Is it Safe to Swim in the Sea in Tenerife?

Wed, April 30th, 2014 - By Jack Montgomery

Recently it seems as though there’s been tragedy after tragedy in Tenerife waters.

The amount of incidents lately must pose the question ‘is the sea around Tenerife too dangerous for swimming?’

Accidents involving the sea aren’t uncommon on Tenerife. In the ten years we’ve lived between Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava we’ve come to treat the sound of helicopter blades approaching with trepidation. It usually means there’s a forest fire or someone is in trouble at sea; a hazard faced by any community with strong links to the water that surrounds them.



When it comes to dealing with an untamed Atlantic, the sad fact is that accidents are always a possibility.

I grew up on a Scottish island and could swim in freezing, choppy seas before I was even taught the breast stroke. I’m not keen on swimming pools because they are too tame and prefer the sea where there is a challenge… and the waters off Tenerife’s coasts can certainly be challenging. Misjudge a breaking wave and the Atlantic rollers will batter you, occasionally disorienting you so much that you don’t know which way is up and which is down. Swim beyond the waves and currents can drag your body in directions you don’t want to go. This is often part of the attraction, but when the pull is too strong I don’t hesitate in deferring to the sea by making a hasty retreat to the shallows.



The flag system at the beach helps immensely. A green flag means swimming conditions are good; yellow means the sea can be dangerous, so bathers should be extremely cautious. Red means DANGER – KEEP OUT. No argument, or there shouldn’t be.

Recently someone on a travel forum complained because lifeguards insisted he come out of the water when a red flag was flying. Considering himself a strong swimmer, he was furious.
What he didn’t know was that there was a weather alert for such wild seas that ferries between Tenerife and other Canary Islands had been cancelled. Neither did he know Tenerife waters. He may have been a strong swimmer, but he had behaved in an incredibly irresponsible fashion; risking his life and that of the island’s lifeguards.



Even when a green flag is flying it is wise to exercise caution at all times, especially if you aren’t familiar with sea swimming. An added factor with Tenerife is that some beaches shelve extremely sharply. Bathers might be waist high one second, but a couple of steps can take them into deep water that is suddenly over their heads.

The best bet to avoid potential problems when you’re not an experienced or confident sea swimmer is to stick to the shallows, swimming pool complexes, rock pools and man made beaches, like Teresitas outside Santa Cruz, where breakwaters keep the currents in check.



So is it dangerous to swim in the sea in Tenerife?

The simple reality is it is potentially dangerous to swim in the sea anywhere. The sea should always be treated with a healthy respect.

Treat it with respect, know your own limits, check what flags are flying and excercise common sense at all times and swimming in the sea round Tenerife should be what it always has been – a fun thing to do.

Posted : Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 at 9:46 am
Category : beaches
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