How Safe Is Cable Beach At Broome For Swimming?
Cable Beach, Broome
I just read your report on Cable Beach at Broome (which sounds amazing by the way) and was wondering how safe it is for swimming. Why don't the sharks or crocodiles inhabit these waters, surely they are no different to those around the rest of the Australian north? I'd really appreciate it if you could get back to me on this. Thanks.
Response To: How Safe Is Cable Beach At Broome For Swimming?
A timely question. It's only a week or so ago that Cable Beach was temporarily closed because someone had spotted a hammerhead shark. (When they went looking for it they couldn't find it again.) I believe this also happened once in 2006. Sharks
are generally just not an issue up here, and because they aren't I have to admit that I know next to nothing about them.
There are no white pointers up here, they prefer much cooler waters. Hammerheads aren't that dangerous. They can be when provoked, but are not generally aggressive. Other than that I can only tell you what I found here: Shark Safety FAQ"While it is impossible to guarantee that you will not encounter a shark while swimming, the risk of shark attack is extremely low. In the last 20 years, there have been 37 shark attacks in Western Australia, most of which have resulted in relatively minor injuries to the victims."
That's all of WA. Most of the attacks occurred in the south.
(Update: The above was found and written in 2007. In 2012 the FAQ reads slightly different:
"...the risk of shark attack is extremely low, despite the number of attacks in WA in recent years..."
So there have been more attacks in the years in between, but the advice hasn't changed.)
(Update 2016: The FAQ page has changed again, the advice hasn't.)
That's all of WA. Most of the attacks occurred in the south."A total of five people have been killed by sharks in WA over the same period: one at each of the following locations - the Abrolhos Islands, Gracetown, Cottesloe, Hopetown and off Broome. By contrast 20 people drowned in the surf from July 2000 to June 2001 in Western Australia."
So, five shark deaths in 20 years, 20 drownings in one year. And the one Broome shark death occurred off Broome
, in deeper waters.
As they said in their opening sentence, there are no guarantees, but I wouldn't worry about sharks at Cable Beach at all. However, there are things to worry about...
Cable Beach in Broome is safe for swimming for most of the tourist season, but not during the wet season. From November to about May, even June, the northern oceans are inhabited by Chironex box jellyfish and Irukandji. Especially the Irukandji have made a nuisance of themselves at Cable Beach and in the Broome area
in general in recent years. I would stay out of the water until it has cooled down enough. You can read more about Irukandji here
Now to the crocodiles. They are indeed the same at Cable Beach and near Broome as elsewhere across the north: It is a very rare occurrence to see a crocodile at any beach in northern Australia.
Beaches are just not a suitable crocodile habitat.Saltwater crocodiles
prefer river and creek mouths, estuaries and mangrove swamps. Deep, murky waters where they can hide. They are opportunistic stalkers and very conservative with their energy. They need to be able to hide and sneak up on their prey and that's impossible at a beach.
Of course it is not impossible to see a crocodile from or near a beach, but the further from any creek, river, mangroves etc. you are, the less likely it is. A little beach, wedged between two mangrove lined creek mouths, is not exactly a recommended swimming spot. But Cable Beach is 22 km long, and the next creek is even further away.
You may also find this story plus comments about a saltwater crocodile at Cape Leveque
interesting. Another reader just sent it in. (Cape Leveque
is north of Broome and also considered crocodile safe.)
Similar sightings happened at Cable Beach in May 2007 and also in April 2003. Another crocodile was spotted in November 2005 near town beach. As I explained in the comments of the other page, I suspect these would have been young males looking for suitable habitat after being forced out to sea by established larger males. Every male saltwater crocodile needs its own territory.
Ever since crocodiles have become a protected species, crocodile numbers have been increasing everywhere. They will continue to do so. So I would expect these sightings to become more frequent in future years.Edit Dec 2009:
this page was originally written in Sep 2007. As you can see from the comments, crocodile sightings are indeed happening more often now.
Also note that you shouldn't be in the water that time of the year anyway, because of the jellyfish. Saltwater crocodiles are also a lot less active during the cooler time of the year. Any sightings occurred during the wet season.
As long as there is only the occasional young croc cruising through Cable Beach there is absolutely nothing to worry about.During the dry season I'd swim at Cable Beach without hesitation, and I hope my explanations shed some light on why this is so.