A Guide to the Best African Beaches
Published on: September 29th, 2017
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
If you thought Africa was only good for safaris, think again.
The continent offers incredible experiences, from sublime private islands to cage diving with great white sharks.
Here’s our guide on where to go and what to do, detailing our picks of the best beaches in Africa.
South Africa is a great choice for surfing and the host of several annual surfing competitions. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Billabong Pro ASP World Tour on Supertubes Beach in Jeffrey’s Bay, held each July. This Eastern Cape beach is known as one of the best surfing destinations in the world.
For wind or kitesurfing, head to Mauritius to catch the ocean winds, which blow 300 days a year. Le Morne is the main spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing, an area that includes spots such as One Eye (see above) and the Lagoon. Learners should visit The Bay, also in Le Morne, where the water is calmer.
If you ever get bored of soaking up the sun, you can also go diving, snorkel from the beach, spot cute turtle hatchlings, head inland to explore the area’s fascinating cultural heritage, and swim with whale sharks between July and October.
Snorkelling & diving
Sodwana Bay is one of the best diving spots in the world. On South Africa’s Elephant Coast, Sodwana Bay dive sites have coral reefs, caves, walls and pinnacles, all of which make for excellent diving. The walls create whirlpools that sweep up dazzling fish, such as yellow, blue-banded and dory snappers, soldier fish and potato bass. Base yourself in Thonga Beach Lodge while you explore this protected stretch of coastline.
Just forty minutes off Mozambique’s Tofo Beach, Manta Reef hosts dozens of – you guessed it – manta rays. These tranquil creatures can reach up to six metres across and are quite an incredible sight. They visit the reef to be ‘cleaned’ by the tiny fish that eat the parasites off their wings. Whale sharks are also spotted here (see the Whale Shark section below).
En route to the Cathedral, a world-famous dive site, located just off Flic-en-Flac on the west coast of the Island of Mauritius, divers are often joined by playful dolphins. A crevice of ten metres leads down into this cave, home to angelfish, sergeant majors, sweet lips and lionfish; once in the Cathedral, the rays of sparkling white light shining through the entrance create a magical scene.
Experience whales & sharks
To see these massive mammals up close, you should head down to the Whale Coast of South Africa. Between July and November, there are humpback whales, southern right whales, Bryde’s whales (seen year round), and the occasional orca.
Although there are plenty of whale-watching boat trips, you can spot them from dry land, too – welcome news for those susceptible to seasickness.
Off the coast of Cape Town, False Bay is the most famous place in the world for watching the incredible great white sharks. As well as seeing them breach – an awe-inspiring sight – you can get down to their level and meet these massive sharks nose to nose – albeit separated by strong metal bars.
Swimming with whale sharks is an amazing experience and there are plenty of places you can find the world’s biggest fish. You don’t need to be a certified diver either, as snorkelling is the best way to see the sharks, given that they tend to swim close to the surface.
Just thirty minutes off Beau Vallon in the Seychelles, Shark Bank hosts dozens of whale sharks between August and November (October is peak season). Mozambique’s Tofo Beach is also very popular for whale shark sightings; for the chance to swim amongst fifty or so of these gentle giants, head here between October and March.
It’s fair to say that there is no shortage of honeymoon-suitable beaches around Africa, particularly in Mauritius, the Seychelles, Mozambique and Zanzibar. For glamour, you’ll want to fly out to the Seychelles. Some top beach properties include Raffles, Maia and the Four Seasons, from which you can take advantage of the pristine beaches of these Indian Ocean islands.
For a more rustic type of charm, Quilalea, in Mozambique, is a gorgeous private island with a really chilled, barefoot-luxury feel to it. This is one of the most untouched islands in the country. There are great diving opportunities accessible right from the beach and whale sharks are present in the surrounding waters during part of the year. Take a sunset dhow ride with glasses of champagne to set the mood.
Although most travel articles tend to focus on North Island in the Seychelles (famed for hosting Kate and Wills’ royal honeymoon), this is just one – very high-end – option for privacy and romance.
Desroches Private Island Hotel offers loads of activities for families, including water sports and island-hopping trips, as well as plenteous opportunities for exciting wildlife encounters.