Orcas, jellyfish and a lousy car park

What gets in the way of a good swim? Here on the Costa de la Luz not much. A chameleon sitting on a stone pine trunk while walking through dunes to the beach is an amusing diversion; lovers entwined amongst the rocks of Los Caños is rarely educational but certainly a distraction. More annoying in August is the lack of parking, I’m often worn out searching for a parking space by the time I get to the water. However once in the sea a swim here is invariably trouble free other than the occasional mistimed tidal current. It was very different when I was swimming at my brothers place in Scarborough on South Africa’s western cape where my pulse rate was constantly peaking the red. Every shadow below me was a potential shark, every ripple in the sand a blue stingray with a lethal barbed tail. Needless to say I gave up recreational swimming off-shore, the creeks and rivers further up the coast were more appealing until I was told Bull sharks regularly swim several kilometres upstream. (Bull sharks are diadromous, meaning they can swim between salt and fresh water with ease). Sometimes just getting to the water presented its own set of dangers with puff adders and cobras in attendance to ruin the day.

From The Guardian – August 8th. 2021

Recently though here in the province of Cádiz both the local and international press have been full of reports of orcas attacking small yachts “Spain has ordered small boats to steer clear of a stretch of the country’s southern coast after reports of more than 50 encounters with boisterous orcas, including as many as 25 incidents in which boats had to be towed to shore.” My friends and family predictably warned me about the dangers of frequently swimming in an area frequented by orcas. Firstly I pointed out, the attacks were several kilometres offshore, whereas I rarely swim more than half a kilometre from the coast. Secondly and much more importantly this is a statistical issue – there have been no recorded fatalities of humans attacked by orcas in the wild – ever. Apparently the orcas attacking the boats are actually just playing, they are usually the same two young boisterous orcas who enjoy messing around under  yachts and bash away at moving rudders rendering them unnavigable. Not my problem so I’m going swimming!

A surfer with jellyfish on the beach at San Fernando – photo © La Voz newspapaer

A couple of days ago though I spotted an unexpected translucent long streamed jellyfish under the cliffs of the Acantilado Marine Reserve. My daughter was stung a couple of times while surfing a couple of weeks ago, nothing much, a rash across the neck from a small blobby jellyfish lost amongst the summer waves at El Palmar. More worrying was seeing a stinging sea beast right in my favourite swimming area. Nobody’s quite sure why there seem to be more of these seemingly innocuous but occasionally ferocious organisms floating around. Are they here because the currents are changing due to global warming or are they simply breeding more for the same reason? Either way a quick bit of research revealed that the jellyfish I saw was probably a Rhizostoma luteum, not at all dangerous although you might get a small rash from it. The body itself is completely harmless and in the Far East is apparently something of a delicacy where they are chopped up and eaten with soy sauce or vinegar. If I ever get stranded on a deserted cove I’ll at least know what to look for when I’m hungry 🙂