In January and February this year (2014) I noticed that the normally exemplary control of bathers at this pool suddenly stopped. And bathers were repeatedly allowed to get into life threatening situations. After witnessing one particularly shocking Sunday afternoon where several people had to be rescued from almost certain death, I wrote a letter and sent it to our local councillor Geoff Pullen, copied to the Umdloti ratepayers association representative, Umdloti UIP representative and others.

Mr Pullen never replied, but he did copy the letter to Anthony Malgora from the life-saving department. Anthony replied and I have copied my letter and his replies (in light blue) below and my replies to him (immediately below and later in red).


To: Anthony Malgora <>


Cc: "Terry Ann Rens ("<>, ""<>, Bheki Khoza <>, Sherelle Whitaker <>,,


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Hi Anthony


Thanks for your reply.


There are three issues here:


1. The fact that, starting a few weeks ago, bathers are no longer being kept in the shallows by constant warning and control. I believed that this was as a result of a decision taken by lifeguards but perhaps it is because your department has failed to provide a serviceable loudhailer.


2 .The second issue is whether it is ethical to not have guards at this deadly pool before six in the morning and after six in the evening. The fact is that an ever increasing amount of bathers are swimming here after 6pm and need to be protected or prevented from entering the water. It is not good enough to say they get what they deserve. Death is hardly a suitable sentence for ignoring a by-law.


3. And thirdly, whether bathing should be allowed at all in this dangerous place. Do we accept that the trusting public's safety will forever be compromised in order to maintain the illusion of a safe bathing area. This is something that needs to be considered by the town's authorities and those that have the power or influence to bring a long term solution to the problem.


I have included my response to your points in the original mail below:




Hi Geoff,

I am writing out of concern for the safety of those that swim In the Umdloti tidal pool.

I must start by saying that the difference between the public's perception of this pool as a safe bathing area( I agree)if those in the know agree that this pool is not safe, then we should not be allowing the public to swim here.and the reality is so great that I find the framing of this letter quite daunting.


This pool is not a purpose built concrete structure like many other safe pools along our coast. It is in fact a large natural rock formation, where over time the outgoing water has carved two very deep channels through the soft limestone rock of what functions as the outer wall of this pool.

On a high tide, or during times of bigger than average swell, the surf constantly washes over the rocks that make up the back of this pool, filling it with water that then continually drains through these two channels.

Effectively forming a deadly trap for bathers, who if allowed to venture close to these channels, are sucked out by the constant current that rips through them. These bathers are then either smashed against the rocks and killed or if more fortunate or more aware, make it to behind the backline.

Once behind the backline, unlike at other beaches on our coast, these victims have no way of returning the way they came, this is blocked by unsurmountable ragged mussel-covered rock formations and the two permanent rip currents through the channels. As a result, a hazardous rescue need to be undertaken, whereby the victim is dragged through the water for about about three hundred meters to the south, far out to sea enough to avoid the breaking surf, around the rocky point, past the rip current that runs here and then back through the surf, to the beach. (This is the reason as to why we have full time professional lifeguards stationed 365 days a year at Umdloti) Further to that tidal pools do not have bathing areas so the public swim throughout the night hence why we are against a tidal pool in Umhlanga. Your guards are not here for the first or last hours of sunlight.


Their are few long-time residents of this town that have not had to make this very dangerous swim in order to rescue someone, either in the early summer mornings before the life guards come on duty, or in the evenings after they have gone off duty.( we have changed our operating hours from 06h00 to 18h00 in summer and07h00 to 17h00 in winter on a split shift system to address the problem and remain until 20h00 in summer holidays on peak days)Bathers also swim on non peak days. And it is usually during this period that deaths occur.


