My relevant cables aren’t with me, for downloading images from cellphone to computer, so we’ll have to do this without pictures.
Uvongo is a river mouth (with a waterfall and potential lagoon) of the Vungu River going into the sea just south of St Micheal’s on Sea and Shelley Beach.
In 2005 it was an amazingly beautiful swimming beach and we spent many of our holiday days there, swimming. It was a long, sloping beach with loads of sand and a nice even gradient into the sea. It’s a fairly narrow bay, so the waves focus and reach pretty nice heights, which is fun for all. Because it’s such a gradual slope, boogie boarding and body surfing worked beautifully here.
In 2007 when we returned, there had been a serious storm and the waves had carved away all of the beach. Instead of an idyllic sandy beach, there was a deep kettle of stormy seawater, and not one you’d tangle with.
When we arrived there today, the beach was back. Flatter than before; but nice and firm… hmm… and remarkably un-patterned by footprints… hmm…. yes, and slightly damp. Indeed. We put up our little “camp” and went to swim.
Surprise number one. The nice, evenly sloping seafloor sloped nicely and evenly until it was a deep trench (too deep to stand), through which a vicious current dragged to the south. And on the other side of the trench there was a sandbank with the real waves (the others were more like swimming pool waves). To get to the real waves you had to swim through the trench with the nasty current. Which we did: Me, my son, my friend’s son (the same age as my son) and my 15-year-old daughter. (The 9-year-old was cold and decided to stay on the beach.)
It was an absolute battle to get to the sandbank. Once there, we discovered that the sea was running in 5’s and 6’es (wave patterns). This meant that the waves came one upon the other for 5 or six, and after that, a silence. Quite a taxing pattern; you had to stay alert and there wasn’t much time for catching your breath between waves.
My daughter fell behind a little, and before we knew it, she was off the sandbank and back into the deep trench – and unable to swim out of it. I told the boys to stay put and swam to her, and waved for the life guards, who were there in a flash, while she and I concentrated on swimming towards the beach. The next thing, she pointed back to the sea and said, “there are the boys!” They seemed to have got sucked into the current as well. Within moments the life guards were at them too, and helped them out; at which point I realized (without my glasses on) that it wasn’t my two boys but two other boys. (My daughter is myopic too, neither of us can keep our glasses on in the sea.)
My son and his friend were indeed right behind us, but they didn’t get in trouble.
We took a break on the beach, and the boys, my youngest and Hubbs started building a city from the wet sand. They dug down to where the “ground water” was… hmmm….
The next thing, the sea came closer. Tiny, shallow waves, nearly only a spreading puddle… spreading, and spreading, and crawling closer… Surprise number two: The beach is now so level, kids can play in the shallow water (20 to 30 cm deep) for a long stretch. We moved our “camp” to get out of the way of the water, then we went swimming again. The trench was by now out of reach (thank goodness!), but the waves were pretty wild. After a short while we decided that everyone was tired, and left.
It’s interesting to see the life guards in action. Though my daughter would probably have been alright swimming to the beach (especially with me there keeping her calm and on track), it was good to have the moral support of knowing that they were in arm’s reach if she got too tired. There are two that jump in with yellow flotation boards – small, compact boards that aren’t meant to be boogie boards, with handles for tired hands; and a third who comes in on a canoe-like surfboard if he feels the two need reinforcement. These young men are heroes and always will be that.
During our second swim a young boy (about the same size as mine, who is 11) got into trouble being dragged towards the rocks by the current (which had reversed!), and started thrashing and shouting for help. As I was still heading out to help him I already saw the life guards arriving, at the same moment as his father. They brought him ashore safely, too.
🙂 These “little” sea dramas that can go seriously wrong so easily, remind of the sinister power of the currents. The life guards didn’t have a moment’s respite, today at Uvongo. I’ve never before seen life guards that occupied.