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Swimming Advice (Sea, pools, river)

Introduction:
While on your holidays in Gambia you should never swim anywhere alone as you could get into trouble with no one around to help. If a lifeguard is nearby then it maybe OK. Use your common sense in all situations involving you going into water. The main rule is that if you are in doubt, then keep out.

Sea:
You should take a number of factors into consideration before attempting to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. There can be certain times when the undercurrents can be quite powerful with tall waves, and could take you under. Beach swimming can sometimes be risky; so you should try and get advice on safe bathing locations, and when it's safe to do so. Look out for the sea condition flags placed on the sand along the beaches by the attendant lifeguards, before going into the water. If there is a red flag then don't enter the water. A yellow flag means you can swim with caution but stay near the shoreline, and a green flag means it's permissible to swim. This system of flags on the beach or areas roped off using buoys also marks out potentially dangerous rocky areas in the sand. If in doubt, keep out!

Remember, this is the open sea which can have various sea creatures close to or on the shore.  Jellyfish such as the Portuguese man-of-war, sometimes make a presence. However this species is easy to spot, recognise, and avoid, with its bright blue and pink body with long trailing, stinging tentacles. Stingrays, though not common, sometimes make a presence. Think also about wearing plastic shoes to avoid getting pricked by sea urchins.

Keep to the areas of beach that are well used by people, and be very careful about swimming along deserted sections of beach, such as in Gunjur, Sanyang, Kartong and others strands in south west Gambia.

Swimming Pools:
Never dive into a hotel swimming pool without knowing where the deep-end is, and how deep it is. The first time you go into any pool always walk in using the steps, or lower yourself in feet first, irrespective of what the pool depth indicators say, then examine with your own where the deep end is. This is because it could be a new pool, and a mistake has been made with the depth indicators. Such mistakes are not unknown here.

If you are going to stay in a hotel then look for the ones which have children's section pools, as well as one with an attendant lifeguard. If your child needs, it then do bring along a couple of child's inflatable armbands, and have someone responsible to keep an eye on them nearby.

Rivers & Creeks:
The River Gambia is known to have crocodiles, which are common along the length of the river and in tributaries, and hippos which reside upriver in the central regions. You should avoid swimming anywhere along the river, as well as various streams as you could encounter one of these animals.

Swimming in freshwater creeks can hold other risks such as contracting various diseases. Tiny flukes released by freshwater snails harbour the disease schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, which can be passed onto you by the parasitic worms, which enter through your skin. This can show up as a rash that same day, so if you see this sign then get it checked by a doctor. Though the chances of you getting infected on brief contact is fairly low, you should still be aware of the risks. Another water borne disease is giardiasis, which is an infection of the digestive system caused by a tiny parasite (Giardia intestinalis) in contaminated water. Symptoms include stomach cramps and bloating but it's not usually considered dangerous to human health and can be easily treated. If you feel the need to take a dip then try to do so at least 250 metres from the nearest settlement, rub a DEET based insect repellent all over your body before swimming, stay for less than 15 minutes and towel dry your skin vigorously.

Sometimes snakes are caught by fishermen in the creeks (bolongs).
 
 
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