Every year millions of people make their way to Southeast Asia to relax on a beach, swim in the warm water, and post Facebook pictures of white sand and blue ocean, making their friends more than just a little jealous. At Smiling Albino, we heartily support this endeavour, but as hosts, we also have to make sure our guests take care to avoid some of the dangers of ocean frolicking. Some are obvious, some are not so obvious. Here’s a few you need to look out for.


The Sun
“Well, duh” you might say, but let’s be clear – the sun in the tropics is not the same as the sun back home. You’ve only to look around any average tourist-centric destination in Asia to see angry red skin on more than a few fellow travelers. Trust us – even ten minutes in the sun without protection on your pasty bits can result in minor sunburn, any more than that and you risk painful swelling and even blistering. Special note: Many travelers in Asia love browsing the huge selection of knockoff sunglasses that look as good as the real thing, but using these can actually cause more damage to your eyes than nothing at all. This is because the fake lenses make things darker, allowing your pupils to dilate, but they do not filter out harmful UV rays. So while your pupils expand to let you see better, they’re actually letting in more radiation than normal. That’s bad.

The Tides
Thankfully, few of us have ever had to battle with a dangerous tide, but that might be because we know what to look for. Sadly, many don’t, and dozens of tourists to Southeast Asia drown every year, many due to carelessness or ignoring the warning signs. Those signs, specifically, are usually in the form of red flags on the beach. No lights, no fancy graphics – just a series of red flags. Do not ignore these, stay out of the water when they are flying.

The Wildlife
You would be very unlucky if you happen to have a run-in with dangerous marine life in Asia, as it’s quite rare, but that’s not to say dangerous critters aren’t about. Most of the time it’s jellyfish and their painful stings (sometimes, though very rarely, fatal). There are various other ornery beasts about, but if you splash a lot and move your feet around when you walk, most will see you coming and get out of Dodge as fast as they can.

That’s not really a word, but it does describe something that can be dangerous. We all want to save money on vacation, but at some point things can become too cheap. When buying a diving course or hiring a boat or joining a guided tour of an island or cave, make sure the company you go with is reputable. Most are, and problems are rare, but when you’re dealing with activities on (or under) the water, peace of mind is priceless. Do some research before you choose who to sign with.

Morons with motors
Okay, it’s not really polite to poke fun when we’re talking about a serious topic like safety, but not everyone is as sensible as you are. This goes double for tourist-heavy areas with lots of boat traffic. Longtail propeller shafts go deep, and speedboats towing parasails and tourist-laden banana boats often zip around with little regard for what’s underneath them. Stay within the safe swimming areas marked by ropes, and if you’re diving underwater, make sure to look around before you descend and (if possible) up before you ascend.

But after getting all that out of the way, let us reiterate that neither we nor any of our guests or friends have ever had any major problems while swimming, snorkelling, or scuba diving. As with most things, a good dose of common sense will do wonders when it comes to playing it safe. Have fun!