I’m confident in the water. I grew up as a competitive swimmer before becoming a lifeguard, teacher, and coach. I even spent some time teaching water aerobics. I have no problem hopping into a lake for swim – though I despise leeches, I’ll deal with ripping one off as needed. When it comes to ocean beaches, I’m usually the first one in and the last one out. I love the water and I’m a huge proponent of water safety.
I’ve spent many hours on the beaches of Atlantic Canada, down through to South Carolina and Florida. I thought I knew a thing or two about jellyfish…how to spot them, how to avoid them, etc.
After several summers of sea time on the beautiful beaches of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, I learned how to recognize a mild* jellyfish sting. They look like a long scratch most times (like that from a cat) and while they do burn, they aren’t generally worth making too big of a fuss over.
So, it turns out I’ve only ever seen White Moon and Arctic Red jellyfish.
Ever the blogger –
even especially when on vacation – my sister, Erin, and I had been traipsing around looking for the best insta-worthy photo ops.
Check out this shot. Gorgeous, eh?
In this picture, I’m concerned about capturing the beautiful blue sky and the gorgeous coastal vista…and I’m completely oblivious to the fact that I’m inches, INCHES away from a Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish.
Take a closer look.
Total dumb tourist.
As I was approaching the rock outcrop for my photo shoot, I saw a blue plastic water bottle floating in the water. I thought to myself, “what a shame that there’s plastic floating in this beautiful, clear water” and I even considered grabbing it to throw in the trash when I went back to the beach.
I’m not sure what stopped me but I forgot about that plastic for a minute and did a few silly poses for my sister before swimming deeper into the waves for some body surfing time, while Erin retired her photography for some tanning in the hot sun.
It wasn’t until I had dried off later that afternoon when she turned to me and said “I have to tell you something…” Apparently a local had warned her that she wasn’t to go into the water near that spot because of the dangerous nature of those jellyfish. He even said that he was surprised to see “that girl” (me, the idiot) being so cavalier to pose for pictures next to it.
Fortunately, the local resorts actually work to remove this species of jellys when they’re in the high-traffic swimming areas. Obviously, though, nature, “uh, finds a way.”
I was horrified. HORRIFIED. How did I become such a cliche? Me? I’m Ms. Feet-First-First-Time! I’m the one who tells parents not to let their kids use flotation devices when the tide is going out. I’m the most annoying, water-safety woman around. I could not — and still cannot — believe it.
In my only, pathetic defense, the thing REALLY looked like a plastic bottle. In fact, they’re also known as Blue Bottle jellyfish…so…there…
The lesson to be learned is that we are all naive and dumb when we travel to new places. Experience doesn’t always translate. Be aware and be safe. If you’ve never been somewhere, educate yourself and take necessary safety precautions. Take a look around you before you start your instagram photo shoot. Your safety is more important than a funny picture.
Don’t be me. Don’t be just another dumb tourist!
* The irritation of the sting of an Arctic red can be treated easily with the nearby sand. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/pe/pei-ipe/securite-safety/animaux-wildlife
Man-of-War Jellyfish, close up pic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/p/portuguese-man-of-war/