How to stay safe at the beach this summer | Western Cape Government

How to stay safe at the beach this summer

Beach SafetyWhen you have an opportunity to relax and have fun at the beach, remember that accidents can happen at any time. Have a look at these helpful safety tips to keep your family safe at the beach. 

Beach safety

  • Only swim where there are lifeguards on duty and where signs indicate that it's safe to swim.
  • Make sure that lifeguards can see you when you're in the water.
  • At the beach, always swim between the red and yellow flags. These indicate safe and supervised swimming areas. Areas outside these flags might conceal dangerous currents and tides. Only swim in areas where other people are present.
  • Surfers and body-boarders shouldn’t surf in areas where bait and game fish are running, where seals are present, or seabirds are diving.
  • If you find yourself in trouble, raise your arm to attract the lifeguards' attention and don’t panic.
  • If you see someone in trouble in the sea, alert the lifeguards or find help. Don't put your own life in danger as well.
  • Don't swim or drive motor boats while under the influence of alcohol. It dulls the senses and slows reaction times. Remember: Alcohol isn’t allowed on Western Cape beaches. If you’re found with alcohol, you will be fined, and your alcohol confiscated.
  • Know how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until help arrives.
  • Don't dive from tidal pool walls, as this has been known to result in spinal injuries. Swim only at low tide when no waves are breaking over the walls. The pools provide a safer option to swim in than the oceans, as the currents are kept at bay.
  • Don’t take out small or unstable boats far from shore in choppy water or stormy weather.
  • Ensure that you protect your skin from too much exposure to the sun. Too much sun can cause sunstroke/heat stroke. Keep hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, excluding alcoholic drinks.
  • Stay indoors during the hottest time of the day, and if you do go out make use of sunscreen, hats and other attire.

Swimming pool and diving area safety

  • Children under the age of 7 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Always obey the superintendent's instructions.
  • Don’t swim under or near the diving boards.
  • Only 1 person should be on a diving board at any given time.
  • Don’t jump or dive to the side of the diving board.

Leave it better than how you found it

We're fortunate to have the Western Cape coastline as part of our home. Let's all pitch in to keep our beaches clean and clear of any litter, because litter can cause a safety hazard to humans and marine life, especially glass and plastic. Remember to leave it better than how you found it - if you see it, pick it up.

Rip current warningRip currents

According to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), rips develop anywhere where there are breaking waves. The "rivers" of current are produced by water draining from the beach and back out to sea. Rip currents are not “undertow” and will not pull you under the water. Here are some tips from the NSRI:

How to spot a rip current

Although not always detectable, strong rip currents have the following signs:

  • Water through a surf zone that is a different colour than the surrounding water.
  • A break in the incoming pattern of waves.
  • Seaweed or debris moving out through the surf zone.
  • Isolated turbulent and choppy water in the surf zone.
  • If you’re caught in a rip current the main thing to do is to stay calm and relax.
  • Swim slowly and conservatively, parallel to the shoreline or relax and let it carry you out past the breakers until it slacks.
  • If you can tread water or float, you’ll be safe until you can escape the flow and head back to the beach.
  • When you head back in, do so at an angle to the shoreline. Again, maintain a slow and relaxed pace until you reach the shore or assistance arrives.
  • Always make sure you're swimming where lifeguards are on duty. Remain calm and raise your arm to attract the lifeguards' attention.

What to do if you're caught in a rip current? 

Shark spotter flagShark safety tips

  • Don’t swim, surf or surf-ski when birds, dolphins or seals are feeding nearby.
  • Don’t swim in deep water beyond the breakers.
  • Don’t swim if you’re bleeding.
  • Don’t swim near river mouths.
  • Don’t swim, surf or surf-ski near areas where trek-netting, fishing or spearfishing is taking place.
  • If a shark has recently been sighted in an area where no shark spotters are present, consider using another beach for the day.
  • First-time visitors to beach areas should ask the local law enforcement officials, lifeguards or locals about the area.
  • Always obey beach officials.
  • For kayaking or surf-skiing far out to sea, consider paddling in groups and staying close together (in a diamond formation).
  • Consider using a personal shark shield when you go surfing or kayaking.
  • Pay attention to any shark signage on beaches.

Shark spotter flags:

Spotting conditions are good
Green Flag

A green flag means that the spotting conditions are good and no sharks have been seen.

Spotting conditions are poor
Black flag

A black flag means that the spotting conditions are poor, but no sharks have been seen.

There is a high shark alert

   Red Flag

A red flag indicates a general shark alert, and is raised when a shark has been observed in the area in the past two hours, when an increased presence of sharks has been observed or when conditions conducive to increased shark activity exist, example; fish activity or whale strandings. This flag will be lowered only when the alert is no longer necessary and will be flown in conjunction with one of the other spotting flags.

A shark has been spotted – sirens will sound; leave the water immediately


White Flag


A white flag with a black shark diagram means that a shark is currently near the beach, and beach users must get out of the water. A siren will sound and the white flag will be raised.


Reporting emergencies
Make sure you keep emergency numbers memorised or saved for urgent assistance.

Call 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cell phone.
You can also dial 112 from any cellphone, irrespective of your network.
Dial 10111 for ambulance services.

NSRI Emergency Operation Centre: 087 094 9774
NSRI bases Western Cape:
082 990 5952      Agulhas
082 990 5980      Air Sea Rescue Unit
082 990 5962      Bakoven
072 448 8482      Gordon’s Bay
082 990 5967      Hermanus
082 990 5964      Hout Bay
082 990 5979      Kommetjie
082 990 5956      Knysna

060 960 3027      Lamberts Bay
082 990 5958      Melkbosstrand
082 990 5954      Mossel Bay
082 990 5966      Mykonos

082 990 5975      Plettenberg Bay
082 990 5965      Simon’s Town
082 990 5978      Still Bay

082 990 6753      Strandfontein
082 990 5963      Table Bay
072 446 6344      Theewaterskloof Dam
082 990 5955      Wilderness
082 990 5957      Witsand

082 990 5974      Yzerfontein

Sources: City of Cape Town and National Sea Rescue Institute

The content on this page was last updated on 20 December 2023