There’s nothing quite like finding a natural oasis to dip your toes into when you’re looking to escape the summer heat. Sure, swimming pools are nice, but jumping into a natural river or lake is sure to give you that extra invigorating jolt. However, diving into a natural body of water may give you more of a jolt than you’ve bargained for.
Imagine coming head-to-head with a Great White midway through your swim, or perhaps even worse, being infected with a nasty parasite! Read on to explore some of the most dangerous swim spots in the world, be careful though, this unbelievable and terrifying list may make you think twice before heading out for another refreshing swim this summer!
The largest lake in Africa and the second largest lake in the world, Lake Victoria is a pretty impressive body of water. However, it’s not necessarily a safe place to go swimming. The waters can be quite dangerous and actually cause approximately 5,000 deaths per year. The lake stretches 70,000 kilometers, it has been said in an interview with CNN that the lake is the most dangerous area of water in the world in terms of deaths per square kilometer.
You may be wondering what could make a lake so deadly. Interestingly, Lake Victoria has an isolated weather system. It lies on the equator and the warm, moist air that the lake emits can generate some huge thunderstorms. While it may be calm and still on the edge of the water, a fisherman on a boat in the middle of the lake might be experiencing an enormous storm. This potential for storms can be very dangerous and is what has lead to the high death toll related to the lake.
The Rio Tinto, or Red River, is located in Spain and gets its name from its red hue. The color comes from thousands of years of mining. In fact, the Rio Tinto is said to be the birthplace of the Copper and Bronze Age—mining can be traced back to 3000 BCE! The mines were rediscovered by the Spaniards in 1724 and by the time the 20th century rolled around, acid levels in the river were so high that it became an extremely dangerous place for humans to visit.
Though mining does not occur in the area any longer, the acid levels in the Rio Tinto aren’t likely to go away any time soon. People are warned to stay away from the dangerous water, but it’s an interesting place for scientists to visit. Interestingly, they imagine that one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, has a similar acidic ocean like environment.
The Bubbly Creek portion of the Chicago River might not tempt you, but just in case you’re thinking about diving in, you might want to think again. City water is known for being polluted and Bubbly Creek is no exception. There is a huge amount of nasty runoff that makes its way into the river everyday. You might not realize it or want to think about it, but pounds of fecal matter, meat, and dead animals have been tossed into that water. No thank you!
To make matters even grosser, all those things that get tossed into the water eventually decay, which is why you might see bubbles rising up to the surface. The lake is so incredibly toxic that no living animal can exist there. Try heading to the beach if you’re looking for a place to swim and maybe think twice before you litter into the your local bodies of water.
Aside to being illegal to swim at Hoover Dam, it’s incredibly dangerous to do so as well. Due to the damming process of the river, there are strong currents that exist in the water, making the possibility of drowning very high. The presence of multiple intakes along the dammed river allow the water at the top of the river to move to the bottom at a controlled pace, but that pace can be dangerous for people swimming.
Additionally, there are bell mouth spillways in the river, which are uncontrolled areas where water can enter around a circular perimeter. The result looks like a sort of vortex and could easily suck an unsuspecting swimmer underwater, in fact bell mouth spillways have caused multiple tragic deaths over the years.
Located in Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia, Blue Lake is named for its extraordinarily blue hue. This brilliant color comes from a high amount of hydrogen sulfide in the lake. In addition to its color, another feature of the lake has brought it much interest from scientists and tourists alike. Quite amazingly, nobody has been able to reach the bottom of Blue Lake.
Due to its mysterious, seemingly endless depth, many argue that it is unsafe to swim in Blue Lake. Rumors surrounding sea creatures, monsters, and other terrors swirl around the mystery of Blue Lake. Though it’s an extraordinary place to visit, it may not be the best place to go swimming. Not to mention the lake has another nickname, “Stinky Lake,” due to the sulfuric fumes that come from it!
One of the many lakes in the beautiful state of California, you might want to pick a different spot if you’re looking for a place to take a dip. Fissures in the earth due to quakes over time have caused a massive amount of carbon dioxide to leech into the water, the gas rose to the surface from magma below the lake.
