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Guide to the best beaches in Africa

Travel Tips

Africa has some of the finest beaches in the world. In drawing up a list of them I have taken both an objective and a subjective approach.

For the objective assessment, I have used the ratings of the Blue Flag awards and my own research. South Africa is the first country outside Europe, as well as the first African country, to implement the Blue Flag scheme. It has 45 fully compliant beaches, with another 22 in the process of complying.

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Atlantic Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard, with Clifton in the foreground, stretching into Camps Bay, and the Twelve Apostles mountains in the background. Some of South Africa’s best beaches are to be found on this stretch of coast.Picture: AFP

For my subjective list, I have drawn on my own experience and knowledge, as well as the experiences of friends and family.

A serious traveller or beachgoer should visit at least one of Africa’s wonderful beaches once in their lifetime. The list below is not in order of preference and offers travellers a range of experiences.

Blue Flag award beaches have to comply with 33 criteria, including safety, cleanliness, environmental management and water quality. The award can be revoked if a beach no longer complies.

Most of South Africa’s Blue Flag beaches are in Western Cape, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

The beaches which have had Blue Flag status for the longest, and are a must-visit, are Grotto Beach in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal’s Ramsgate and Marina beaches and Humewood in Eastern Cape.

From a more subjective standpoint, I would recommend Tofo Beach at Inhambane in Mozambique. This 8km stretch of beach also offers diving and great sea life. Added benefits are facilities for rest and relaxation – as well as excellent prawns.

Namibia also offers tourists beautiful beaches. One of my favourites is on the Skeleton Coast. It offers space and great marine life, as well as shipwrecks. Crowds are not a problem. There might, in fact, be nobody around, depending on when you visit.

Another country that offers wonderful beach experiences is Kenya. The one I recommend is Shela Beach in Lamu. It is also a Unesco Heritage Site and is generally accepted as the country’s top beach.

I also have to include Angola. This is the new kid on the block and I suggest Mussulo Bay. This is for the adventure traveller, offering a wonderful beach and fishing.

One of my favourites is Zanzibar. It offers great diving, snorkelling and swimming. This is a little piece of heaven. Enjoying the locally produced gin is a treat as well.

If we move to Madagascar, my choice is Sainte-Marie Island. It offers beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees. Once again, diving and great sea life are on offer, as well as good food.

It would unfair if I didn’t include Malawi. My choice is Likoma Island in Lake Malawi. This is one of Africa’s jewels. It has clear, clean water, great for swimming, diving or snorkelling, and friendly locals.

Seychelles’s Anse Source d’Argent, on La Digue Island, is regarded as one of the world’s greatest beaches.

I could add more beaches in the west and north of the continent. But this list at least provides a taste of what Africa offers. Hopefully, the Blue Flag scheme will be implemented in other countries so the continent can get its share of beachgoers, one of the biggest generators of revenue globally.

Melville Saayman is professor of Tourism Management and Economics, North-West University


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