How Safe Is Cable Beach At Broome For Swimming?

by Ashleigh
(UK)

Cable Beach, Broome

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.)

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.

Comments for How Safe Is Cable Beach At Broome For Swimming?

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How sensible!!!
by: Nada Pantle

What a great response. People ask me all the time about sharks EVERY WHERE. I ocean swim off Bondi Beach every day when I'm in Sydney. The rest of the year I'm in Broome and have loads of trouble getting people to ocean swim with me. "What about sharks and crocodiles?" they ask. Now I just have to send off this article. Love backing up my thoughts with facts. Good one!
Nada.

Thanks!
by: Birgit

Thanks for the enthusiastic feedback, Nada. It's good to see there are some sensible people out there :-).

TOWN BEACH
by: Anonymous

Hi - How about swimming at town beach? Is Cable beach the only beach where one can swim in Broome?

You can swim at Town Beach
by: Birgit

No, the same is true for Town Beach as well. You can swim there. It's just not mentioned because nobody seems interested in Town Beach. Tourists only ever ask about Cable Beach.

2.5 metre dusky reef shark
by: David Steinhoff

I ran into a shark on Cable beach in 1998. I lived in Broome and swam at the beach for 4 years. In that time, I came across plenty of rays, two baby dolphins barrel surfing in the breakers and one 2.5 metre dusky reef shark.

I first noticed the shark when I turned sideways and spotted one black eye and the profile of a shark.

It just cruised by,'Casual as pajamas'. I wasn't scared until it it got out of sight.

This kind of shark comes to Broome in the Autumn but have no history of attacking humans.

So, yes, I can I have seen a shark at Cable Beach but that was once in 4 years and I swam that beach, May through October every year without event. It would have to be one of the most pleasant beaches in the world but of course come the summer months, forget about it.
Regards
David Steinhoff

sharks
by: Birgit

Thanks for writing David.
2.5 metres is a decent size. I guess I would have been a bit tense, too, if that had cruised past me... :-).

There are many other and smaller species in our waters. Just throw in a fishing line... they're everywhere.

So seeing sharks is not unusual at all. But like you pointed out, those reef sharks cause no trouble.



Wow
by: chloe

Wow I never knew that crocs swim in Broome. Thank god i saw the camels and went on that instead.

Town Beach Sighting
by: Julia Gilmore

My husband and I are currently lucky enough to live in our camper trailer which is on the front in the caravan park overlooking Roebuck Bay. Col (husband) spotted what looked like a piece of wood floating against the tide last Thursday (9/7/09) but on closer inspection via binoculars, our piece of wood was actually a 2.5 to 3 metre crocodile casually swimming from Town Beach towards the port jetty about 100 metres offshore.

As it was a warm day, there were many blissfully unaware swimmers at the beach. The croc wasn't interested in them anyway! DEC officials seemed unconcerned when contacted, as the croc meandered along the shore oblivious to the excited crowd of campers jockeying for the few available sets of binoculars.

The whole episode just added to the excitement of our Kimberley holiday.

Crocs at Cable beach- yes!
by: Corinne

Hi ,
We have just returned from a wonderful trip in the Kimberley that included 2 nights a Broome (having been there before other places called louder) lucky we swam on the day we arrived as Cable beach was closed the 2nd arvo due to a very large croc patrolling from Gantheume Point, There was lots of DEC and beach patrol people who were very vigalent and not letting anyone go near the water and 1 surfer was spoken to by the police as he ignored all others! (I have the photo but not yet the knowledge to add it to this comment)Later when we went further up (4WD) to watch the sunset the police where also warning everyone of the crocs visit.Stupidity would have been the only reason anyone could have ben hurt! It must have been the same fellow seen by the Gilmores!

Small shark seen at Cable Beach?
by: Mona

I was at Cable Beach late November/early December 2009. While standing on a small sand bar near the dead coral as the tide was coming in (it had been a really low one) a large fish with a square face swam right up below me that resembled a small shark with whiskers. It had a dorsal fin. I can't figure out what it is because my research brings it closest in appearance to two fish not found in that geography: the Nurse Shark (regular found in the Americas -- not the Grey Nurse Shark) and the Mandarin Dogfish. Anyone know what I might have seen? It was less than 1 metre in length.

stinging nasties
by: Anonymous

Hey there!
My partner and I are looking to travel to Cable Beach in late October - is this a bad/risky time, encountering the stinging nasties?