While Horseshoe Lake isn’t necessarily unsafe to swim in, it’s important to be cautious there, especially during the winter months. The gas levels can fluctuate unpredictably, and the land surrounding the lake has been known to suddenly cave in. During winter months when there is heavy snowfall, people can fall into these sinkholes and perish. Further, the lethal amount of gas that has risen into the air has caused the surrounding forest to die. There are 100 acres of dead trees around Horseshoe Lake, which may deter you from visiting the area.
The Nile River
While the Nile is an incredible place to visit, it’s definitely not a place where you want to take a dip. The longest river in Africa and perhaps the world, this 4,132 mile long river is filled to the brim with dangerous crocodiles. While crocodiles aren’t necessarily the worst animals you’ll encounter on this list, they are one of the most deadly reptiles on earth. These intense creatures can swim up to 20 miles per hour and apply 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch with their massive jaws.
In the North African Nile, there are 100 crocodile attacks per year alone. To put that in perspective, there are only about 16 shark attacks per year in the entire world. While it might be an amazing place to visit, you’d be best advised to stay in your boat or on the shore if you ever get to visit the longest river in the world.
Gulf of Thailand
We all know there are plenty of creatures to look out for when we’re swimming in the ocean. One of these creatures, the box jellyfish, is especially common in the Gulf of Thailand. Though encounters with them are relatively rare, these small jellies can pack a major punch. Measuring at a maximum length of eight inches, the box jellyfish can kill its victims with just one sting.
What makes the box jelly so dangerous is that its sting causes victims to undergo paralysis. As you might imagine, if you are too deep in the ocean, going into paralysis will cause a major risk of drowning. Wearing a wetsuit will protect you from the dangerous box jellyfish sting, so if you decide to swim in the Gulf of Thailand, be sure to pack the appropriate swimwear.
Named after a story in the Book of John, Jacob’s Well is certainly a place you might want to say a prayer or two if you’re about to swim there. The lake is located in south-central Texas and is a perennial karstic spring—in other words, there’s a huge system of sinkholes and caves beneath the lake’s surface. Lauded for its crystal clear water, there’s more than beauty beneath the surface of this dangerous lake.
Because there is such an intricate system of caves at Jacob’s Well, there have been many diving expeditions held there. However, cave diving is extremely dangerous and more than a few divers have gone into Jacob’s Well and never come back out. It is a huge feat to explore underwater caves and only the most experienced professionals should attempt to swim in this incredible but deadly natural lake.
Located in Kazakhstan, Lake Chagan is known as “Nuclear Lake.” The lake was actually formed by the detonation of an underground nuclear bomb, resulting in a large, highly toxic crater lake. The bomb ripped around 353 million cubic feet of dirt from the ground, resulting in a lake 300 feet deep and 1,300 feet wide.
As you might imagine, the lake and its surrounding region are extremely radioactive. Radioactivity can cause cellular mutations, among other serious health concerns. Believe it or not, at the time of its creation the Soviet government was actually proud of Lake Chagan and fed cattle in the area with its water. Poor cows!
Located off of the coast of Madagascar, Reunion Island is in the middle of the warm water of the Indian Ocean. Home to fewer than a million people, the beautiful shores make Reunion Island a popular tourist spot. However, it’s also a popular spot for something else.
Though Reunion Island is only 40-miles long, a total of 13% of the world’s fatal shark attacks have occurred there in the past five years. One of the largest shark populations in the world surround Reunion Island, attacking 20 people and killing at least 7 since 2011. Since 2013, all swimming and surfing in the open waters off of Reunion Island have been banned.
While Hawaiian beaches are extraordinarily beautiful places to catch a wave or two, they are also incredibly dangerous. While their wonderfully sandy shores, beautiful flowers, and crystalline water, these beaches are little pieces of paradise. However, don’t let those tranquil views fools you, the ocean is a force not to be reckoned with and some of the mot intense riptides occur in Hawaii.
On Hanakapiai Beach, there have been over 80 deaths due to powerful riptides. Definitely consider your safety and learn the proper way to handle a riptide if you decide to go swimming in Hawaii. Remember to swim parallel to the shore until you reach a safe point to return back to land, or better yet, find a different beach to swim at.
