Balmiest African destinations and the best time to visit them
Africa has a huge coastline. On the east coast there are Boundless expanses of tropical beaches lapped by warm Indian Ocean currents. We take a look at 10 of the balmiest destinations to visit.
10. Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Now, considering that Port Elizabeth is one of South Africa's largest cities, this may seem like a bit of a funny choice to get started. But, when your focus is on the beach, PE will leave you spoiled for choice.
Algoa Bay, the coastal strip of the Nelson Mandela Bay area boasts a 40km strech of coastline dotted with amazing places to laze in the sun or get wet doing any number of water sports. Kings Beach, Hobie Beach, Humewood Beach, Pollock Beach and Denville Beach all offer protected and safe swimming areas while Wildside, Sardinia Bay, Blue Horizon Bay, Bluewater Bay, Beachview and Schoenmakerskop are havens for activities like fishing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkelling and sailing. And, if you get tired of the beach and all the fun you are having in the sun, then step into the city and visit #7 Castle Hill, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum or Route 67.
But this is not the main attraction! Port Elizabeth gets on the map and takes the number 10 spot for one simple reason. PE has the best weather country wide. The city receives the least rain fall of all the coastal cities and temperatures throughout the year stay within the balmy range between 15ºC and 24ºC.
9. Vilankulo, Mozambique
Mozambique has over 2000kms of pristene coastline. Vilankulo is just one piece of paradise. The beaches dazzle with white-powder sand, the water shimmers crystal blue. Coconut palms fringe the waters edge as fishermen haul their catch up the beach. If this sounds like something you might enjoy, then Vilankulo might just be the spot for you.
Located in Inhambane province, and with its own international airport for ease of accessibility, Vilankulo offers superb all-year round climate, with June to August averaging around 25ºC and the hottest months being November to March. It is the near-perfect holiday destination that packs in an excellent mix of adventure and relaxation.
From dhow trips to diving and kite surfing, Vilanculo is a playground that has something for every age and every price range.
8. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is not used to sitting so far up a top 10 list but I have one very good reason for this.
The beaches, from Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno to False Bay's Muizenberg, St. James and Simons Town, are superb , AND don't forget Noordhoek or Kommetjie either!. The location is sublime. Mountains rise up behind you and the city lights are just a hop skip and a jump away. Fantastic restaurants abound from fish and chips joints to five star gourmet pads, the choice the choice the choice...
None of this can be denied or faulted. The weather in January and February is divine as the wind dies down and the holiday makers begin to thin out. But really it is not too bad all year round.
So what is it? Well, despite the crystal clear azure water, and the gentle waves, the water in Cape Town, with its arctic currents, is just FREEZING. Locals will tell you that False Bay is warmer with a wash of Indian Ocean currents, but really they are splitting hairs.
Show me a surfer in broad shorts and I will show you warm water...
7. Tofo, Mozambique
Another gem on Mozambique’s endless coast. It has the feeling of a sleepy sea side village and there is nothing quite like breezing gentley in a hammock to the sound of the Indian Ocean waves lapping against the shore. Average temperatures in Tofo range from 28ºC in the hottest months from November to February, before mellowing to about 24ºC in the winter months when the rain dries up.
It is as if the temperature itself cannot be asked to rise higher or fall any lower.
Tofo has a little bit of everything. There are dolphins. Whale shark alley is just around the corner and there are other activities beyond just swimming but... The thing is, why would you want to leave your hammock when the sea food is fresh and the beers are cheap?
6. Lake Malawi... erm, well Malawi
The fact that a small land-locked country makes it on to our list of the "top ten balmiest beach destinations" tells you that something special is going on. Lake Malawi (aptly named) is so large that it looks more like a fresh water sea than an inland lake.It covers more than a fifth of Malawi's total surface area.
The rainy season in Malawi, November to March, is worth avoiding for the soup like conditions and impassable roads. The drier winter months from early May to late October are however the complete package. Down by the lake things are balmy as can be and you will be spoilt for choice on where to laze about on your vacation. You can expect to relax on the beaches of Lake Malawi with temperatures around 26ºC on sunny and dry days.
