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Drownings at Phuket Beaches

A break from weather reports, a break from my normal sunny talk. I think quite a few people read this blog. Please read the following page carefully.

Holidays. Beaches. Sunshine. Warm waters... we are now into the low season in Phuket, often the weather will be fine and the sea will look inviting, indeed some days can be as good as any day in the high season with the added bonus of less crowds and low hotel rates. BUT, and this is a big BUT, there is one problem with the low season, despite the sunshine you have to realise that the prevailing winds blow onto the west coast of Phuket from the west. And the main beaches all face west. Thus, you can get waves. Sometimes quite big waves. This can make conditions unsafe for swimming.

Waves at Karon Beach

(above) Waves at Karon Beach in low season

Every year, people drown off the beaches in Phuket, and not just 1 or 2 people. We are looking at 30 or more. Now, some of these may be due to natural causes like heart attack. Some because people who cannot swim very well get into trouble.. and this can happen anywhere. BUT some victims are young and healthy, like a British girl age 21 who drowned this week at Karon Beach. Or a 21 year old guy who drowned in June last year. We already had a drowning victim in May - first of this season.

Yes, red flags are flying... but check the photo I took last year - the red flags get ignored:

And there are not enough, or even ANY properly trained lifeguards at all the beaches. There was apparently a new system set up recently - but Phuket's west coast is beach, beach, beach. Karon alone is over 3km long - I am not sure it's possible to watch all the people all the time. So, please if you are reading this - look for red flags. I realise the flags are there all low season, and on some days the sea might look nice and calm, but please please be aware that in low season you can get some nasty currents at some beaches - Karon and Surin tend to be worst - RIP currents - a rather ominous name.

I was caught in a rip one time off the west coast of Africa. It was scary. I was young and very fit, got carried out with another person while a friend who was swimming just meters away got carried back inshore by a wave. Rip currents can be very localised. It can be a matter of meters. You might be fine, but watch someone else being taken out to sea. In my case, I knew what to do - relax, then swim parallel to the shore away from the rip, and swim back in. By the time I hit the beach I was very tired. I needed a cigarette even though I was a non smoker!

You can find plenty of information on rip currents on the net - do a Google search, or start with this article by a guy called Tezza who is a regular visitor to Thailand - "Some Tips on Not Drowning". Worth a read.

Part of this problem comes down to lack of information. Booking a trip to Phuket at a travel agent, it's VERY unlikely they will say "Oh, and the beach might be unswimmable"! I mean, the beach is fine for a walk or sunbathing, but for swimming, please be careful. Part of the problem is also common sense. Big waves are fun? Some people think so....

People playing in the waves at Karon Beach

(above) I took this picture end of April last year at Karon Beach. I'd not do that myself. Each to their own.

Do you NEED to swim at the beach? No. It's low season, you can book nice hotels with nice pools for silly prices. At Karon Beach for example - you can book the Thavorn Palm Beach Resort for about 35 dollars a night! It's right by the beach road in Karon and has several lovely swimming pools. Or next door the Phuket Orchid Resort also has great pools, just 2 minutes walk to the beach. Swim in the pool if the sea looks a bit wavy. Get a cold beer at the wet bar, relax! Take a walk on the beach later and enjoy a sunset...

The photo below is also at Karon Beach in the low season (photo is from July 2008). You get plenty of days like this, nice weather, pretty calm seas. It can lull people into a false sense of security. Personally, I like low season, less crowded, less busy at work (!), cooler days, a bit of rain and variety in the weather, and the days are longer - sunset in July is 45 minutes later than December. I like the longer sunny evenings. I do recommend a Phuket trip at this time of year. BUT, here's that big BUT of mine again - watch the waves. Please don't drown.

Sunset at Karon Beach, July 2008

Drownings at Phuket Beaches  |  The Phuket Weather Blog

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This Phuket Weather blog entry was first published on June 15, 2010


  Please do add a comment or ask a question ...

Blogger Boonsong :

Timely warnings. Thanks for this.
Let's hope that your post helps people with their enjoyment of Thailand.

Best regards, Boonsong

June 18, 2010  

Anonymous Daniel :

Thanks for the tip concerning the rip !! Might save a life ! don't swim against the rip.

October 25, 2010  

Blogger Rado :

Thank you for useful information. I think there still will go to the turn of June and July with the family to relax.

December 03, 2010  

Anonymous Anonymous :

most of the people who drown are probably people who have never seen waves and rip currents, like japanese tourists. i seriously don't know why you would go to the beach if you can't swim at a decent level. stay in your hotel you losers and leave the waves to the aussies who can ride them and know how currents work!

June 06, 2012  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

You are quite right to not use a real name when you call dead people "losers"!

June 06, 2012  

Anonymous Anonymous :

This message is for the once who believe drowning only happens to the non-swimmers or beginners. This is where it goes wrong with the 30 drownings a year. I know Karon Beach pretty well and nearly drowned my self although I am a good swimmer. When the current hit you, it is a matter of luck rather than how good a swimmer you are. Finally, The life guards in Thailand won't risk it for you, hence they have a habit of waiting to you drown then pick your body up. While I thought they came to save me, I was surprised they were just watching and waiting for me to drown. They could easily have thrown something to me to grap, but they did not...So I had to save my self and luckily I did manage to.

October 06, 2013  

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