A crater lake located in Cameroon, Africa, Lake Nyos was formed by an ancient asteroid. The lake is also located on the flank of an inactive volcano. Like Lake Kivu, Lake Nyos lies above a pocket of magma, which in turn fills the lake with carbon dioxide and can cause explosions when earthquakes occur.
Sadly, one such incident occurred in 1986. A cloud of carbon dioxide was emitted from the lake, so large that it suffocated 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock. In 2001, tubes were inserted into the lake that would slowly bring carbon dioxide at the bottom of the lake to the surface in small quantities, so that such a disaster would not happen again.
Located just outside of Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake is a popular spot for tourists, birders, and photographers. Though it’s in a beautiful location, Mono Lake is not a safe place to go for a swim. Due to pollution, as well as tributaries to nearby towns, like L.A., the lake has been drained of much of its vital resources and filled with toxic substances.
Currently, the lake holds high amounts of carbonates. There are even measurable amounts of arsenic in Mono Lake! Mono Lake does hold a productive aquatic ecosystem, however, it’s not a safe place to swim in. Enjoy the views from the shore and head to Lake Tahoe if you’re yearning for a swim!
Victoria Falls is a stunning place to visit in Zambia, but a seriously dangerous place to take a swim. Pretty amazingly, along the top of the waterfall, there is a rock lip that protrudes up far enough to keep you from falling over the cliff. Appearing like an extremely dramatic infinity pool, this amazing water feature is called Devil’s Pool.
You might not fall into the waterfall if you swim in the Devil’s Pool, but you do have to watch out for dangerous hippos and crocodiles. So far, there are no deaths on record that have occurred from people falling to their deaths after going for a swim at Devil’s Pool. You decide if you think it’s worth the risk.
Located in the center of Yorkshire, England is The Bolton Strid. Though at first sight the Strid appears to be a lovely bubbling creek, it is actually one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world. The waterway expands out between two boulders into a river, where the waters actually flow vertically, which can be quite treacherous.
The change in orientation creates a deep and powerful current that has carved out areas beneath the shore rocks. As you might imagine, a vertical current can easily drag you beneath the water’s surface. That, combined with the spaces beneath the shore rocks creates a deadly melding of forces. Many people have been dragged under the current and stuck beneath the rocks. Legend has it that nobody who has entered The Strid has made it out alive.
The Ganges River
Sadly, the sacred Ganges River has become extremely polluted over the years. Located in India and Bangladesh, the river is considered to be an extremely sacred body of water to Hindu peoples. However, as industrialization has caused many of our watersheds to become polluted so too has the Ganges become increasingly dirty.
Over the years, plastic and garbage have accumulated in the water. As a result, the water is considered toxic and should not be swum in. The Ganges is considered the sixth most polluted river in the world, though there are multiple initiatives to help clean up the sacred waters, none have been successful thus far.
Thailand is a beautiful place that many people wish to visit. There are wonderful beaches, beautiful temples, elephants, and delicious food. However, there is also one of the most dangerous dive spots in the world there—the Samaesan Hole. Reaching depths of up to 90 meters, the Samaesan Hole is located in the middle of a busy shipping area of the ocean between Ko Chuang and Ko Samae San.
If you are not extensively trained in diving, definitely skip this spot. There is zero visibility once you reach a certain depth, so you must bring multiple lights along with you. This spot is also considered to have one of the strongest currents in the Gulf. Not only that, but there are multiple unexploded bombs that have been dropped in this area over the years because the spot is used as a military waste and ammunitions dump site.
With crystalline blue waters, soft beaches, and sunny skies, The Bahamas are a natural paradise. Located off the coast of Florida, the Bahamas are a vacation destination for many. However, while you’re taking those relaxing swims in the ocean make sure you have your wits about you. Not everything beneath the water is as tranquil as it seems.
On Tiger Beach, for example, there is a large population of tiger sharks. In fact, Tiger Beach in West End is considered one of the top ten most shark populated areas in the world. Though encounters are relatively rare, there have been two fatal shark attacks in this area. Not only are there tiger sharks here, but hammerheads, blacktips, and bull sharks are also known to frequent the waters of Tiger Beach.
