Second Beach in Port St Johns, Eastern Cape
Deadliest Beach in the World
Port St Johns boasts some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country. Cloaked with banana trees, its beach sand is pock-marked by passing cattle and its sky-blue waters have just the right size waves to attract surfers but not to frighten swimmers. Set amidst the relaxing setting of the rainforest, visitors feel like they are truly in the outback with its rugged African coast line. Its exquisite weather, soft sand, untamed waters and spectacular views, make it a great place to play beach games, walk your dogs or go for a run.
In March 2014 Port St Johns’ notorious Second Beach lived up to its reputation by claiming its eighth shark attack victim in eight years. According to the International Shark Attack File, a division of the Florida Museum of Natural History that maintains a global database of shark attacks, no other beach in the world in recent history has had more fatal shark attacks than St Johns:
January 2007 : Lifeguard Sibulele Masiza, 24, disappeared in the ocean, his flipper was found with a shark bite in it, but his body was never found.
January 2009 : Sikhanyiso Bangilizwe got bitten on the calf while surfing, the water filled with blood and the shark circled and attacked again. His body was recovered a short while later with gaping back and leg wounds.
March 2009 : Development surfer Luyolo Mangele (16) got bitten but managed to paddle to shore on his surfboard. He lost consciousness, was taken to the local health centre but died from a loss of blood.
January 2011 : Development surfer Zama Ndamase (16) was surfing with others when a shark bit a chunk out of his leg. He caught a wave back but lost consciousness and died from loss of blood.
December 2011 : Bangilizwe fell off a kneeboard into the sea. As he was pulling himself up a shark bit him on the back and he disappeared under the water. A few days later one of his legs washed up.
January 2012 : Surfer, Lungisani Msungubana, 25, was attacked in shallow water and fought for his life. He sustained huge bite marks on his upper and lower body and a chunk was missing from his chest. He died before the ambulance could reach him.
March 2013 : Fundile Nodumla, the only person to survive a shark attack on the infamous Second Beach was swimming with his wife and two young children when he was attacked and bitten on both his arms. He was rushed to a hospital in uMthatha.
December 2013 : As the tide started coming in the lifeguards blew their whistles. As Liya Sibili, 22, turned to see what the whistle was about, he was attacked and pulled out to sea. Only his ripped shorts were recovered.
March 2014 : The first foreigner to die, an Austrian tourist, was mauled in shallow waters. His tattered body was recovered.
The most likely culprit is an all too familiar face in these South African waters; the Bull Shark (also known as the Zambesi Shark). Whilst not officially identified in these attacks, bull sharks, known as “the pit bulls of the sea,” have been blamed for these unnerving spate of fatal attacks, as they favour shallow coastal waters and have a habit of biting and shaking their victims, resulting in horrific injuries. Zambezi sharks, which can grow to 4 m long and live in fresh or salt water, are known to be notoriously pugnacious and it is said that "Great Whites are pussycats in comparison.”
After the three youngsters were killed at Second Beach in 2009 a preliminary investigation by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs found that the nearby Umzimvubu River was a breeding ground for bull sharks, and that traditional healers were known to toss the entrails of slaughtered animals into the sea. Whether this practice is in any way to blame for the attacks was never confirmed because researchers ran out of funding to complete their study.
A second report delivered three years later to the Department of Environmental Affairs by KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board found few solutions to remedy the shark problem. Popular methods such as shark nets and drum lines would be expensive and incur a high environmental cost, potentially trapping a large number of rays, turtles, dolphins and whales, the board's report said.
Following these attacks Officials have intermittently closed Second Beach to swimmers and surfers. For a time they have also increased the presence of water rescue teams, however lifeguards have openly questioned how they were expected to fight off sharks without the proper equipment to do so.
On the last fateful day the South African media were told by a Guesthouse owner that the local council no longer funded lifeguards on the beach.
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