Check out these ocean safety tips to keep you and your family safe.

Before you enter the ocean

The ocean is a world of beauty and wonder. But, when is it safe to go in the water? Many people ignore the fact that the ocean is a foreign habitat. The movie film Jaws portrays that fact vividly, and has put fear into many swimmers worldwide. However, a shark is just one marine predator. The ocean is home to many predators such as the stingray, barracuda, jellyfish, portuguese man-of-war, box jellyfish, irukandji, moray eel, blue-ringed octopus, stonefish, lionfish and many more.

Shallow waters can be just as dangerous if you are not aware of what is going on with ocean wildlife in the local beach area. But before you dip one toe in the ocean, make sure you know these ocean swimming safety rules to keep you safe.

1. Can you swim?

Swimming in the ocean isn’t like swimming in your local pool. The waves are stronger and unpredictable, and the wind can change quickly causing strong currents. Make sure your a strong swimmer before entering the ocean water. I learned this the hardway on vacation in Costa Rica coming across a strong rip current, and almost did not make out of the Nicoya Peninsula skin diving. Fortunately, at the time I was swimming three times a week at the gym which saved my life.

© 2011 Mark Leavitt - Flying over Miami Beach, FL -

2. Locate the lifeguards.

It’s always better to swim near a lifeguard in case you run into problems. In addition, you can always ask the lifeguard what is going on in the area. You can also ask local dive or surf shops. If you’re on vacation, it's especially important to ask these questions. As a last resort, you can ask the hotel manager to direct you for the appropriate information.

3. Changing weather condtions.

Weather can change tides and surf conditions and before you know it, you have some sea creatures coming into the surf or strong rip currents. Most beaches use a standard flag advisory system: yellow is caution, blue is dangerous sea life and red is considered very dangerous water conditions. The flags are usually posted in the ground near the lifeguard.

4. Shuffle your feet when you walk in the water.

Stingrays bury themselves in the sand, often in water that’s only inches deep. They only sting in self defense so doing the "stingray shuffle" will give them the chance to flee -- something they are happy to do.

5. Beware of "Vacation Brain."

When you're on vacation, you can still drown in the water; so beware of "Vacation Brain" at the beach. If you plan on spending lot of time in the water, know the environment and wildlife in the area. If you plan on activities such as snorkel excursions or scuba diving, it is beneficial to rely on your trip guide for information. Keep in mind that every country is different when it comes to the best safey regulations and guide training; if your not sure or uncomfortable about the activity, then skip it.