Africa may be best-known for safari holidays, but African beach holidays are just as exceptional. Here, warm, clear waters with abundant marine life lap against pristine, palm-fringed sweeps of sand. Coastal cultures sway to island time, and relaxing feels more like a way of life than a temporary reprieve.
Why go on African beach holidays?
A few days of dedicated beach time is the ideal way to let safari adrenaline gently subside, which is what makes a safari and beach holiday so fantastic. Equally though, a standalone (or lie-alone) African beach holiday makes for a wonderful self-contained – and unique – experience.
African coastal culture reflects authentic Arabic influences: isosceles-sailed dhows still run before the breeze, and ancient coral-block forts gracefully crumble in the salt spray. Time moves differently here, and you’re far more likely to meet women in veils than bikinis.
There are gloriously empty beaches where you’ll see only your own footprints, while isolated archipelagoes let you disappear off the radar and disconnect to fully recharge.
Beneath the surface of the waves, vibrant coral reefs form the backdrop to a multi-splendoured array of life, including gentle, giant whale sharks, ghostly manta rays and elusive dugong.
Indeed, African-beach cognoscenti maintain that desert islands deserve to be the main course of any African holiday, and are doubtless what Shakespeare had in mind when he referred to ‘Africa and golden joys’.
Where can you go on African beach holidays?
Options for African beach holidays are as limitless as the possibilities for safari. Some countries offer both – we’re looking at you, Kenya and Tanzania – while others are all about the seaside.
The spice islands of Zanzibar and Pemba meld lovely beaches with intriguing Swahili culture – glimpses through carved wooden doorways or beneath the waves both reveal thriving, colourful communities going about their business.
Kenya’s south coast has seductive curves of untouched sand – all you need is a kikoi, a hammock and a good book and you’re good to go absolutely nowhere for the afternoon.
Some of Africa’s best snorkelling and diving can be found in the waters along Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago, while further north, the tiny islands of Bazaruto and Benguerra sparkle like jewels in an azure ocean.
Not to be outdone, South Africa’s Maputaland coastline (which extends into neighbouring Mozambique) offers near-endless, almost tropical beaches beloved of nesting turtles, while Cape Town and the Western Cape and Garden Route back up their whale-frequented coasts with winelands, great restaurants and plenty of activity options.