Most likely, if you are coming to Koh Pangan on vacation, or if you’re staying long term, you’re probably a beach person...it is a tiny tropical paradise island that you’re coming to stay at after all! The beaches are lovely, the oceans are beautiful and the weather is nice and warm making a dip almost a necessity.
However, when you decide to go for that swim, know that there are jellyfish around during certain times of the year that you should know about...just in case you come into contact with them. Specifically, the box jellyfish.
Sure, you should take care of all jellyfish but the box jellyfish, aka Cubozoa, is the most dangerous of all the jellyfish species and one of the most venomous creatures known to humans, so it’s a bit more of a high priority in the sense of caution. Although, only some species of box jellyfish are deadly to humans - the Carukia barnesi, Malo kingi, and Chironex fleckeri. Of course, you won’t know if it’s one of them so just stay away from them all.
They are around from October through May, which is jellyfish season in the tropical waters which surround much of Southeast Asia and Australasia. This doesn’t mean that there are jellyfish out there the whole time during these months, just that there’s a chance they could be.
Most of the time there will be warning signs when the jellyfish have been spotted to make sure tourists know they are there for sure and not to go swimming. Almost every accommodation on the beach has a pool so you can still enjoy the water while being on a beach if the warning signs go up!
If by chance you do go in the ocean and you see jellyfish, know that the box jellyfish has a transparent cube-shaped structure that carries their deadly tentacles. If you see it, just get out of the water. The box jellyfish has a complex brain-like nervous system and 24 eyes, meaning they can maneuver around obstacles, differentiate between light and dark colors, and lock onto a target.
Box jellyfish are different than other jellyfish in the sense that they do not wait, wading in the current for their prey to stumble across them. Luckily for us, their prey is just fish and shrimp but they’ll still sting you if you get in their way!
The worse one of the bunch is called the Chironex fleckeri, aka the Sea Wasp. It is only the size of a basketball, but their dozens of ribbonlike tentacles can stretch for up to six feet and kill you quicker than you can reach the shore. They have been found in the waters around the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, New Guinea, and Australia.
The second runner up is the thimble-sized Carukia barnesi which pack such a venomous punch, their victims have been known to beg their doctors to kill them in order to escape the excruciating and debilitating symptoms.
Here are some tips to avoid being stung:
FIrst and foremost, Listen to warnings issued by the beach authorities!
Only swimming inside designated enclosures and do not ignore danger signposts.
Wear a wetsuit or stinger suit in the sea.
If a beach has stinger nets which keep out jellyfish, swim within their enclosure and don’t go near the net.
Never touch a washed-up jellyfish.
Always take vinegar to the beach with you in case you or someone gets stung.
Move slowly through the water because marine animals are afraid of you and will swim away.
Don’t swim at night.
Symptoms if you’ve been stung:
Severe pain with a sensation of burning and prickling and skin swelling.
Noticeable tentacle tracks on the body that are brown, red, or purple.
Severe itching and/or a feeling of numbness and tingling.
Difficulty breathing, swallowing and speaking.
Shivering and sweating with a high fever and severe pain which spreads through the body.
Irregular pulse and heart beating unnaturally fast.
If you or someone else around you has been stung, follow these steps:
Call an ambulance or medical assistance immediately.
While you wait for a professional to arrive, get yourself or the victim out of the water as quickly as possible.
Do not wash the sting with water. Instead, use vinegar to clean the area.
With a gloved hand or a pair of tweezers, try to pluck out any visible tentacles/stingers.