Jellies in Thailand
The first time that I saw the ocean I was 18 years old and visiting my brother in Miami. Let's just say that I'm not the biggest water baby that ever graced the Earth. David, however, was practically born in the ocean. For a while he was training to be an Olympic swimmer in Argentina. Opposites attract?
This summer we went to three islands in the Thai Gulf. First was Koh Samui, where David taught me how to snorkel. There we saw a few fish, but it wasn't until Koh Phangan that I was completely surrounded by swimming sealife. It was something I had never experienced before. There were huge fish, tiny fish, sea cucumbers, starfish, coral of different colors and shapes and JELLIES. The first day in Koh Phangan I snorkeled without a care in the world. Signs indicated a shallow lagoon area had jellyfish, so we stayed away from that area.
The next day, after breakfast we headed back to the rocky spot for some more snorkeling. David went first while I relaxed on the rocks.
Of course he snorkeled for about 30 minutes without a problem. He mentioned that he saw jellyfish, but had avoided them easily. Not wanting to get stung, and knowing my past patterns of bad luck, I told him I was happy relaxing on the rocks. He insisted that I swim with him and said he would guide me away from any jellyfish.
The water looked beautiful and David seemed so lonely, so I pushed off from the rocks and began exploring the underwater world from above.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!An itchy, instant pain struck my right shoulder and soon I was struggling to swim, screaming David's name and swimming as fast as I could back to the rocks.
What happened next was a lot of me freaking out and scratching at my shoulder (which you SHOULDN'T DO) and gathering our things. Luckily, we were pretty close to the beach which had a little bar. I told a bartender that I had gotten stung and asked for vinegar. He said that a lemon would help, so he gave me one and I squeeze the juice on my throbbing, red shoulder. At this point, I didn't know what kind of jellyfish had stung me. I now know that it wasn't a box jellyfish because I didn't have the tentacle still attached or burned into my skin. However, being the non-water baby that I am, I had no idea what to do.
After the lemon, we went to our guesthouse and they gave me this to put on the sting for 30 minutes.
I thought about using my travel insurance and going to the hospital, but after an hour it was pretty clear that I was going to be ok. I took the hottest shower I could handle to help with the pain and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. In total, the sting hurt for about 12 hours.
Brave David kept snorkeling (he later got stung by smaller jellies in Koh Tao) but I was careful not to get stung again. The moment I saw a translucent jelly floating towards me in Koh Tao I booked it back to the shore. Yes, I admit that jellyfish scare me, but with good reason!
Jellyfish didn't used to be a problem in Thailand. However, as the ocean temperatures have warmed, in the past few years they have been journeying to Thailand's Gulf waters. Now, you can find signs up, and occasionally bottles of vinegar, because there are box jellyfish, and they are deadly.
In fact, on one of the beaches we visited a box jellyfish was near the beach and a couple spotted it and reported it to the restaurant where we were eating lunch. They used a long hook and basket to pour it into a trashbag because a jellyfish's venom can still sting you even if it's dead.
Snorkeling in Thailand was absolutely incredible (especially in Koh Tao!!!) but beware the jellies! If you do get stung, make sure to get vinegar or a lemon to pour on the sting ASAP and seek medical attention if you are short of breath (I was a bit dizzy, but never had breathing problems.) Do not scratch at the sting, as this can transfer the venom to your fingers, and try to stay calm. Also, DO NOT PEE ON THE STING. This is an old wives' tale and doesn't work!
Happy and safe travels!
~ Jamie and David
is an American educator, creator and wellness influencer who has been living the abroad life since 2009! She is bird obsessed, always a travel jinx and pays the bills by teaching English. Learn how to get abroad and live your best life once you're there!