Bali’s beaches are famous for their surfing and their sheer beauty. Hundreds of thousands of tourists hit Bali specifically to swim, bodyboard or surf along these shores. Yet despite the huge demand for this destination, tourists still don’t enjoy 100% safety there: visitors are vulnerable to sunburn, treacherous undercurrents, and even the miniscule (but very real) risk of tsunamis.
Visitors should follow a few simple precautions to enjoy Bali’s beach scene instead of falling victim to its dark side.
Don’t swim on beaches where red flags fly. Parts of Bali’s coastline – mostly the southwest part extending from Kuta to Canggu – have dangerous rip tides and undertows. At certain times of the day and year, red flags are erected on dangerous beaches. If you see a red flag on the beach, do not attempt to swim there – the currents can sweep you out to sea and under before anybody on shore can attempt a rescue.
Lifeguards are unfortunately quite rare in Bali. Some beaches have lifeguards and flags with yellow and red markings that indicate the presence of a lifeguard. These beaches are safe to swim in, as are beaches with no flags in sight.
Read the tsunami information in your hotel. Tsunamis are both deadly and unpredictable; these huge waves are triggered by underwater earthquakes, and can reach the shore in mere minutes, leaving no time for the authorities to sound the alarm. This is especially true of Bali, where earthquake-prone subduction zones lie very close to shore.
The main tourist areas in Bali – Jimbaran Bay, Legian, Kuta, Sanur, and Nusa Dua, among others – are placed in low-lying areas that may be easily swamped if a tsunami occurs. To minimize any disaster, a Tsunami Ready system is in effect in Bali, with a number of Tsunami Ready-compliant hotels following stringent alarm and evacuation regulations.