Located in Rwanda, Lake Kivu is often called the world’s most dangerous lake. Located in the East African Rift, tectonic plate movements cause frequent earthquakes, which in turn cause massive quantities of dangerous gasses to dissolve into the waters of Lake Kivu.
Due to their weight, these gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, predominately rest at the bottom of the lake. However, when an earthquake occurs, the gasses explode up to the surface of the lake like a carbonated bottle that has been shaken before being opened. These sorts of explosions have caused numerous deaths at Lake Kivu.
Located in central Russia, Lake Karachay is known as one of the most toxic lakes on Earth. Unfortunately, before there were any regulations on waste disposal the Russian government dumped huge amounts of toxic garbage into this lake. This isn’t the sort of action you can undo, and today swimming in Lake Karachay could kill you within an hour.
Attempting some form of mitigation, the Russian government is currently making efforts to fill in the lake with concrete. This is a good thing considering how dangerous this body of water is. Imagine trying to go for a nice afternoon dip and ending up dead from toxic waste exposure.
The Boiling Lake
One of the most dangerous places to swim on Earth, the Boiling Lake is located in Dominica and is definitely not a place to cool off during the summer heat. Interestingly, the lake gets its hot temperature from active magma that rests just beneath the lake’s surface. Acting like a gas burner turned up extra high, the magma heats the lake’s water all the way up to its boiling point, hence the name of this super hot lake!
If you’ve ever accidentally been splashed by hot water, you know how painful and dangerous boiling liquid can be. Imagine being completely submerged in that kind of heat! Talk about a hot tub. Even when it’s cold outside, it is never a good idea to swim in the Boiling Lake, which reaches up to 197 degrees Fahrenheit.
Located in Indonesia, the Citarum River is another place you should visit but not swim in. Indonesia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on earth. This wonderful archipelago not only has wonderful ocean views, but holds an enormous amount of biodiversity because life has adapted differently on each of its small islands.
Though there is a lot to marvel at in Indonesia, the Citarum River unfortunately has become extremely polluted over the years. Considered the dirtiest river in the world, the Citarum is definitely not a place to go swimming. However, if you’re thinking about doing some philanthropic work, it’s a great place to lend your efforts to, as there are many cleanup initiatives underway there.
The Amazon Basin
The Amazon is an incredible place to visit, but a treacherous place to take a swim. Definitely get out your binoculars and do your sight seeing from the safety of a boat, because those murky waters hold plenty of dangerous animals within them. From anacondas to piranhas, there’s a host of predators that would turn any swimmer’s afternoon into a horror show.
There’s plenty to watch out for in the Amazon Basin, but there’s also plenty of dangerous creatures that are invisible to the naked eye. Among these tiny sources of treachery is a fish called the candiru. It’s rumored that this fish swims up the urethra of unwitting victims and slowly eats their genitalia. Yikes! That’s enough to put most people off of swimming for life.
Though lagoons are certainly enticing places to visit, you might not want to swim in this one. Located in Fiji, Beqa Lagoon is home to a very large population of sharks. Though it appears to be a natural paradise, the area is a favorite hunting ground for bull and tiger sharks.
Though shark attacks truly are quite rare, the bull and tiger shark are both aggressive species. Imagine being surrounded by teems of them and you’ve got some high probability odds that things might not turn out too well for you. If sharks make you nervous, you definitely want to stay on the beach at this location!
Though it may be a cool place to look at, the Blue Lagoon in the UK is definitely not a place where you want to go swimming. High acidity in the lake can cause huge skin issues. The beautiful blue water has even been dyed black in the past to help deter people from swimming there. The water has a pH level of 11.3. To put that in perspective, water has a pH of about 7, and bleach has a pH of 12.3.
Located in Buxton Derbyshire, the Blue Lagoon can cause major health problems if you expose yourself to the water. Not only that, but the water contains dead animals, car wrecks, and trash. People still swim there, perhaps not realizing how disgusting the water they’re submerging themselves in really is. Don’t make the same mistake!
