Best Beaches Warnings

Pelagia noctiluca, typical Mediterranean jellyfish, in Menton, France

Pelagia noctiluca (red marker on left points to one), a typical Mediterranean jellyfish, in Menton, France

Warnings: Blue Flag beaches

The Blue Flag is an international environmental awardgiven to beaches making a special effort to implement sound management with respect to water quality control, nature and the environment. There are now well over 4, 000 beaches with this award in 37 countries across Europe, Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean.

This eco-compliance/hygiene award is given for one year only and is based on many factors.
Some of the most important factors:
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.

EU 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, France 14th.

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 poor.

Click here to see Blue Flag beaches for the current year.

Warnings: Jellyfish

pelagia noctiluca, Mediterranean jellyfish, Sardinia

Pelagia noctiluca, a Mediterranean jellyfish. Photo by Hans Hillewaert.

Blobby life forms off the world’s beaches

Mediterranean Jellyfish: 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 possibly 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 expansionist tendencies.

Med jellies, however unpleasant are not at all 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 to remove stings. Alternatively applying very hot water does a great job of de-activating the stings. Contrary to myth, urinating on stings has no effect. Though it may be amusing.

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 dangerous jellyfish.

Australia’s 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.

Avoiding Jellyfish Stings
Take 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.

Warnings: Sunbathing

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.

Detailed information and pictures of the world’s best beaches