Several years ago, I was told by the then lifeguard supervisor of the area, the widely respected Peter Swann, that a count he did showed that (and if memory serves me correctly), forty-two people were killed (after hours) by this pool over a ten year period.(Mr Swan retired in 2005 so the statistics are over a 20 year period if correct, we have had zero drowning’s during working hours and 3 drowning’s after working hours since 2005 ) Three dead people that would be alive if this pool was guarded during all daylight hours This could well be one of the most dangerous locations in our country. And one wonders how many have died here over the last century. And how many will die here in the years to come. (I bumped into Peter since and he assured me that he believes the number was 42 deaths over a seven year period which he extrapolated to about 60 deaths over ten years).


Over the last couple years deaths have in fact been much less and the last body I saw being carried in off the rocks was I believe in March the year before last. This reduction has been only as a result of improved diligence of the lifeguards (following the widespread condemnation in the media of a previous death that was blamed on their negligence( Poor media reporting always finds a scape goat, the official NSRI call and NetCare 911 call proved the incident occurred after hours following an internal investigation and was on recordhowever this did lead to extra staff being employed and the bathing hours extended).These people were washed out to sea and either rescued by locals or died, because there were no guards present. They have ensured that bathers are constantly warned and controlled in order to keep them in shallower water; and have often stayed at their posts beyond home-time on evenings when they can see that people will be washed out to sea.


Over the last few weeks however, the situation has deteriorated rapidly. The lifesavers have clearly decided not to control or warn bathers but instead to leave them be and only to attempt helping bathers once they reach a point where they will die if not rescued.( With larger bather loads and the general public failing to comply to instructions rescues will occur however a mandate of zero drowning has been achieved with no patients even requiring medical attention)Bathers are only safe in this pool if they are kept in the shallows by constant warning. If this is not possible, bathing must be banned and the bathers removed from the water. Over the last couple weeks I witnessed at least eight occasions where bathers were allowed to be sucked into the channel and would have died if not rescued. This is because your guards are not doing their normally excellent job of constantly controlling and warning bathers.


Furthermore they have decided not to stay a minute after their shift ends at six.( We are governed by the labour relations act and cannot exceed the legal amount of overtime, further to that the public are warned and if the public enter the water after the staff have left then they are in direct contravention of our Sea Shore regulations of which the onus is on Metro Police to enforce after our working hours.)I am sure that not a single member of the public is aware of this act and, as you are well aware, Metro police do not enforce it. And this is no reason to let people die.I suspect this represents a form of industrial action or is as a result of internal struggles. But the result is going to be many deaths. For which someone needs to be held accountable. Just today (Sunday the 16th Feb), at least six people were allowed to swim into situations where they would have died if not rescued and three of these were pulled out the pool into the open ocean and and had to be swum back in around the point to the south by the lifesavers, in very dangerous circumstances.( There was 2 incidents of 3 patients of which one was a diver that swam out the channel on purpose to go dive and got into difficulty and was rescued and the other was 2 teenagers who got into difficulty after being warned repeatedly by aquatic safety staff. They were also rescued and did not require medical attention. The staff risked their own lives to prevent any loss of life)There were also several bathers that had to be rescued from the channel after being allowed to swim in dangerous circumstances. A kid with a mask, splashing around in the channel is not a diver and your guards are well aware of this. Snorkellers and people on body boards without fins are normally the first to be warned because they are the most likely to be sucked out. All of Sundays emergencies developed slowly and inevitably, without any warning from the guards. You would do well not to rest on fortunate technicalities but to ensure that the next time there is a day such as this, bathing is banned or properly supervised. With a little less luck three or four lives could easily have been lost.And later, only after much persuasion and against their will, did the lifesavers acquire permission to stay on until seven and thereby prevent the drownings that they admitted would have happened when they left at 6pm sharp( Our operational plan is to have no swimmers after 18h00 as any major incident could lead into darkness hours which require specialist equipment and training from SAPS Search and rescue) . If this is the plan then you are failing. Bathers are swimming here until nightfall.


I have come to realize that the importance given to human life by our career lifeguards is far below that held by residents or tourists.( Unfortunately people also have to be accountable for their own actions like obeying the rules of the road and we do not condone night bathing as currently sunrise is at 05h39 and sunset is at 18h39. In the December and January holidays we have staff on duty until 20h00)It would then follow that your guards are going home an hour before it gets dark.