Translating to “Hot Lagoon” in English, the Laguna Caliente is true to its name. Located in Costa Rica, the Laguna Caliente is actually held within a stratovolcano, a volcano made up of alternating layers of lava and ash. Its temperatures reach such great heights that if you were to try to swim in its water, your flesh would literally burn off. That doesn’t mean you can’t visit, though.
To access the area you need to obtain a permit. However, you should be aware that the area is dangerous due to possible volcanic eruptions. Furthermore, Laguna Caliente is one of the world’s most acid lakes. Its acid content is higher than that of a car battery! This can create acid rain and fog, which can cause serious health issues. You might want to skip this one on your next trip to Costa Rica.
Located in Butte Montana, Berkeley Pit is the result of a copper mine that filled with water. Due to the mine’s chemical make-up, the pit of water known as Berkeley Pit is extremely toxic.
The pool is a half-mile wide and 1,780 feet deep. The water in the lake is highly acidic with a pH of 2.5. The pit is also filled with heavy metals and chemicals, including copper, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, and sulfuric acid. Definitely not a place you’d want to take a swim.
Another volcanic lake, Nyiragongo is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. An active volcano, Nyiragongo has actually had two volcanic eruptions. The lake has an estimated depth of 600m and is located inside a stratovolcano. Additionally, the lava in this lake is highly viscous, unlike lava flows in Hawaii, for example. This means the lava can flow at speeds of up to 97 km per hour!
If that isn’t enough to keep you away, Nyiragongo emits toxic levels of carbon dioxide. This means you can easily asphyxiate around the lake. One of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, this lava lake is definitely not a place to go for a swim. In 1977, the crater wall holding the lava lake actually ruptured. In just 30 minutes, the entire lava lake drained, sending off lava flows that moved up to 100 km per hour and wiping out entire villages. Yikes!
These spectacular falls located in Kauai, are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, they have been closed since 2016 due to the high amount of drowning that have occurred there. Though there isn’t an official record of the number of drowning related deaths that have occurred at the falls, it has certainly been enough to cause the popular destination to be closed off. Interestingly, there is a large amount of folklore attached to the deaths that have occurred at the falls including tales of gods, water spirits, and hidden whirlpools.
While we aren’t saying these tales are false, there’s also evidence that the high popularity of this swim spot caused a higher rate of drowning. With so many tourists swimming in the water, there is an increased risk of drowning, especially with no lifeguard on duty. The more people there are in one place, the greater risk there is that something dangerous might happen. The falls are currently closed to all visitors, so hopefully there won’t be any more tragic accidents occurring there.
Though you might not imagine it, the Potomac River is one of the most dangerous places you can go for a swim. Running through Maryland and West Virginia, the Potomac has an extremely strong current with intense rapids that would be a challenge for even the most experienced of swimmers.
For safety reasons, swimming in the Potomac is illegal. There are areas, like the Great Falls, where the treachery of the water may seem obvious, yet people drown in this area of the Potomac every year. However, there are calm sections of the Potomac, around Georgetown for instance, that might seem like a wonderful place to go for a swim. Don’t let yourself be fooled. There are heavy currents under the water that can and will pool swimmers deep down to the river bottom. With countless other swim spots to choose from, it’s best to pick a different place to beat the summer heat.
Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Condado Beach is a beautiful place to visit. However, there are huge waves, a strong underflow, and dangerous rip currents that can pull visitors out to sea.
Furthermore, there are huge rocks, which can increase the danger of hurting yourself, especially if a huge wave crashes you into them. If you want to finish your swim without any broken bones, it may be best to avoid Condado Beach.
Praia de Boa Viagem
Touted as one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches, Praia de Boa on the northeast coast is also one of Brazil’s most dangerous beaches. Another beach where bull and tiger sharks come to hunt, there have been a shocking amount of shark attacks at this beach.
Of 56 shark attacks, 21 of them have been fatal which, as you might realize, is a much higher fatality rate than most shark-infested beaches have. The beach is very popular, which adds to the danger, and trenches surrounding the beach are used as a migratory route for sharks. Furthermore, the water has become quite polluted over the years due to ships that throw their garbage overboard.
New Smyrna Beach
Another beautiful but deadly beach, New Smyrna Beach in Florida holds some of the most heavily shark-infested waters around. There have been 257 recorded shark attacks in the waters off of New Smyrna Beach, so you might want to stick to the sunbathing on the shore if you decide to visit there.
