5. Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai
Like Gansbaai, there is someone working hard in the tourist office to promote this beach. But even the official spiel doesn’t make it sound overly appealing: “During the day, it is the hangout of the happily unemployed who snooze under the shade of its stunted trees”. Wow, I would love to hang out with the “happily unemployed” – or hobos, as some other people call them. And I’d love to see those stunted trees too.
But there’s more action to be had in the evening….”kids screaming on Ferris wheels…..wayside astrologers making a quick buck”. Screaming children and astrologers looking to fleece tourists out of their money? Maybe not so attractive. And then, of course there’s its reputation as one of the world’s most polluted beaches, with water so full of faecal matter that one site says “Spending time in this water may therefore result in bacterial and swimming-associated gastrointestinal illnesses”. Matters were worsened when the MV Rak sank nearby in 2011, spilling oil over the water. Avoid it – this is one beach that won’t look good in the holiday photos.
4. Schitovaya Bukhta (Shield Bay), Russia
According to Surf Atlas, this is one great spot to go surfing, although you may need to chat to the local authorities about getting a surf permit, due to the number of restricted military facilities in the area. But the excitement doesn’t stop there! On the other side of the peninsula is Vladivostock, home to the Russian navy…and their disused nuclear submarines. Radiation from these submarines has already caused some incidents, although the secretive nature of the Russian media means it’s difficult to get details on exactly what has happened.
But there are also reports of cracked, underground radioactive storage units in Zvezda naval yard in Bolshoi Kamen, almost directly opposite Shield Bay, across Ussuri Bay (pictured). So, with radioactive waste spills on either side, these waters may be thrilling surfing but chances are they’re a little too thrilling…
3. Heard Island, Antarctica
Another recommendation from Surf Atlas, this would be an extreme surfing experience, if you survive the cold. Heard Island is made up of a giant volcano known as Big Ben and is owned by Australia, but is a world away from an Aussie surf paradise, as it’s permanently covered by ice and the sea is dangerously cold. It’s also a long way away from any kind of help, being 4,100 km south west of Perth and closer to Antarctica than anywhere else. It’s another natural beauty spot, but carries a very real risk of hypothermia.
2. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Gansbaai may be the world’s Great White Shark capital of the world, but aren’t you wondering where the Shark Bite capital of the world might be? Well, that honor goes to New Smyrna Beach in Florida. Out of 112 worldwide shark attacks in 2007, 17 happened at Smyrna. The next year, there were 24. It’s basically a party town for sharks. Its tourist board describes is as “no stranger to attention”, which is true but getting attention because people keep getting attacked by sharks is nothing to boast about.
Despite that, it still made it onto a list of Top 10 Florida beach towns, compiled by Dr Stephen P. Leatherman of the Florida International University. One of its selling points on the list was that you can still drive on the beach – so if the sharks don’t get you, maybe the cars will…
1. North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands
This island technically falls under the jurisdiction of India, but effectively it is independent, as the natives there have never submitted to any other authority. In fact, they verge on unwelcoming, which might pose a problem if you were hoping to check out the reef formations that lie nearby. At one point, the Indian government did try and form relations with the Sentinelese, by landing peacefully and leaving gifts for them. However, they were greeted with angry arrow-fire, as can be seen on video, and eventually gave up on any hope of contacting them.
The Sentinelese are almost entirely unknown – clearly, they have a different name for themselves than “Sentinelese” but no-one in the world has any idea what that might be. There’s somewhere between 25 and 500 of them, although these figures could be wildly inaccurate. They appear primitive, although with the paucity of knowledge we have, it’s possible that they have their own version of the internet run on super-computers in those trees. One thing is certain – they don’t like outsiders and they are dangerous. In 2006, two fishermen ran aground on their island by mistake and were killed by the natives. A helicopter attempt to pick up the corpses failed, although the bodies were spotted from the air. However lovely the beach may look, forget it. It is definitely not worth the risk.