be removed.
Here's the ABCDE of danger moles:
Asymetry - two halves have a different shape.
Border - the edges are irregular.
Colour - different shades or colours.
Diameters - most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Watch for changing size or shape.
Expert - if in doubt check with a doctor, preferably a dermatologist.
information and pictures of the world's best beaches