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Sea Urchin Wounds Travelers in Red Sea

Vagabonds Wounded by Sea Urchin in Red Sea We were gotten. Yes, Chaya and I now know what it is like to step on a sea urchin. We were swimming in the Red Sea on a beach near Aqaba in Jordan. We were just doing our day, playing in the water and the sunshine. I [...]

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Vagabonds Wounded by Sea Urchin in Red Sea

We were gotten. Yes, Chaya and I now know what it is like to step on a sea urchin.

We were swimming in the Red Sea on a beach near Aqaba in Jordan. We were just doing our day, playing in the water and the sunshine. I decided to test out the underwater function on my camera and I ducked down into the water many times to take photos of the plants growing out of the reef that we were swimming near.

Each time I came back up to the surface I would look at the photos and show Chaya.

“Hey, look at this sea urchin,” I said while pointing to the LCD screen on the back of my camera.

Sea urchin in Red Sea

Chaya looked at the sea urchin and said something like, “wow.”

For some odd reason it did not come to our attention that it would hurt if we stepped on the sharp spines sticking out of a sea urchin like the one I photographed. We were not wearing any shoes and were not careful.

This is the foreshadowing for the events to come.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Jordan- May, 2009
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It is funny to me how tourists become absolute idiot children as soon as they step out of the bound of their own country. It is good fun to watch foreign tourists befuddling themselves with the simplest of tasks just because they are in a new environment.

“How do you turn on the lights here?”

– Flip the light switch.

“How do you make the water work?”

– Turn on the faucet.

“Does this elevator go to the pool?”

– No, the elevator just goes between floors.

“I ordered a room on this cruise that has a view of the sea! When I look out my window all I can see is a parking lot with cars in it!”

– We are still in port ma’am, you need to wait until we depart for your view of the sea.

“It is funny how old tourists become children as soon as they travel,” Chaya spoke to me as we watched a group of old Germans completely confusing themselves over the simple task of removing their suitcases from the back of a van in Damascus.

We laughed then as if we somehow ranked a few notches higher than these idiot tourists on the traveler scale. But our turn for being tourist idiots was yet to come on that beach in Jordan:

Chaya jumped up into my arms in the water as we played, and I ran through the surf with her wrapped around me.

Until . . .

“Oh, F*ck!”

I stepped on something that hurt. I dropped Chaya.


I, apparently, dropped her right on top of the something that hurt.

We limped back to shore, sort of laughing, sort of crying.

We laid on the beach with our feet in the air inspecting our toes:

Three black dots covered my big toe and another dotted my foot sole. Chaya had a whole mess of black dots covering the top of her right foot. It appeared as if we were stuck deep by some sort of splinters.

We remembered the photo of the sea urchin.

“Are sea urchins poisonous?” Chaya asked.

I had no idea. I am a mountain and river, field and orchard sort of fellow – the beach is foreign territory to me.

But a tingling sensation running up our legs indicated that these were no ordinary splinters. We sat on the beach laughing at our own stupidity as we watched all of the other swimmers walking by us with feet clod in scuba boots or underwater shoes. We were the sole idiots swimming out in the reef barefooted, and, coincidentally, were the only fools with our swollen feet sticking up in the air in pain on the beach.

Chaya’s foot became incredibly swollen and ugly looking.

What about Number Three!

We became a little worried that some sort of poison or infection could get to the baby in Chaya’s gut. I was pretty sure that this was not a possibility, but I need more assurance than “pretty sure.” We needed to be saved.

We hobbled away on the beach looking for someone who look as if they knew something about such things. A local guy who rented snorkeling masks saw us limping.

He called out to us. He looked like a real shyster, but he was all we had.

Chaya showed him her foot.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, “that is from sea urchin. That one very danger, very poison, very danger.”

I could see Chaya tensing up at this news. He told us to follow him over to his umbrella covered work station.

“This is sea urchin,” he said as he directed our attention to a dead and dried up spiny thing that he conveniently had laying nearby.

“They do this,” he continued speaking as he lifted up his hand to show us a thumb and forefingers that had the same dots as mine and Chaya’s feet.

I felt relieved.

“You need medicine very fast, you need medicine to kill him,” the shyster continue speaking with a sense of exaggerated urgency. “You have to kill him or it is very danger.”

“Where can we get medicine to kill him?” I asked, knowing well what the response would be.

“You wait here and I will buy medicine for you from my brother’s shop over there.”

There was a little beach hut refreshment stand in the distance.

“How much will this cost?” I asked.

“5 dinar,” the man replied.


