by Allen Staley

Technically the beach maybe defined as the area from the shoreline up to the natural sand area and if developed/landscaped shaded with other amenities up to 50 meters beyond the natural sand area.

Primary considerations for SWIMMING beaches

Sand quality and color
Water quality
Pollutants
Gradient </span
Waves
Currents
Underwater obstructions
Marine life

Sand quality and color – People tend to equate sand color with cleanliness but that’s not entirely so. The advantage of really fine white sand is that it doesn’t absorb heat, walking barefoot is comfortable and you leave clearly defined footprints. Boracay beaches have this quality. The only finer white sand beaches I have seen are in Palawan and it took a microscope before one could say for sure which sand was finer and whiter.
Sand that looks beige when wet in the morning or late afternoon can become unbelievably white when dry at midday. That’s why there are different opinions as to sand color all of which are correct just viewed under different conditions.

Water quality – clarity and lack of pollutants. Clarity is obvious but due to wave action that disturbs the bottom, one may have to go to deeper water say 5 feet before judging actual clarity.

Pollutants – natural debris not a real bother but lots of plastic bags and styrofoam are unattractive. Water born bacteria is not so obvious but a health hazard if swallowed and may cause skin rashes.

Gradient – The slope should be gradual with no surprises such as sudden drop-offs.

Waves – Experienced swimmers can enjoy big waves but such would not be safe for non-swimmers or small children.

Currents – Even a good swimmer could be in a dangerous situation with a strong undertow. While at the beach don’t loose sight of your children even if they are wearing a floatation device. Most children’s floatation devices do not provide real safety value and may only provide a false sense of security. It is advisable to provide children with life vests suitable for water sports such as ski-jacket/vest. Sport equipment shops in Makati sell small sizes for around P600.00.

Underwater obstructions – Swimming area should be fairly clear of rocks and corals with sharp edges. In clear water you can see were you are stepping otherwise be sure to wear protective footwear.

Sunset – I always love beaches where the sun sets directly in front of the beach. This gives a romantic ambiance which you would look forward too at the end of each day.

Marine life – unavoidable but infrequent natural situations when marine life could be problematical for casual swimmers. Experienced divers and snorklers know what to avoid and follow the rule IF YOU CAN’T IDENTIFY IT DON’T TOUCH IT. Please don’t allow collection of marine creatures, once out of the water most die quickly and are then discarded only to stink up the beach.

Other hazards – Based on experience the most common injuries are to the feet. Cuts, stubbed toes, sprained ankles – not life threatening but such can otherwise ruin a perfect holiday. Just use protective footwear while at the beach.

Exposure to the elements, sun, sea and sand leads to sunburn. Remember you can burn just as easily on a cloudy day. In addition to sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are possibilities. Wear hats, protective clothing, drink plenty of fresh water even if you are drinking other beverages.

In extreme cases such as near drowning or cardiac arrest quickly available CPR treatment and medical oxygen maybe the difference between life and death.

Consumption of alcohol and swimming at night, greatly increases the possibility of accidents. Please be guided accordingly.

If staying at a resort, check if there are people who can help you when necessary. Also inquire as to hospital locations just incase emergency treatment is needed.