Stinger Information - The Whitsundays QLD
The Whitsundays, Queensland.
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The Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park provide the perfect home environment for a huge variety of marine life, including a number of different jellyfish species. While not all jellyfish, or 'stinger' species are harmful, it is always best to exercise caution around these fascinating creatures.

Marine stingers may be present in the waters of tropical Queensland year-round, although October – May is considered the higher risk season.  During this period, jellyfish can be found in the waters around the mainland, islands and occasionally out at the reef.

By taking simple precautions to minimise the risk you can safely and comfortably swim in all parts of the Whitsundays region.  When taking part in any snorkelling, diving, or swimming activity with an accredited Whitsundays tour operator, protective 'stinger suits' will be available to all customers at little or no cost.  

If you are stung by a jellyfish whilst in the water pour vinegar liberally over the affected area and seek medical attention urgently. Call 000 for an ambulance. Whitsunday Regional Council provides vinegar to treat stings at each of the beaches on the Whitsunday Coast and all tour operators should carry vinegar too. Please see the Queensland Government website or ask your tour operator for more information. Your safety is your tour operators priority and they will be happy to discuss any concerns you may have.

There are two main types of 'stingers' in the area, the Irukandji Jellyfish and the Box Jellyfish.


Irukandji are a group of small jellyfish whose stings can cause serious illness in previously well humans. While caution is necessary, there have only ever been three recorded deaths from Irukandji stings and if prompt medical treatment is received, a full recovery usually occurs within 24 - 48 hours.  Irukandjis are rare, but the stings can be life-threatening. It is worth taking some simple precautions so that you can enjoy your holiday with peace of mind. All Irukandji species have small, box-shaped bodies, with a single tentacle on each corner (a total of 4 tentacles). Different species reach different sizes ranging from only 1cm tall. The body is transparent and usually impossible to see in the water. The initial sting from most Irukandji species is quite mild, feeling like sea lice or a mosquito bite. There is often no mark, or perhaps small red "goose pimple" marks. Often, Irukandji stings will sweat profusely in the immediate sting region only.

Box Jellyfish

The less common Box Jellyfish are typically large, with substantial bodies and numerous tentacles on each corner. Different species reach different sizes, ranging from approximately 10 - 30cm tall.  The body is transparent and usually difficult to see in the water. Box jellyfish stings cause immediate severe pain, often likened to iron or hot oil burns. The tentacles are often left on the skin and will cause additional stinging if not neutralized by vinegar. Severe box jellyfish stings will have a "ladder-like" appearance, and will "frost" the skin. Substantial stings covering half of one limb can be fatal.

Please note: If you do happen to get stung by one of these "stingers", do not by any means rub the sting area. Apply vinegar immediately and seek medical attention urgently. Dial 000 for an ambulance. Do not re-enter the water.

High-risk conditions

While research is still active in developing accurate prediction methods for Irukandjis.

High-risk conditions can include calm water, especially in sheltered bays, sandy beaches in low wave action, river-mouths, and of course a heightened water temperature. However, stings can still occur in open water and out of season, so a stinger suit is always a good idea! They also have the added bonus of protecting you from the sun without having to apply sun lotion.

Most importantly, stinger season doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself in the water. It just means you have to be more careful and be aware that you are entering a foreign environment; this is where they live, and we are only visitors! Hundreds of thousands of people enter the water every year and there are very few recorded incidents with stingers. Use caution to minimize your risk, and rest assured that stings are actually incredibly rare.

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