The South Coast in KwaZulu-Natal, from Umkomaas to Port Edward, boasts gorgeous beaches. Along the 120km coastal stretch is a wealth of ocean life and marine activities waiting to be explored by locals and tourists.
The chief executive of Ugu South Coast Tourism, Phelisa Mangcu, said the South Coast was an entrenched seaside holiday destination with a strong drive towards conservation and eco-tourism.
“Our many aquatic tourism establishments offer visitors the chance to enjoy the ocean life through a variety of interesting methods, from snorkelling and freediving through to whale watching and shark-cage diving,” she said.
Here are 11 reasons to visit:
5 Blue Flag beaches
The Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary awards for beaches. Strict environmental, educational, safety and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained to receive the status.
The South Coast has five quality-standard Blue Flag beaches at Marina Beach, Trafalgar Beach, Southport Beach, Umzumbe Beach and Hibberdene Beach, with top-quality facilities and safe bathing.
Two marine protected areas
South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been established to keep marine ecosystems working harmoniously while protecting the ocean life under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act.
Within the South Coast’s waters, there are two MPAs at Aliwal Shoal, just 4km off the Umkomaas, and Protea Banks, just 7.5km off Shelly Beach. The two are home to sharks, whales, turtles, rays, kingfish, yellowfin tuna and barracuda.
World-class dive sites
The MPAs, with their abundance of ocean life, are world-renowned diving sites, attracting adventurers from across the globe.
April to July is peak dive season and the area has many registered dive operators catering to everyone from beginner through to advanced divers.
Aliwal Shoal’s “Raggie Cave” is a top attraction, and those wanting an up-close shark experience can try one of the South African Maritime Safety-approved dives offered. Aliwal Shoal is also home to two shipwrecks, Produce and Nebo.
Protea Banks is known for its breathtaking shark dives which include large numbers of schooling hammerheads – perfect for advanced divers.
Home to the most tidal pools in KZN
Tidal pools, whether naturally-formed or man-made, make for sheltered bathing conditions suited to children and those looking for a more relaxed ocean swim.
The South Coast boasts the highest number of tidal pools within the province, with visitors able to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean in a more controlled environment.
There are several ski boat launch sites along the South Coast where avid anglers can charter boats for a day of incredible deep-sea fishing. Fishermen are likely to catch big game species, among them sailfish, marlin, dorado and yellowfin tuna.
The launch sites can be found at Umkomaas, Scottburgh, Rocky Bay, Pennington, Hibberdene, Shelly Beach, Lucien Beach, Ramsgate, Glenmore/Munster and Silver Beach.
For anglers who prefer to cast their line from the land, the South Coast has a wealth of fishing hot spots.
These include many rock-and-surf fishing spots at the many beaches, as well as freshwater fishing locations along river banks and dams surrounded by coastal forests and farmlands. Fishing permits are required for all anglers, and these can be issued at the post office.
This “point-break heaven” attracts international surfers who are looking for incredible surfing opportunities along the 120km coastline. Some of the top surfing spots include Umzumbe, Shelly Beach, St Michael’s-on-Sea, Scottburgh, Southbroom, Margate, Port Edward and Lucien Beach.
However, for those looking to learn the art, the South Coast offers Learn to Surf schools that can teach surfing in as few as five lessons.
Annual whale migration
Between April and December, visitors are treated to an incredible spectacle as the Humpback and Southern Right whales migrate northwards towards Mozambique. Breaching whales can be spotted from the shore.
There are many whale watching decks, including Umtentweni Conservancy Whale Deck, Ramsgate Whale Deck, Impithi Beach Kiosk, and Umdoni Golf Club Whale Deck.
In addition to the maritime bird species found on the shoreline, the coastal and wetland environments alongside the South Coast beaches create the ideal habitat for many bird species.
Twitchers and novice birdwatchers flock to the shores, following the South Coast Birding Route to view the nearly 500 bird species.
Annual sardine tun
The annual Sardine Run draws a big crowd. When the waters cool down sufficiently, the silver sardines swim close to shore, attracting bigger game fish, dolphins, sharks, whales and overhead seabirds ready to feast.
The Greatest Shoal on Earth is the planet’s biggest mass migration, and you front-row seats to the spectacle on the South Coast.
Perfect weather all year round
The year-round pleasant weather and sunshine found along the coastal paradise make a seaside retreat possible from January to December.
The winter weather in these parts is welcoming, with clear, sunny skies, calm seas and milder temperatures making for ideal beachgoing conditions.
Although the mornings are quiet and calm on the beach from September to December, visitors can enjoy some kitesurfing in the afternoon when the wind picks up.