How to Avoid Getting Stung by Jellyfish in the Great Barrier Reef (& What to Do If You Get Stung!)

How to Avoid Getting Stung by Jellyfish in the Great Barrier Reef (& What to Do If You Get Stung!)

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 06/03/2024

Reading time: 3 mins

Before swimming at the Great Barrier Reef, be sure you’re safely prepared for stinger season.

If you’ve done your research, you’re probably aware that there is something called “stinger season”. This is when the water is full of dangerous jellyfish, making it risky to swim.

Read on to learn more about the jellyfish and how to stay safe when swimming.

Box Jellyfish vs. Irukandji Jellyfish

Box Jellyfish are creatures with incredibly toxic venom. They have transparent bodies and a box-shaped bell. They also have around 15 tentacles that can grow up to three metres long. If you’re stung by one of these jellyfish, you will immediately know.

Irukandji Jellyfish are similar to the Box Jellyfish but they are much smaller. Their bell only measures to about two centimetres. Meanwhile, their tentacles almost never grow to a metre long. These characteristics, combined with their transparent colour, make them difficult to spot while swimming. Unlike with the Box Jellyfish, many people don’t immediately feel the sting from an Irukandji.  

What to do if you’re stung

Hopefully you’ll never need to worry about a jellyfish sting, but if you do, there are a couple of steps to take.

As stated previously, you will feel a Box Jellyfish sting, but you may not feel an Irukandji Jellyfish sting. If you don’t feel the sting right away, you’ll soon experience reactions that include swelling, a headache and vomiting. Once you have identified a jellyfish sting, you can rinse the area with vinegar or seawater to soothe the pain. It is also crucial to seek medical attention immediately in order to get treatment and antivenom.

How to avoid stingers

Don’t let stinger season scare you away from visiting the Great Barrier Reef. There are specific measures put into place to help protect you from a stinger encounter!

The surefire way to avoid stingers is to not go swimming in the ocean during stinger season. This takes place between October to May. However, if you are visiting during these months, there are other ways to avoid stingers.

If you plan to go into the water during stinger season, be sure to wear a stinger suit. This suit is similar to a wetsuit but it covers a little more of your body than a traditional wetsuit. Wearing one of these is a great way to add an extra layer of protection between yourself and the jellyfish that may be in the surrounding waters.

Another way to avoid stingers is to swim only in designated areas. Most beaches will have signs stating whether or not it’s safe to swim. If a sign says that it’s safe to swim, that means there is a stinger net in place, which filters out jellyfish and keeps them far away from swimmers.

We hope you feel more prepared to visit the Great Barrier Reef and avoid any jellyfish that may be present. Now it’s time to get ready for an epic snorkelling or diving adventure!

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.