Next Great Escapes
Looking for adventure or a pristine place to unplug? Dive into Southern Africa’s many coastal charms. By Katy Heerssen
Africa’s wildlife and diverse interior lands are the stuff of safari dreams, often eclipsing the allure of the shores. Along the continent’s Southern coast, you can find authentic culture, explore abandoned shipwrecks, and safely face your fears of sharks. Bounded by the Southern Ocean, Indian Ocean, and mighty Atlantic, Southern Africa presents a world of natural treasures beneath the waves and across dramatic, white sand beaches.
Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has earned its name by virtue of its famously treacherous rocky outcroppings, almost constant breaking waves, and miles of thick and unforgiving marshland. The stark beauty of this stretch of coastline inspires both awe and fear, at once unmistakably desolate yet harboring a thriving ecosystem all its own.
Cape fur seals travel every year to the Skeleton Coast to mate, give birth, and hunt for fish in November and December. The colony at Cape Cross Seal Reserve has seen as many as 210,000 seals at once, stretched out in the sand singing a chorus of grunts and bleats. The heavy surf and marshes are no match for these agile underwater navigators, but the orcas and whales farther offshore do prove a danger. Some 6,200 square miles of coast has been designated the Skeleton Coast National Park, most of it only accessible via flying safari. From the air, the overwhelming desolation and contrast with the blue Atlantic is nothing short of astounding.
How to see it: We recommend a flight between three tented camps with Skeleton Coast Safaris. By day, embark on a private plane to access far-flung areas of the coast, and retire to camp in the evening. Each tent includes en suite baths and cozy comforts, plus the benefit of seclusion in an untouched and beautiful natural landscape.
The migration of the Southern Right whale is a well-known natural phenomenon in the waters of the Western Cape. While it’s exciting to catch their pilgrimage, they aren’t the only show in town. Incredible marine life sightings can be had, including humpbacks, Bryde’s whales, African penguins, and colonies of over 60,000 cape fur seals. The drive along the Cape Peninsula is considered to be among the most beautiful and scenic in the world.
One of the most popular—and daring—marine encounters in South Africa is cage diving with Great White sharks close by. Skilled guides assist thrill-seekers as they climb into the cages attached to the boat and descend into the water with the sharks.
How to see it: A highlight in South Africa is the exclusive Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. Hidden amidst fynbos and milkwood trees on Walker Bay, Grootbos blends breathtaking excursions with opulent accommodations. The lodge’s location enjoys an excellent vantage point for viewing the Southern Right whale. In season, you will see the whales up close aboard the Whale Whisperer, a specialized sightseeing boat setting out from Grootbos to Dyer Island.
Situated off the northern coast of Mozambique, the Quirimbas Archipelago area includes 32 unbelievable islands. Outside of a few lodges on these isles, the land has never been fully developed, which results in an air of separation from the rest of the world. These sun-drenched tropical havens contain some of the richest coral reefs in the world and provide an unparalleled environment for an abundant array of marine life.
Nearly two-million acres of enchanted forests, mountains, savannahs, mangroves, and coral reefs comprise the protected area in Quirimbas National Park. Plus, its 11 uninhabited coral islands offer an endlessly-interesting safari experience by land and sea.
How to see it: Grab one of the nine seafront villas at the stunning Azura Quilalea, located on the uninhabited Qualilea private island within the protected Quirimbas area. This property is dedicated in equal measure to ultimate luxury via butler service and to eco-conscious living via wind and solar power. The protected reef system surrounding Azura Quilalea provides incredible snorkeling and diving opportunities directly off the main beach.