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South Africa, Sharks, Sea Snakes and Other Dangers in The Water Whilst On Vacation

Updated on July 19, 2017

The coastal waters of South Africa provide an abundant source of entertainment for tourists throughout the year. Deep sea fishing, shark feeding, and scuba diving attract millions of tourists each year.

Most tourists enjoy their stay and return home with wondrous adventures in their memories. But there are the people who went on vacation, and did not return home alive. Others are blinded, some have limbs amputated, whilst others are in need life saving surgery after an animal attack.

The waters around South Africa are well known for the dangerous and ferocious sea creatures that reside in the area. Many attacks go unreported, as only shark attacks usually hit the world wide press.

The Great White Shark


Great White Tooth
Great White Tooth
Great White Test Bite
Great White Test Bite

As the South African continent ends, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean begin.

The warm water of the Indian Ocean provides the perfect breeding and hunting ground for some of the world most feared creatures.

The obvious shark threat is that from the menacing and notorious Great White Shark. Reaching lengths of over 21 feet, travelling at more than 35 miles per hour, and living for thirty years. The Great White is the most feared shark by man of all the sharks in the ocean.

South Africa is no stranger to the Great White shark. Tours offer shark baiting and feeding, and an opportunity to view the great mammal from a flimsy cage under the water.

The Great White is responsible for the largest number of unprovoked fatalities on humans out of all species of shark.

Between 1990 and 2011, there were 139 recorded Great White shark attacks, 29 were fatal.

In 1936 off the coast of South Africa, a large Great White lept from the sea and completely into a fishing boat named Lucky Jim. Kayaks and other small boats also come under attack from Great White sharks, but are usually only 'bumped' by the intrigued shark.

It has to be said that people are more likely to be struck by lightening than be attacked by a Great White Shark in South Africa. Apparently. The species is on the 'vulnerable' list, as their population dwindles due to illegal and sports fishing as well as being trapped in nets, and may soon be extinct.

Bull Sharks

Bull Sharks have been blamed for many attacks on humans in murky waters similar to where rivers enter the sea churning up the sand. Most of the attacks have occurred in water which is less than waist deep.

Classed as an aggressive species, the Bull Shark thrives in fresh or salt water and travels for miles up rivers. Bull sharks were seen swimming in the flooded streets of Brisbane and Goodna in Australia during heavy floods in 2011.

Averaging almost 8 feet in length, the Bull shark is a 209 pound eating machine.

This territorial predator prefers shallower waters and is responsible for more attacks on humans than any other shark.

Safety nets around much of South Africa have limited the number of fatal shark attacks to approximately 1.2 on average every year. But.... there are still the non-fatal attacks which occur more frequently

Some 98 species of shark can be found off the coast of South Africa, although not all at the same time. Most sharks will shy away from humans as much as possible.

Other sharks which swim in the South African waters include the Hammerhead, Tiger, and the Blacktip, as well as the Dusky and the Spotted Ragged Tooth Sharks.

Sea Snakes

Sea snakes can be seen basking in the sun. They do not have gills so need to surface quite frequently to breathe. An average sea snake is typically 4 feet long, others grow to over 8 feet in length.

There are 62 species of sea snake of which only some are classed as aggressive, although all will attack if they feel threatened. The majority of sea snakes avoid human contact and are considered quite docile.

Many sea snake bites come to nothing as most bites contain little or no venom. Most swimmers whom have been bitten do not realize that they were bitten until after the incident.

Quite often, sea snake teeth can be found in the bite mark on the victim. Early symptoms of being bitten include sickness, extreme thirst, and headaches as well as profuse sweating.

After 30 minutes the victim may suffer from aching limbs and stiffness, moving muscles become pain full

After 8 hours paralysis of the bodies muscles begins to take hold. Breathing may become difficult as the throat and respiratory system muscles begin to deteriorate.

Death comes from asphyxiation or cardiac arrest within 12 hours of the initial bite.

It is advised that attempting to swim near sea snakes is a foolish venture and not an extreme sport. If a person on holiday or vacation to South Africa suspects that they may have been bitten, seek medical attention immediately.

Box Jellyfish

Although not typically native to South African waters, the lethal box jellyfish can often be seen along the coastline. This predator jellyfish is not a typical floating jellyfish that goes with the flow of the current.

The box jellyfish hunts its prey and reaches speeds of over 4 miles per hour. It is considered to have the nearest thing to a brain in the jellyfish world.

Jellyfish stings are some of the most potent venom's known to man. Not all of the species of box jellyfish stings are fatal to humans, but never take a chance. Tentacles can reach to 3 meters and the jellyfish itself can weigh up to 2 kg.

The box jellyfish is almost completely transparent, making it difficult to locate in the water. The tentacles are not typically felt on the skin until the venom is injected.

Once injected, the venom rapidly spreads through the victims body. This dangerous sea creature has been blamed for hundreds of deaths, especially among younger and older people.

Death can occur within a staggering 2 - 5 minute period depending on the amount of venom injected from certain species of box jelly fish.


The short tailed stingray can be found off the coast of South Africa. Mainly bottom feeding to a depth of 250 meters, it can also be found on reefs, in estuaries and shallow water.

The beautiful sea creatures can be fed by hand and usually stroked by swimmers. But the sharp barb in its tail can be as long as 12 inches. The mucus sheath that covers the barb is toxic and can cause necrosis, melting of the flesh.

The most dangerous injuries involve the barb being thrust into the victims body and damaging vital organs. With the toxin embedded within the injured organ / organs, time is of the essence to receive medical treatment.

A case where a startled sting ray jumped from the water and pierced a wading fisherman in the chest has been confirmed. These powerful fish can weigh up to 770 pounds and have a wingspan of over 7 feet.

Stephen Robert Irwin was killed when a short tailed stingrays barb impaled his chest and entered his heart.

Always be wary when swimming with any creatures, no matter how docile they seem.

Free Links To:-

Poisonous Snakes & Venomous Spiders in South Africa

Tunisia - Venomous snakes and deadly insects

Durban, South Africa

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Johannesburg, South Africa

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cape town:
Cape Town, South Africa

get directions

port st johns:
Port St Johns, South Africa

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port elizabeth:
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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There are many dangers in every country or Continent in the world. South Africa is no exception.

Kidnappings, abductions, as well as muggings and drug use are rife.

Humans present the biggest danger to other humans by far.

Gun and knife crime escalates as does the murder rates.

It is advisable for all people wishing to visit South Africa to ensure they adhere to the guidelines set out by their travel agency or advisers.

Do not visit areas where the possibility of confrontation is probable.

Keep all valuables in a locked safe at hotels or in all inclusive resorts receptions safe rooms.

Ensure at least 3 photocopies of all essential documents are taken away on vacation in case originals are lost or stolen.

It is illegal to use drugs in South Africa and could result in 30 years imprisonment.

Going To South Africa ? What scares you the most

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    • torrilynn profile image


      5 years ago

      thanks for this informative hub on what dangers lie in South Africa. from stingrays and sharks to other humans. it is a very scary thought but useful indeed. Voted up useful and pinned !

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      very interesting and helpful hub with lots of information of dangerous sea animals and humans. Heard of a stringray that killed a well-known man, they called him the crocodile hunter. Need to be very careful when out in the sea

    • phildazz profile image

      Allan Philip 

      5 years ago from Toronto

      Insightful and touching. Thank you!


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