The best time to swim off South Africa's beaches is November - February
(summertime), though, as usual, beware accommodation problems at
Christmas holiday time.
scenic driving and hiking around the beaches, however - both popular
activities with rich rewards - winter (June-August) may be a better
bet, as daytime temperatures are T-shirt comfortable, humidity and
prices are both down while accommodation is easily available and
crowds/traffic limited. This is also the best time for wildlife
viewing and the driest season.
Atlantic waters on the south and west coasts (e.g. around Cape Town,
Hermanus and Elands Bay) are always cold, in the region of 12C or
13C, while further east, as the Indian Ocean drift kicks in water
temperatures rise to 21C on Nature's Valley beach and 24C on beaches
around Durban and north-east, up to Cape Vidal.
Summer air temperatures range from a low of 22C in Nature's Valley,
to 28C plus in Camp's Bay (Cape Town), Durban and up to Cape Vidal.
Africa beaches with warm waters (20 -25C in summer)
way up northeast towards Mozambique and part of the Greater St Lucia
Wetland Park - a World Heritage Site - is the place to combine wildlife
walks and great beaches in South Africa. Loggerhead and leatherback
turtles lay their eggs around here mid-October to mid-February,
humpback whales cruise by about June-July, the bush is alive with
wildlife including elephants, hippos and crocs, and sea temperatures
hit 25C. Some of the vegetated dunes reach 150m high.
Accommodation is well sorted with cosy log cabins courtsey of KZN
Wildlife rest camps or a camp site if you prefer. If you prefer
a more lively environment the town of St Lucia Estuary is packed
with facilities and activities. Beware malaria in this zone.
Durban, North and South (Blue
Massive beaches with fine sand, chunky waves that suit surfers,
beach showers and masses of family entertainment - including free,
pleasant kid's swimming pools - and feeding places all along the
somewhat tacky promenade.
Sea World and the new Ushaka Marine World amusement park, both off
Durban South Beach, provide serious fun for kids. Don't even think
about going downtown...
Flag beaches north of Durban:
(Rocks), 20 minutes north of Durban. Another monster beach with fine sand and solid waves
that might deter toddler bathing, though rocks pools offer alternative
Surfing is excellent and shark nets are in place unless fish are
so thick that following dolphins are in danger.
There is a narrow 'promenade' - more of a path, - that hugs a couple
of kilometres of the beach.
The downside of Umhlanga beaches is that they are not set up for
casual visitors, more for residents of the endless apartment blocks
or hotels that block the shoreline. So, if you're staying in one
of those colossi, no problem, but if you're passing by you will
have a great deal of difficulty finding parking or food and drink
Dolphin viewing, deep sea fishing and scuba diving off wrecks and
reefs are available.
about an hour north of urban Durban. An excellent family beach with
soft golden sand bordered by black rocks, grass and with seafront
buildings of the relaxed town set back at just the right distance.
Shark nets and lifeguards ensure that swimmers in the mild surf
will survive to enjoy scuba diving, golf, quad biking, microlight
flights or a few glasses of South Africa's fine wines later on.
Flag beaches south of Durban:
is small and dune-backed, with tropical vegetation of the Empangati
Nature Reserve circling behind. Marina is excellent for kids as
the surf is unusually restrained and tidal pools offer hours of
kid fiddling activities.
a kilometre long, and wide with it, is attractively bordered with
coconut palms, dunes and rocks. Some apartment blocks are a little
over-dominant but the beach is lively, popular with families and
students and has two swimming pools.
All the usual Blue Flag facilities of showers, lifeguards etc. are
in place, and there's an attractive coastal walk along to Ramsgate
wide and soft, with the usual moderate surf, a milkwood forest nearby
and a lagoon with canoes and padaloes. The town behind the beach
is discreet and relatively quiet.
Beach, Port Elizabeth.
Although a little too near Beach Road and set in less-then gorgeous
surroundings, little Humewood is popular with families as surf is
kid's size, shade is easy to find, nearby Happy Valley provides
tropical walks and Port Elizabeth offers plenty of easy entertainment
options. Addo Elephant Park is 70kms away.
good, but not blue flag beaches south of Durban:
on the Wild Coast near Coffee Bay, 18km SW of Umtata. This is the
place for serious, first-footprint beach lovers; hard to reach but
you may never leave. This is an extraordinarily beautiful, tranquil
and remote kilometre of fine sand, bordered with milkwood trees,
grass and contented cows. Limited but varied accommodation is available
in Coffee Bay.
Hibberdene, Uvongo, Rocky Bay.
Beaches on South Africa's south (Western Cape) coast:
30kms past busy Plettenberg Bay and embedded in the Tsitsikamma
Forest, Nature's Valley is a tiny village of wooden, unfenced houses
hidden behind dunes and between trees and sporting just one shop
and restaurant but 2kms of spectacular sand, a lovely lagoon and
no artificial entertainment at all.
Beach, Plettenberg Bay. Plettenberg
is smallish, calm town in a lovely setting and sports several large,
excellent beaches, with isolated Lookout as the natural choice.
Beaches with cold waters (13-19C in summer)
Beach in False Bay,
about 40km from Cape Town, is a 2km hunk of sand with a variety
of waves to suit all ages, rock pools for kiddie fun, views of Table
Mountain and the Hottentots Holland Mountains and plenty of non-sand
Strand entertainment options, including Water World and the Helderberg
(Blue Flag), attached to pleasant - though middle-age spreading
- Hermanus town, is long and white, with dunes, a mountain backdrop,
a small playground, a barbeque area (known as a braai in
South Africa) and a nearby restaurant, has the unusual attraction
of whale watching from the beach July-December (picture above left).
is the nearest nudist beach to Cape Town, and also popular with
gays. It's a ten minute drive past Camps Bay, near the good surf
spot of Llandudno. After parking at Sunset Rocks the pretty beach
is a 15 minute walk.
Camps Bay, Cape Town, is the city's favourite strand of sand,
with good access, facilities, and stunning views, though the surf
can be tough to handle, the sea is cold and it can get windy. Posh
folk might prefer to flash their gilded thongs on neighbouring Clifton
Beaches (see below).
(Cape Town suburb) - there are four beaches separated by rocks -
small, characterful and very fashionable with the glitterati
and gays, backed as they are by $multi-million apartments. The beaches
are more sheltered than Camps Bay but have limited parking possibilities,
require a steep walk down from Victoria Road and offer almost no
sell drinks and icecreams but little else is on sale.
First Beach has the best surf, Second and Third the are the places
to flash your cash, pecs or thong, and Fourth is for families, with
easiest access, parking and least bumpy waters.
northwest of Cape Town is a sensational surfer spot with some of
the best, consistent left point breaks in the business, lovely dunes,
great walks, but generally has too much wind for sunbathing and
is too cold for comfortable swimming.
water quality (regular testing and pollution control)
(lifeguards, first-aid, security patrols)
management (regular cleaning, building maintenance, beach activities
(beach access, drinking water supply, shower facilities, telephones)
Whales are clearly visible just off the coast of Hermanus,
including Grotto Beach (picture above left taken from the beach
with 280mm lens) from July-December and also, but less clearly from
many other locations such as Plettenberg Bay.
Cage diving and close viewing of Great White sharks is
popular in South Africa, safe and high adrenalin but there are questions about the
behaviour of sharks attracted by chum (meat offal) dumped near humans.
Some think that this is training sharks to associate easy meat with
humans, thus putting swimmers and surfers in more danger.
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