Sydney’s figure-eight rockpools are an otherwordly paradise full of mermaids and mermen and selfie sticks. That’s how it seems on Instagram, anyway.
But it’s not as perfect as it seems; there’s a big risk behind the infamous figure-eight pool. Before we get into that though: a little context.
The pools are located in Royal National Park Trail, Lilyvale NSW, and are one of the most perfectly formed infinity pools in not just Australia but the world.
They currently command 28,564 posts on Instagram (up from 27,651 posts in December 2020).
Given their picturesque nature, and strong social media presence, it’s no wonder people flock to them. There are a few challenges though.
For starters: they are located in a difficult position, with little to no phone reception, and a challenging 3.7-mile hike is required to get there over steep terrain.
You are advised only to visit when there is no swell and the tide is low. People often ignore this advice though, leading to some dangerous situations.
When the waves are small or medium, people often flock to the pool, have a swim, then – like clockwork – leave their belongings on a convenient shelf located right next to it.
This inevitably ends when a wave pops up out of the blue and soaks everything (at best) and drags people across the rock shelf and badly injuring them at worst, leaving them to walk 3.7kilometres with all sorts of nasty gashes (or be helicopter lifted out if it’s really bad).
This has actually happened on multiple occasions. On other occasions, when the waves have been listed on the National Parks website as ‘extreme’ (and the recommendation has been: do not visit), people have been washed off the shelf and drowned.
I recently went to the figure eight pools on a small day and saw a group of other people get bounced across the rocks and sustain some nasty injuries to their feet.
Watch the video below to get a taste of the day, and to see how the pools lull you into a false sense of security.
Hidden danger behind Sydney’s figure eight pools
According to an article in theleader.com.au, coastal geomorphologist Professor Rob Brander has said social media has turned the figure eight pools into “an overcrowded death trap.”
“National Parks has [an] excellent resource predicting condition [at the pools] four days in advance. But how do you get this info to the average backpacker who is just trying to re-create an Instagram photo?”
The coastal beach safety researcher said only residents used to know where to find the pools and knew to go at low tide.
“The urge to get an Instagram photo is like leading lambs to the slaughter. Tourists are been exposed to hazardous high tides and huge ocean waves.”
That being said, despite calls (by some) for the area to be closed, a NPWS spokesperson told the ABC in 2019 that restricting access “could potentially cause more accidents as people intent on visiting the site may venture off designated pathways to reach the pools, making a visit even more hazardous.”