There are days when bathing in this pool is just not safe and needs to be banned. And this ban needs to be sign posted and enforceable. To allow unknowing people to enter such water and be swept out to sea, without any warning from professional lifeguards that are aware of the situation, surely amounts to criminal negligence, if not attempted murder.( Once again public perception is far different to professional staff who are present and have achieved a mandate of zero drowning in the pool during working hours) This is of no reassurance to a member of the public such as myself (with a lifetime of experience in and on the sea). What I was watching on Sunday sickened me.


The situation at present is exasperated by the heavy onshore swells, the spring tides and of course the hot weather. And adding to the problem is the that in recent weeks, large numbers of young men have been coming from nearby townships for a swim. This includes an element that takes great pleasure in taunting and disregarding the lifeguards, their attitude rubbing off on other bathers.( agreed and our staff have been assaulted by the public with the most recent being a lawyer from Gauteng claiming that lifeguards have no authority to remove bathers when going off duty) So maybe some of my suspicions around guards making a point are not unfounded.It is quite possible that this has been the final straw for the lifeguards who have now essentially given up. (The lifeguards at present also have a broken landline( due to Telkom removing the call box, fault has been reported) and , I suspect, a broken loud-hailer.)( has been reported and waiting internal authorisation) If your department does not have the tools to ensure safe bathing in this pool, then bathing should be banned. Otherwise your department will be held responsible for any resultant death or injury.


In the short term the lifeguard situation needs to be remedied and the gap in protection between 6pm and darkness needs to be plugged.( this is done over the peakholiday season) Again, that will be of no comfort to the family of someone who dies here on an off-peak day.Or people will die.


In the long term a permanent solution needs to be found to prevent people dying in this dangerous pseudo pool. And to prevent residents and their kids having to risk their lives unnecessarily in order to rescue those that are sucked out to sea.( in any rescue situation one must assess the hazards first and not attempt a rescue without training or equipment. There is an emergency number on the tower and the relevant emergency services are to be contacted after hours.)I have seen this number called many times. It is of no use whatsoever. There is nothing that police and fire-engines can do to save a person that is treading water far out to sea. And the NSRI have about a forty five minute response time at best. There is no number here that contacts anyone that can save the victim/s. The only way that these people can and are saved is by the actions of residents. Or they eventually die.


Previous generations have erected various physical barriers in an effort to try remedy the situation, the remnants of which can still be seen along the back of the pool. But these attempts, for various reasons have all failed.

Surely the time has come to find a permanent solution.

The following are a few options that I believe should be considered :

1) Ban bathing in the pool completely and enforce this through the use of a security company.( Most of the time this is a fairly safe swimming area far more protected by the natural rock formation and this will affect tourism in Umdloti) On even a calm day there are two strong rip currents sucking from this pool. If we are agreeing that people are being endangered for the benefit of local tourism then that asks a lot of questions.


2) Remove the rock ledges that form the back of the pool and the pool will cease to appear or function as a tidal pool.( cannot be done due to environmental impact) Can be done with sufficient will and by following due process (environmental assessment etc.)


3) Fill the two large channels that run through the back of this pool with concrete, and build a proper and safe pool at this site.( the correct feasibility studies, capital requests would have to be carried out however this will affect the movement of sand, sea life and movement of clean water which makes the pool a pilot blue flag attraction). Again, if human life is to be traded for tourism then we need to take stock.


The fact is that as long as this pool exists in its present form, people will continue to die here. And these deaths are on the hands of those of us that know the situation or are able to influence the situation and do not act. Unfortunately for me, I live across the road from the pool and am forced to face reality.

Going forward, with the the rapid increase in the number of people using the pool (generally because they cannot swim and believe it to be safe bathing), the situation is becoming most urgent.( the current facilities are being upgraded and our operational plans are constantly being updated)


I apologise for the strong tone of this letter but this is an important issue and I appeal to those who are able to act on the situation, to do so.


A bather died two days later. Not in the pool but on the beach to the right.