“No thank you, we will go to a doctor.”

Chaya and I walked away with the shyster yelling “Sir! Very danger! You have to kill hiiiimmmmmmmm! Very danger! Take care of your wiiiiiffffeeee!” in our wake.

We figured that our predicament was “very danger” that we would be better taken care of by a doctor than some guy on the beach who knew of a special medicine to “kill him.”

We hobbled down the beach towards a group of people that were standing next to different refrehment stand than the one that the shyster’s “brother” worked at. We found a guy in a park ranger uniform nearby.

We showed him our feet.

“Sea urchin,” he diagnoised, “no problem, wait three weeks and the spines will fall out.”

Chaya’s tension immediately dispersed into thin air.

“Or,” the park ranger continued, “you can get some hot water with some lemon in it and put it on your foot. This will make the pain stop.”

How to take care of a sea urchin wound.

Attend to a sea urchin wound by soaking a napkin or clothe in hot water that has vinegar or squeezed lemon in it and then place in on the location of the splinters.

He then lead us over to a refreshment stand and ordered us some hot water and gave us napkins. For free.

“Just put the paper in the water and put it on your foot, no problem.”

We did this. After 15 minutes of soaking our wounds and laughing at ourselves we went back to frolicking on the beaches of Jordan. No problem.

Though we did stay clear of the sea urchin invested waters.

Sea urchin in the Red Sea near Jordan

Sea Urchin sign on beach. They are aparently an attraction for snorklers to look at. I do not think you are suppose to step on them.

Park ranger who saved us.

Red Sea beach in Jordan.

Vagabond Journey on being an idiot
Camping at Tikal
Check Garbage Travel Tip
PHOTO- Just before stripping and jumping in Lake …
A visit to the US Embassy
Up Mt. Washington
I Think I Shook England
Four Sinners Search for a Birthday Beer
Erik the Broken Hearted

Vagabonds Wounded by Sea Urchin in Red Sea


Filed under: Danger, Jordan, Middle East

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3689 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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5 comments… add one

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  • Anonymous August 25, 2009, 2:42 pm

    sorryy to hear of you disater. I actually done this myself last week wit my son at Taba Egypt. We were the only two with no sea shoes (how silly) when suddenly I had extreme pain in my foot, got out the sea and saw black spikes. I went to the aquatic centre and the told me that they would work themselves out in 3-4 days, but 3 weeks on I cannot see any black spikes, but I still have pain in my foot shotngup my leg. Do you think thi is normal?

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  • Miri January 17, 2011, 12:44 pm

    I DID wear shoes at that public beach in Jordan, and I actually checked the ground before I put down my feet. But for some unknown reason I still stepped into one and the spines even went through the shoes. A friend, who was a diver, told me that I need to take them out with a needle or tweezers and that this was going to be hard as they break very easily. I wasn`t really sucessful with the needle (maybe made it worse even), but as I had no swelling or bad ache I just let these things be. At home I asked a friend who is biologist and also likes snorkeling. He told me that the spines consist of calcium carbonate (or sth like that), that they are not really dangerous, but usually you treat them with vinegar or citrus acid (lemon juice).
    I tried the vinegar, but since it has been almost 3 weeks since I stepped into it, I can’t say it really helped. Sometimes I have the feeling that there’s still some splinter in my heel, but other than that feeling I don’t have any problems with it… next time I would treat it with vinegar or lemon juice immediately though.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 17, 2011, 12:48 pm

      Don’t worry, the pieces of the spines grow out eventually — or disappear??? I tried digging at them for fun to no avail. Using lemon juice is a good way to care for the initial injury. Thanks for sharing this story.

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  • Dr Smith May 1, 2011, 1:59 am

    Sea Urchins injuries need to be treated properly.
    Remove any spines with tweezers, soak in vinegar and hot water. (not lemon)
    scrub the affected area to clean. complications can happen if the patient has a reaction, secondary infection or shock. which can become life threatening.
    Calm the patient and ensure that they do seek some medical attention if you are unsure.
    Ensure that the foot or affected area is kept moist and clean.

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  • suganthan June 23, 2011, 8:35 am

    Glad to read your blog. I went to the beach in my country sri lanka, to a place named Unawatuna, Galle. This is a place where you get to see very nice sea creatures and colorful fish kinds. I took some snaps and came across the Sea Urchins. As i already was aware of the effects of the spikes of this urchins, i stood at a distance and started clicking my camera. I got to know that these Urchins are a very tasty delicacy. I wish i had a taste of it !

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