2015 heatwave: finding beaches in Lake Geneva and avoiding duck fleas

GENEVA, Switzerland – This is going to be a hot, hot weekend and chances are you’ll be dipping in one of the many rivers or lakes – that fortunately – can be easily found in the surrounding areas. But.. what about water quality and the dreaded “duck fleas”?

In spite of water-cooler rumors, water quality is measured monthly in Lake Geneva all throughout the year and bacteriological tests are carried out every other week from May to October by both Swiss and French authorities (checkout the Geneva weekly results here).

Bases on these results, you can assume that – unless otherwise noted through the press or by any of the townships – most lake areas are safe for swimming.

Finding a beach near you

Lake Geneva Lake Leman beaches
Beaches around Lake Geneva, Map CIPEL.
  • In general, canton Geneva discourages people from swimming in its rivers as they do not meet the “high ecological standards,” set up by authorities in the German-speaking cantons. Nevertheless, the city has built piers and improved access to both the Arve and Rhone rivers. Beaches around these rivers—and there are more than 300km to explore around the canton—are ideal for swimming with dogs. Find the beaches and fresh water bodies that get high marks here.

Diving in Lake Geneva1

Duck fleas & prevention

Before diving in, here’s what you need to know:

  • Follow the Swiss meteorological advise by lathering in sun screen and staying off the sun at peak hours (read recommendations here).
  • If you are worried about those pesky “duck fleas” beware, they are not really “fleas”, they’re a parasitic larvae that produces the Cercarial dermatitis or swimmer’s itch.
The duck flea cycle
Illustration by the Ville de Genève
  • The parasite is mostly found in warm (20C), shallow waters, surrounded by vegetation.
  • They can even be found in pristine, bacteriologically-acceptable waters.
  • It is recommended to swim in colder, deeper waters.
  • Either way, shower after swimming and / or dry off with a towel vigorously to remove possible offenders.
  • If you would rather swim in one of the many chlorine-sanitized pools in the area, read here a post I wrote for GenevaLunch which contains a full listing for Geneva.

Memorize these phone numbers and use them in case of an emergency:
Safety phone numbers

Now let’s swim!


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