Irukandji
by: Birgit

Check the page about Irukandji, it has all the info you need. The link was in my original answer.

Mona - shark
by: Rob

Maybe the fish you saw was a Port Jackson Shark. They are usually that size and have a square head. They're pretty harmless.

Cable Beach
by: Luke

Hey,

A friend and I are circumnavigating Australia in January and were looking forward to Broomes Cable Beach.

Having read your article, even walking in to say knee high be unbelievably dangerous? Or is it further out where the issue is?

Croc
by: Gordon Morton

I was chased on Cable beach by a 5 metre croc for about 50 metres. That was scary. I ended up shooting it.

Large Croc
by: huggie

I watched a croc, well over four metres, trying to eat my dog near town beach.

jellyfish
by: Anonymous

I visited cable beach in September a couple of years ago and to my disappointment it was full of jellyfish! The lifeguard assured me that they were harmless, not box jellyfish and didn't bite or sting! There were lots of people in the water but I didn't feel comfortable surrounded by jellyfish! I wasn't bitten but didn't go back in the water so my week in Cable Beach wasn't as enjoyable as when I usually go in July!

Are these jellyfish there every September and are they really harmless?

Safest place in Australia to swim
by: Anonymous

I was born in Broome and lived here all my life, never have I once seen a shark at cable, only a croc once when they told us there was one down there I went to look because it's so rare to see one down at cable. Only in Roebuck bay there are occasional spotting of crocs and a hammerhead but that's only every few years.

Box Jelly fish are usually not around till the end of October, and sometimes in September we get these weird pink jellyfish which don't sting or bite you at all.

I believe Broome would be the safest place In Australia to swim and do ocean activities :)

A matter of time
by: Anonymous

I caught sharks professionally from Eighty Mile Beach to Koolan Island including Roebuck Bay. We never saw a white pointer but plenty of Tiger sharks. To the person who said Cape Leveque was safe send me your email and I will send you a photo of a huge shark bitten cleanly in two by another shark just off Cape Leveque and by just off I am talking less than 500m.
Cable Beach had plenty of small black tip sharks at the time. There is absolutely no reason why you could not catch Tigers off Cable Beach as they are endemic to the region. We caught Tigers to fourteen feet (4.26 m) in Roebuck Bay itself, not far from Town Beach. But don’t take my word for it - talk to the pearl divers. They know all about them.
In May 1949, 22 year old Kathleen Passaris was attacked by a whaler shark while bathing at Broome.
Here is the report from the West Australian 18th May 1949.
“SHARK VICTIM IMPROVING BROOME, May 17: Miss Kathleen Passaris (22), a typist who was attacked by a shark yesterday, following which she lost her left arm, was given a blood transfusion after admittance to the Broome hospital. It is reported that she has shown remarkable fortitude throughout her ordeal and her condition today is slightly improved.”
It is reported elsewhere that her left arm, severed above the elbow, was recovered 5 days afterwards from a shark.
For years I too swam at Cable Beach, Thangoo, Barred Creek, Willie Creek, Quondong etc and although the odds of being taken were small, never for a minute was I under the delusion there were no sharks there. Crocodiles are another story.

Close but no cigar
by: Steve

Was swimming at Cable Beach today, (9-12-2013) around 3pm, just in the waves about 10-12 meters off the sand, I saw a flash of sliver riding through the waves, My first reaction was a shark, but then I saw a flash of silver and yellow as the fish moved through the waves.

My first reaction was a shark, but once I saw the yellow colour I knew it was more than likely a yellow fin tuna or some type of Marlin....

I didn't stick around to find out. It was a bloody big fish though!

My heart was in my mouth as it swam toward me!

Sharkscare
by: Anonymous

I would be very weary of crocs and sharks to many people think it's not going to happen to them and sharks are now coming much more to the beaches and the great white don't be fooled that sharks will go anywhere as far as water temperature and then there is the Bull shark well now its everywhere and it's rather scary how far they actually come out to the beaches.

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