The truth behind the world’s most dangerous beach.
Arriving at 2nd beach Port St. Johns, we always seem to bump into the Rastas first…
‘Howzit ous. Not swimming?’, we start the banter.
‘Nooit bru… ‘, with a friendly smile comes the response. I continue, ‘Ya, so what’s cutting down on the most dangerous beach in the world ekse?’
‘Nooit bru, we not!’, comes the emphatic reply. ‘We not the most dangerous man! There is some other place! ‘
‘Whaaa, where bru?’, I continue.
A tentative smile and the other Rasta continues, ‘Ummmm, uh, not sure bru… heard it the other day, but we definitely second most dangerous beach in the world now. Jannies! ‘
So that’s a comic relief as we stand there surf checking the place. We have boards. We even have the Wavejet powered Pau Hana SUP with us. But still, everything’s not irie here, it’s downright eerie. We all know – that there has been a fatal shark attack right at this spot, once a year for the past 9 years.
The left we are seeing peel across 2nd beach in front if us, in this leftover but polished SE swell, reminds me of Narrabeen. And is beyond beautiful. Gone are the taxis. The inlanders. And the buitelanders. The busses. The daytime parties. The all night parties. The mess. The stench. The noise. The crime. The surfers. The drunks and druggies. The police. And the lifeguards…
Well we found the lifeguards. Training. In the river. With no bathers or surfers on the beach, and a Zambezi behind every rock, all they can do, is stay fit and train.
‘So where do the attacks happen brother? ‘, I almost callously probe…
‘There in the corner bra…’ as he points to the cute little cove in the south corner of this amazingly beautiful beach. It’s a pebble rock lined cove with simple and inviting access, to an ominous but serene little piece of water. Ominous only in that it’s the perfect ambush spot, for Zambezi sharks. But to the previously unscared shitless, it looks like the deepend of a hotel tidal pool.
The last victim, a seventy year old European tourist, just off the tour bus on a blisteringly hot day, must have thought he had died and gone to heaven, as he plunged in headlong to his death. By eating. After all these years, of scientific speculation to the opposite, this shark ate the guy. It fed. Enough graphic detail?
Ok so, every year an attack. And here it all gets very sticky. Very.
Where were the lifeguards? And did they help?
First question – the lifeguards were on duty and present.
Second question. Their equipment was confiscated by an official years back and they have no craft with which to get out there and rescue people being eaten. It took many slow horrifying minutes for our tourist to have his entire abdomen removed. He was a big guy. Had the lifeguards had their jet ski, or any other ski, used in combination, could have saved many of the fatalities.
They look like Chaka ‘s best warriors. They are extremely well trained. They live for their jobs. They have lost brothers in that very corner. But they have been stripped of their weapons. They cannot physically challenge a quarry so mean and efficient, in its own medium and environment. They could take on a leopard with a spear.
But not a shark, without a ski.
The list of confiscated items included several surf skis, rescue craft AND A JET SKI?!
The exact equipment I would demand if I had to go to war on the Zambezi shark front line!
Mmmmm… so where does that leave us, standing there on the newly claimed 2nd most dangerous beach in the world.
Firstly, pondering where the 1st most dangerous beach in the world is.
And secondly, we decide not to surf. Not even with the SUP. Nada.
And this is how every surfer to 2nd beach Port St. Johns, has felt.
So. Nothing to do for surfers in Port St. Johns. At all. Except the next best thing to surfing…partying! And then fishing, of course.
So we head back into the main town area, passing Amapondo Backpackers. Stopping to check it out and drink a beer (no surfing remember), we find it’s been booked out in it’s entirety, 70 beds, by students coming from some sort of tertiary brainwashing establishment. But not real tourists at all.
So we move on to find that there is only one other backpackers left in Port St. Johns. The well supported and serviced Jungle Monkey. They have taken over The Island next door. They were nicely filled, and we had two entertaining nights there…meeting Mike the owner. This hellman came here as a kiteboarder, and tells us that he used to kite Port St. Johns 1st Beach?! That’s insane! 1st Beach is the huge river mouth, with a Mundaka like left peeling into it, where all the action takes place. It’s spawning heaven for kob, grunter and all sorts, and when the fishing is on in Port St. Johns, the sharks are right there in the mix. Clearly visible and they take their share of the winnings – the Taxman!
Mike says that when he kited up and down this left, on a clear day he could see that he was kiting right over 3 metre Zambezi sharks…up and down the beach. He could also see the shoals of salmon – hundreds of them, all jammed up together hunting to replenish their spent energy lost during spawning.
He says without any hesitation, and speaking from his many years here, Mike says emphatically that 1st beach, is much more dangerous than 2nd beach!
Ha! We’d found the most dangerous beach in the world.
Just like a whale shark knows the exact time and place, where the snapper congregate to spawn, in Belize, Mexico, so do the Zambezi’s know, in Port St. Johns, South Africa, when the salmon and grunter congregate. The whale sharks pitch up exactly on time and gorge of the spawn of a thousand snapper.
The Zambezi’s can visibly be seen when the fishing is on. There are hundreds of them. They never stop being hungry, and in their frenzied excitement after hearing Pavlov’s dinner bell ringing from 1st beach, swim right past 2nd beach, from wherever they were eating before.
Well, Port St. Johns is now quieter than Tofo, in Mozambique. The two places are tiny shadows, of what they once were. Tourism is down. Business is down. Crime is up.
What do they have in common? Government bungling. In Mozambique – people being kidnapped, robbed and shot. Transkei, people being eaten. Both issues very badly handled, by their relevant governments.