Marine Stings in Remote Locations

Reported Story

A DAN World Member shares her experience following a marine sting and provides advice to fellow divers to be cautious when diving, particularly in remote locations.

About Me

I am a former PADI Course Director with thousands of dives under my belt. I am also trained in Technical Diving with TDI and CDAA, and I am now an award-winning underwater photographer.

I was diving in the Lembeh Strait, an area in North Sulawesi, renowned for its muck/macro diving. The critter life is amazing, in abundance where some rare and unusual animals can be found, and macro photography is the focus.  

My Incident

I was photographing a nudibranch and decided to adjust my right-hand strobe. I touched a coral with a small part of my middle finger. The pain was instant and intense. This action was unfortunate but had nothing to do with bad buoyancy or attempting to hold onto the reef. 

I got onto the boat and immediately put my hand into hot water, which instantly relieved the pain. After a couple of hours of hot water therapy, I felt fine and continued diving for the rest of the day. That night, I developed a fever and felt quite unwell. My hand began to blister and swell and I spent the following day mostly sleeping. My fellow photographers gave me anti-inflammatories and antiseptic creams from their medical kits. 

bacterial infection from touching coral


The staff contacted a doctor with photos of my hand and the coral, which remains unidentified. The doctor suggested some relief drugs and prescribed antibiotics along with other anti-inflammatories. 

After two days out of the water I was feeling better and did not want to waste the remainder of my expensive trip, so I decided to continue diving. My fingers were looking much better during the diving – I had covered the affected area with anti-bacterial cream and wore a surgical glove covered by my own neoprene glove. After being out of the water for 20 hours awaiting my flight home, the fingers had become very blistered and enlarged.

I insisted on seeing a doctor who diagnosed a severe allergic reaction and prescribed me a second dose of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids. 

I then had to attend the clinic in Singapore Airport as my blisters burst on the first flight and needed to be dressed prior to boarding my final flight home.

Back in Australia my doctor prescribed a third dose of antibiotics. Then after taking a swab of my still oozing blister (almost 3 weeks later) I was prescribed a fourth and different antibiotic to treat two nasty bacteria that were still lingering, including one associated with raw sewage. 

Fortunately, I did make a full recovery.

I Didn’t Contact DAN

I did not contact DAN as the internet connection was intermittent and I didn’t have the energy to figure it out. Contacting DAN was also not suggested by staff at the resort. By the time I was feeling better I foolishly thought I was on the mend.

My Thoughts Following My Incident

  • No Glove Policy: The resort enforced a no glove policy. The premise of this policy is that divers do not touch anything with their hands and only use a muck stick to ‘control’ their buoyancy, thereby not damaging the environment. On the one hand, this policy has its merits but, on the other hand, in an area of poisonous fish and corals, this policy can, at worst, risk a major health hazard and, at best, ruin a dive holiday. I question whether such a policy should be enforced in such areas and want to bring awareness to other divers visiting this destination, and other locations with a similar policy.
  • Lack of training by staff: Before booking a trip, I suggest you seek confirmation that the resort staff are trained in appropriate first aid, and they have medical/emergency procedures in place, as well as sufficient and relevant medical supplies to manage an incident or emergency – particularly those in remote locations. 


  • Call the Hotline: DAN has a local number for divers to call from within Indonesia, and several other countries. DAN encourages divers to call the 24/7 Emergency Hotline for advice: Please do not use social media or email to advise DAN of an incident. The hotline will ensure you are given immediate advice.
  • Policy Making: When resorts, associations, and others are creating policies that will impact divers, such as the No Glove Policy, it’s important to consider the potential adverse impact on divers by implementing such a policy: DAN is available to provide advice based on our diving health and safety experience. 
  • New Training Initiative Launched in Indonesia: DAN has recently announced an initiative that will see 1,000 dive support crew trained in Basic Life Support and Emergency Oxygen First Aid. In addition, every student will receive a complimentary first aid kit provided by DAN. DAN is striving to enhance the safety of diving across Indonesia. This is a massive undertaking and provides significant benefits for the local community and international divers visiting Indonesia. 

DAN is bringing together diving training agencies in Indonesia to support this initiative and to work with DAN to provide the training at events across the country. We are working to train dive guides, deckhands/boat crew, boat captains, ground crew, and on-site crew so they are equipped with the skills to assist divers promptly and effectively should an incident occur.