At one time or another, the thought has crossed the mind of every watersport-loving Adventurer “what lurks below my treading legs?”
For those who frequent rivers and lakes, the answer’s probably large-mouthed bass or, at the very worst, a snake that will bury itself deep beneath the sand as soon as it senses the smallest aquatic reverberation.
For those of us who use oceanic sports to quench our thirst for adventure, however, “what if” scenarios yield larger, finned submarine fears. We’re talking, of course, about sharks.
Sometimes we think our active imaginations might be blowing things out of proportion, but while researching this piece we were reminded of the very real dangers these animals pose.
Before you set out to surf or swim this summer, take a peek at the world’s most shark-infested beaches and remember to always pay close attention to the beach patrol’s shark sighting announcements. Shark attacks are rare, but they happen frequently enough to take notice.
We don’t mean to be alarmists and the ocean is out there for you to conquer it. We’re just saying be careful.
West End, Grand Bahamas Island, Bahamas
“Sharky” beaches aren’t just those that clock the greatest number of attacks. Sometimes a destination is highlighted merely for the large number of sharks swimming in its waters. Grand Bahamas Island is a prime example.
Notorious for having a high density of sharks (from the shallowest depths to the reaches of “Tiger Beach,”a veritable condo association of tiger sharks that scares away even the most experienced professional divers), the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) reports the area has not had a fatal incident since 1973.
Doesn’t sound that bad, right? Don’t be lulled into a sense of false security. That stat could just mean people have smartened up and seldom swim in waters known to be infested.
Or, it could mean recent swimmers have been lucky. Don’t think for a second these waters are any safer than they were in 1973, because you may end up regretting it.
Kahun Beach, West Maui, Hawaii
Grand Bahamas Island appears on our list because of a high density of sharks. Kahun Beach made the cut for a different, far more menacing reason: number of attacks.
It’s reported that a staggering 40 species of shark reside in the waters off West Maui. Included in this population are the oft ornery tiger and nurse sharks. Since the 1800s, Kahun has seen 34 attacks, the most recent occurring in 2004, with fatal force.
We should note the area’s high population density of approximately 1.3 million people. The raw number of attacks is probably correlated to the fact that there are many swimmers in the water at any one time, increasing the likelihood of a dangerous run-in.
Bolinas Beach, California
Bolinas Beach lies at the center of the harrowing Red Triangle, so called because of the geometric form its boundaries make. Here, 38 percent of recorded great white attacks have reportedly occurred. While there have been no fatal incidents in Marin County (where Bolinas Beach is located), there have been 11 non-fatal attacks since 1926.
That’s 11 too many for us to even think about taking a dip. A friendly note to all surfers and swimmers: if you see large numbers of seals, otters, and sea lions flapping around (as is the case in the waters of the Red Triangle), chances are there are some hungry pursuers not far away.
The point is: sharks aren’t known for their species delineation abilities, so help them out and get out of the water if you find yourself shredding waves among known food sources. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.
Fish Hoek Beach, Cape Town, South Africa
Every time we think about taking an extreme vacation, cage diving crosses our minds. To what part of the world does Google always take us as soon as we hit “enter” on our “cage diving vacation” query? Why, South Africa, of course.
Long the home of some of the largest great whites in the world, Cape Town is the mecca of all the things a shark-loving tourist dreams about.
Sorry, we’ll clarify. It’s the mecca of all the things a shark-loving tourist dreams about when they dream about being lowered just below the surface in a fully protective shark-proof steel cage.
It’s really more of a nightmare without that, because these waters are home to the second largest number of shark attacks in the world (the ISAF reports 45 from 2000-2011). Those who do choose to free swim should always pay attention to warning flags flown on beaches where sharks have recently been spotted.
New South Wales, Australia
We’re not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing that tour guides in New South Wales guarantee shark sightings to visiting tourists.
Delivering on a promise is great and all (especially if you’re safely situated inside a boat) but if the thing you’re promising is coming in to contact with bull and great white sharks – some of the most dangerous beings on the planet – it’s probably worth reconsidering the lengths you’ll go through to prove your trustworthiness.
On the 200-meter coastal strip of New South Wales, there have been 171 reported attacks, 55 of which have been fatal. “Very deep water close to shore compresses the habitat of coastal sharks and allows pelagic species like the great white shark to come close to shore,” says Marie Levine of the Shark Research Institute.
We need to take special precautions here. In case you need more proof you need to watch your back when venturing into these waters, the ISAF credits Australia with the largest number of shark attacks in the world (141 from 2000-2011, according to the ISAF).