However, deaths rarely occur from shark attacks in these waters, so if you don’t mind getting nipped you’re free to go for a swim or surf. Still, New Smyrna is called the world’s shark bite capital, so far in 2019 there have been nine recorded shark bites, in 2018 there were ninety.
Though Myrtle Beach seems like an average, fun beach in South Carolina, occasionally its waters can turn deadly. The waters of Myrtle Beach are known to produce dangerous riptides. If you’re caught in a riptide while swimming, it’s extremely easy to end up drowning.
Furthermore, the waters of Myrtle Beach are known to hold warm-water cannonball jellyfish. Though it is rare to be stung by one, a sting from a cannonball jellyfish can quickly turn deadly. Their stings paralyze the victim, so if you happen to be caught in a riptide when one of these jellyfish stings you, you’re likely to end up dead or seriously injured.
Located off of the coast of South Africa, the Gansbaai is a dangerous place to swim because of the huge amount of sharks that swim there. A large amount of white sharks can be found in Gansbaai, and though they don’t normally attack humans, it’s still unnerving to think about going for a swim there. Only about 5-10 shark attacks happen in a year.
Though you probably don’t want to go swimming in the Gansbaai without being chaperoned, it has become a tourist activity to go white shark cage diving in the Gansbaai. The Gansbaai has the densest population of white sharks in the world, which brings in many people that want to see the amazing animals in their natural habitat. However, it has become a controversial activity, not because of danger to people, but because chumming the water might negatively impact the natural behavior of this endangered species.
The second-largest territory in Australia, Queensland is home to one of the most deadly beaches around. In addition to dangerous riptides, which cause about 80 deaths per year, there are some serious creatures you want to avoid in Australia’s oceans. In addition to sharks, saltwater crocodiles, and stonefish, there is one of the most dangerous jellyfish in the world in those waters.
The box jellyfish can induce cardiac arrest from just one sting, causing immediate death. Cuts from coral, poisonous spines on sea urchins, and scorpionfish are also a danger. Not to mention contact with blue-ringed octopi and with Barrier Reef cone shells can be fatal. However, you’re about 100 times more likely to die by drowning. Somehow, that might not be the most comforting fact.
Bolinas Beach, California
Though this isn’t the most dangerous spot on this list, if you’re looking for a beautiful beach to swim at in California, you might want to look elsewhere. Part of the infamous Red Triangle, Bolinas Beach is heavily populated with white sharks. Due to the huge population of seals, white sharks frequent Bolinas Beach.
Though white sharks don’t normally attack humans, they can occasionally mistake a person for a seal in the water, which can cause enormous damage and fatality. In fact, 38% of shark attacks in the U.S. have occurred off of Bolinas Beach. The spot is extremely popular with surfers, but they better surf at their own risk!
The Gulf Coast
The Gulf Coast in the Southern U.S. is unfortunately another location that should be avoided due to pollution. Runoff from big agriculture leaches into the water, which in turn has made the shores unlivable for a lot of local fauna. Not all animals are unable to live there, however. One of the main inhabitants of the Gulf Coast shores is the sea snake.
So, if you decide to go for a swim off of the Gulf Coast, don’t be surprised if you run into a snake! Though those warm waters might be inviting, there have been many venomous snakes found swimming in the ocean off of the Gulf Coast, including rattlesnakes. No thank you!
Eagle’s Nest Sink Hole
While potentially a fun place to go for a swim, you certainly don’t want to plunge too far beneath the surface at the Eagle’s Nest Sink Hole. Located in Florida, this hole reaches depths of 300 feet. This staggeringly huge sinkhole has killed a total of 10 people. Due to the extreme dangers of this swim spot, the Eagle’s Nest Sink Hole has been closed indefinitely to the public.
Experienced divers are still allowed to explore this amazing sinkhole, however, it’s important that they stop swimming once they reach the underwater sign. This important sign warns divers that going any deeper may cause them to get stuck. Imagine getting trapped in a 300-foot underwater sinkhole. That’s enough to give even the most experienced swimmers nightmares!