While studying in Aus, you’re probably having a few daydreams about heading to the beach, or perhaps to your local creek or swimming pool?

No one blames you! A day spent at one of Australia’s 10,685 beaches is like a little slice of paradise.

But beaches and waterways can also be hazardous. On NSW beaches alone last year, there were over 5,000 rescues performed by lifeguards and lifesavers.

If you’re planning a day out in the water, here’s your guide to staying safe and having an absolutely perfect day.

Before you go…

  • Pack sunscreen (even if it’s cloudy, the Aussie sun is strong!).
  • Pack a fully charged phone.
  • Never go swimming alone. Grab a friend or two, and tell someone where you’re going before you leave.

Get the Timing Right

  • Check the weather forecast before you head out. If there’s heavy rains or storms, consider postponing until another time.
  • Don’t ever go swimming if you’ve been consuming alcohol or drugs.
  • Never swim at dusk or at night.
  • Avoid swimming if you have an open wound or infection.

Pick the Right Spot

Beaches

  • Never swim at an unpatrolled beach. Things can go wrong very quickly in the
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    Red and yellow lifeguard flags. These mark the safest spot to swim.

    water, so pick somewhere where you’ll have someone to help you out should things go wrong.

  • Look for any signs and follow their instructions.
  • When at the beach, always swim between the red and yellow flags. This is the spot that’s been deemed safest for swimming (learn more about flags and their meaning from Beach Safe).
  • Learn how to identify a rip: Many people who haven’t grown up around beaches have never heard of a rip. When waves break upon a beach, they have to return back to the ocean and they do this by flowing back down deeper channels. These narrow channels of water can move quite fast as they head back out to the sea and can take swimmers by surprise.  You can learn to identify rips by sight.  This video will show you how.


Inland waters

  • Think twice about swimming in inland waters, as there are no patrols and more people drown in inland waterways than at the beach.
  • Make sure you’re not alone when you swim.
  • Don’t swim in water that looks murky, or smells bad.
  • Check for signs and follow their instructions.
  • Never swim in drains or dams.

Getting in the Water

  • Don’t dive into the water, you may overestimate the depth and this can have very serious consequences.
  • Walk in slowly and keep an eye out for submerged objects.

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Emergencies

  • If you ever find yourself in trouble while swimming, try to stay calm and raise your hands to show that you need help.
  • If you see someone else in distress in the water, emergency dial Triple Zero (000) for Police.

Creepy Crawlies in the Water

There are a few dangerous animals that hang around in Australian waters.  While it’s unlikely that you’ll come across many of them, it’s good to know what to look out for.

Crocodiles

No joke, you should never go swimming in places where there are known to be crocodiles. The two types of Australian crocodiles, the Saltwater and the Freshwater are both found in Northern Australia. Obey any crocodile warning signs that you see and if you’re not sure it’s safe, check with local rangers.

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Jellyfish

As a general rule, avoid all jellyfish (that includes those washed up on the shore). If you feel any kind of sting during or after swimming, seek first aid. In particular, watch out for box jellyfish, (found along the north Queensland coast, past Great Keppel Island) and the bluebottle (found in eastern and southern Australian waters).

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A Bluebottle jellyfish on the shore

Blue-ringed octopus

If you see this pretty octopus leave it well alone! With a strong beak and paralysing venom, they’re one of the deadliest animals in the sea.

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Blue-ringed octopus

Stingrays

While stingrays are usually docile, they can act out in self-defense if provoked. For this reason, it’s best to give stingrays some space while swimming, so that they don’t feel threatened.

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Stingray