How Safe Is Cable Beach At Broome For Swimming?

by Ashleigh

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.)

(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.

This page was originally written in Sep 2007. As you can see from the comments, crocodile sightings became and are still becoming more frequent indeed.

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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Jan 19, 2008
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!

Jan 19, 2008
by: Birgit

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

Jun 08, 2008
by: Anonymous

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

Jun 08, 2008
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.

Mar 07, 2009
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.
David Steinhoff

Mar 07, 2009
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.

Mar 18, 2009
by: chloe

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

Jul 14, 2009
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.

Jul 15, 2009
Crocs at Cable Beach - yes!
by: Corinne

We have just returned from a wonderful trip in the Kimberley that included two nights at 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 vigilant and not letting anyone go near the water and one 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!

Dec 23, 2009
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.

Sep 11, 2010
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?

Sep 14, 2010
by: Birgit

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

Oct 31, 2011
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.

Nov 19, 2011
Cable Beach
by: Luke

A friend and I are circumnavigating Australia in January and were looking forward to Broome's 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?

Apr 04, 2012
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.

Yeah, right. ;) B.

Jun 14, 2012
Large Croc
by: Huggie

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

Jul 29, 2013
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?

Oct 05, 2013
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 spottings of crocs and a hammerhead but that's only every few years.

Box Jellyfish 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 :)

Nov 25, 2013
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.

Dec 09, 2013
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 silver 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!

Dec 10, 2013
by: Anonymous

I would be very weary of crocs and sharks. Too many people think it's not going to happen to them. 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 it's everywhere and it's rather scary how far they actually come out to the beaches.

Dec 08, 2015
Best beach in the world!!!
by: ME

Having travelled to many beaches in Australia and a few other countries, my all time favourite beach in the world is still Cable Beach in Broome!! The water is incredible, you can almost sit in the water and float as though you're sitting in a chair. The beaches, soft white sand!! Every one is very friendly. My only complaint is it's too damn hot!!!

Apr 08, 2016
by: Anonymous

The only problem I encountered there was perverts in the sand hills with binocs.

Apr 28, 2016
by: Andrew

On Cable Beach... I was standing knee deep one December 2010 day when I saw two dorsal fins a little way out - maybe 100m - sort of flapping side to side. Got out of the water pretty quickly and watched one of them, a 2-2.5m bronze whaler, come right in to check me out. It thrashed past in about 10cm of water - top 2/3 of its body out of the water. Was also there in 09 (?) when beach was closed for the afternoon by a decent sized croc.

I still happily swim there in the tourist season but always keep an eye out.

Jul 11, 2016
Too many crocs
by: Anonymous

We are in Broome atm, July 2017, and there have been far too many crocs spotted this year at Cable Beach. Beach was again closed just 10 days ago. 2.5 metre croc spotted just outside of the flagged swimming area. Same day another one spotted at the port. I won't trust swimming at Cable Beach again until this is taken seriously. Someone is going to be killed one day.
I read an article where the Premier of WA stated that something needs to be done about the growing number of crocs at Cable Beach at a meeting up here in Broome last year.

Oct 03, 2016
Encourage others to swim at Cable Beach
by: Grey Nomad

Sensible and realistic advice. Applies to most potentially dangerous situations that you can be exposed to in Australia. Best way to stay safe is to educate yourself, and this article is pertinant in this regard. Also I would suggest encouraging many others to swim at Cable Beach, it will reduce even further one's individual chance of being attacked by a crocodile or shark. Just one extra person reduces the lone swimmers chance of attack by 50%!!

Apr 18, 2017
Protected crocs and sharks eat kids alive.
by: relaxed swimmer with kids

Well, good that you protect crocs and sharks and all that stuff, but not so good to feel relaxed when swimming, arm is off, kid is eaten alive, surely you don't want to mention as what to do if not swim? No reason to visit and massive loss of income.
And watch all the videos in Perth half eat bodies. Next holiday will be again in Hainan, relax swim as Chinese eat the shark before the sharks eat them. So beautiful islands off Hainan, and relax swim with kids.

Jun 28, 2017
Crocs at North Australia Beaches
by: Anonymous

"It is a very rare occurrence to see a crocodile at any beach in northern Australia."

This comment made in the article may be relevant at some beaches but Northern Australia includes not just WA, but also the NT and QLD as well.

I lived on the Cape in QLD for many years and I can say I would not go swimming at beaches on the Cape as crocs are commonly sighted lazing in the sun on sandy beaches.

Unwary travellers new to Northern Australia reading that comment would assume croc sightings are rare at all beaches, and that is definitely not the case.

Aug 08, 2017
Tiger Sharks
by: Anonymous

Not Cable Beach, but north side of Barred Creek, could be Quondong Beach. We are catching 2.5 m tiger sharks daily.
Some have babies following. Not sure if this is a breeding area. But lots of them. Aug 2017

Mar 03, 2018
Town Beach crocdiles
by: Anonymous

I've spent a bit of time working in Broome and the locals wouldn't swim at Town Beach at all. It's a well known croc spot.

Sep 05, 2018
How many dead bodies to change approach?
by: Markus

It's sad that first some people have to die a gruesome horrible death before finally something is done to keep croc numbers at bay. It is such a no brainer that I am stunned how lethargic and naive many people still are.

Crocs are protected. More crocs. Crocs are territorial and will move into new areas previously free from crocs. Crocs, unlike most sharks, stalk and eat humans. Wake up Australia!

I enjoy seeing crocs and they have huge wilderness areas to live in. But the spread has to be stopped and a balance between human needs and crocs needs for natural resources has to be achieved before too many people die.

Politicians should have more guts to act now and save people from being eaten by a crocodile on a public beach near a town. Not fair for tourists either.

Oct 30, 2018
Yes, there are crocs at Cable Beach
by: Anonymous

I was at Cable Beach Resort in June 2018. They have a chalkboard next to the road/footpath that leads down to the beach just before it connects with the beach that records crocodile sightings at the beach. There was one the previous day when I was there.

Mar 05, 2019
Sharks are all over Australia.
by: Paul

It's the ocean, there are sharks. Just like all over Australia. Australians swim in beaches everywhere, and there is always a risk, whether it is famous Bondi Beach, or any other. As this blog suggests, Cable Beach is probably safer from sharks than most beaches in Australia because there are less Great Whites. It's the box jellyfish I'd be worried about!

Nov 21, 2020
Shark attack
by: Shane

Update: man killed by shark swimming at Cable Beach today!

Nov 21, 2020
by: Anonymous

I was surprised to read the number of people dismissing sharks as a concern after googling my way to this page subsequent to the news reporting a man being attacked and killed by a shark at Cable Beach on November 22, 2020. Yes, there are no Great Whites that far north, but there are plenty of Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks, both of which fill the ecological niche that Great Whites fill down south, and are very clearly capable of killing people if they feel like it.

It’s highly unlikely to happen of course, but that’s small consolation if you’re ever attacked.

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