I also noticed that this tidal pool beach had ridiculously been given Blue Flag pilot status and so wrote to both the local and international Blue Flag addresses given online at the time.


Below is the letter I sent to the South African Blue Flag address:



To: Blue Flag <>

Subject: Umdloti Tidal Pool Beach

Message: To: The South African Representative, Blue Flag Programme

Dear Sir / Madam,

The reason that I am contacting your organisation is in connection with the present Blue Flag

Pilot status of the Umdloti tidal pool beach. Having lived in Umdloti Beach for fifteen years

and knowing how deadly this beach is, I would like to appeal in the strongest possible terms

against the granting of any Blue Flag status whatsoever to this location. I believe that when one

considers the amount of people that have died here in the past and the number that will die here

in the future, this pool should in fact be either destroyed or made safe.

Despite the tranquil appearance of this place on low tides, this is not a man made tidal pool with

still water but in fact a natural rock formation, that breaks the waves and creates a flatter area of

water on the inside, and the illusion of safe bathing. However, all the water that runs over the

rocks and into the pool, leaves through two deep channels in the back; creating two permanent

strong rip-currents sucking out of this pool. The affect is worse on the high tide and on days of

larger swells. Bathers that are unsupervised or poorly supervised are sucked into these channels

and out through the surf, where they are either smashed and killed against the rocks, or, if still

alive, have to be rescued. Due to the breaking surf against a wall of rocks, they cannot re-enter

the pool and have to be carried by their rescuers a long way to the south (out at sea) and then

back through the surf to the beach. Invariably, more than one person is sucked out at a time and

this is often when people die.

In the fifteen years that I have lived in this town, at least forty people and possibly more have

been killed here in this brutal and unnecessary manner. The vast majority have died after

lifeguards go off duty in the evening. In recent years, lifeguard hours have been extended and

this has resulted in a far lower death rate. But there are still gaps between lifeguard hours and

darkness, which means that people do still die here, especially in summer.

In a country where most people cannot swim, it is just immoral to be not only allowing people to

swim in this dangerous place, but to be actively promoting it as a safe bathing destination. With

the recent escalation in the number of people using this beach, the number of those dying here

will again rise.

The fact is that on high tides and during periods of large swells, it is just not safe to swim here

and bathers are only kept in the relative safety of shallow water by constant warnings from

lifeguards. Recently the PA system used to warn bathers was broken for at least six weeks and as

a result of this and perhaps other factors, bathers were continuously and unnecessarily allowed to

get into life threatening circumstances from which they had to be extracted by lifeguards (I can

supply photographs if necessary). Surely whether people live or die should not depend on the

attitude and competency of civil servants.

Authorities will argue that their record here during bathing hours has been good in recent years,

but this does not change the fact that this is a deadly pool that has two permanent rip-currents

sucking out of it and that for as long as it exists in its’ present form, people will continue to die

here. Over the years, I have personally witnessed countless near-drownings, rescues, drownings

and dead bodies at this location. Deaths are usually blamed on people swimming here after hours

but authorities are well aware that people do swim here after hours (and in increasing numbers),

and such people also deserve protection from death. Despite this location’s terrible history there

is no signage on the beach to warn beachgoers of this or of the existence of this pool's two

permanent rip-currents. The present signage is generic, broad and generally ignored. The signage

at the lifeguard house is away from the beach and therefore not relevant.

Is there a formal way of appealing to your organisation against the granting of Blue Flag or Pilot

Blue Flag status to a beach?

I trust that human safety is important to your organisation and urge you not to be swayed by

those that would want to put local tourism's need for a swimming beach ahead of people's safety.

Already this deadly location is being promoted online as “safe bathing” and as a “Blue Flag Pilot


I would urge you to insist that independent engineering experts examine this pool and report on

the safety of this location and on whether they believe the public should be allowed to swim here

or not; especially over high tides and during periods of large seas.


Reply received :

Thank you for contacting us. We will get back to you as soon as possible. further reply


I sent a similar letter to the international address.