There is a lot of lake which means there is a lot of beach. Chintheche, based on the northern shores of Lake Malawi, boasts a white sand beach and crystal clear water. It is a quiet bit of freshwater paradise, away from the bustle of the town. The surrounding area is pristine, palm-fringed and dotted with fishing villages and tropical low-land forest. It is not flashy but holds an authentic charm that will linger with you long after you have left.
5. The Lamu Archipelago, Kenya
The Lamu archipelago is seldom talked about. But this little known group of islands was stop-over for Indian Ocean sailors for hundreds of years. The archipelago reflects this ocean-faring history through its medieval stone towns of narrow streets, beguiling architecture and paradisiacal feel. The night air is redolent with the smell of spices and, with the star studded sky above, it feels like the world is full of possibility.
Lamu is the most popular and most developed of the islands and has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2001. Its hotels have a reputation for providing superb "barefoot luxury". But, what is great about Lamu is that despite its archaeological importance, stunning natural beauty and well earned reputation, it still maintains a quiet, out-of-the-way feel. Kenya is a well known and well travelled destination and it is always good to know that you can get away from the crowds.
The hottest time in Lamu is February when temperatures average 29°C and the coldest month is July at 26°C. This is paradise. Between November and March the water is clearest and a beach escape here will keep you dazzled with wonderful beaches, vibrant coral reefs and all the toys you need to explore them. Add to this world class service and amazing cuisine and the picture is complete.
4. Tsarabanjina, Madagascar
Mostly, when I think of Madagascar I get images of lemurs, razor sharp rock formations and other-wordly trees and forests. Ironically I never imagined that the worlds fourth largest Island would be home to a series of smaller islands that epitomise paradise. Think talcum powder soft beaches, crystal clear turquoise water and barefoot luxury at its most sublime. Welcome to Tsarabanjina, Madagascar.
Tsarabanjina is one of the the smallest tourist islands of Madagascar. On the north west tip of the mainland lies Nosy be; Madagascars most well known and popular beach destination. Forty kilometers south of Nosy be lies this little pearl. Tsarabanjina has to be one of the most scenic islands in the Indian Ocean. It is only accessible by boat and has just one lodge. The staff are some of the friendliest and the Mora Mora (slowly slowly) approach will leave you blissful and smiling.
It might not be for everyone but, that might just be the point. Dreaming.
3. Bazaruto, Mozambique
Our last Mozambiquan entry comes in the form of the Bazaruto archipelago. Accessible only by boat from Vilankulo, the ecological importance of Bazaruto is reflected in the fact that visitors must stay at one of several private lodges. Whether you choose Bazaruto Island, Benguerra Island, Magaruque Island or Santa Carolina Island, these idyllic islands all boast excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, deep-sea fishing and sailing.
Covered by large sand dunes and freshwater lakes, the archipelago is the nesting ground for beautiful black-winged flamingoes. It is also home to rare dugong, sea horses, Manta rays and Whale sharks. These animals all frequent the warm Indian Ocean waters and visiting Bazaruto means getting to spend time with these creatures.
Bazaruto's peak season are the winter months. From mid-May at 28ºC, the barometer drops to 25ºC in July and then rises again to 28ºC in October. During this time the water is around 24ºC at its coldest and there is no risk of cyclones coming off the Indian Ocean. Pretty balmy indeed!
2. Durban, South Africa
Being built around one of Africas busiest ports does not make Durban an obvious choice for the number 2 spot on this list. But there is more to Durban than just a port city. Go north and you come to the holiday town of Umhlanga, famous throughout South Africa and packed with hotels, restauramts and beautiful beaches. South of the city are what seem like endless expanses of golden yellow sand, a sub-tropuical paradise, pounded by the warm sea and dotted with holiday towns, this is the Saphire Coast.
Durban is the winning winter destination in South Africa. The warm, year-round conditions mean that Durban and surrounds have an average of 320 days of sunshine a year! Winter temperatures, June through August, hover at a balmy 24ºC and the rains come in summer.
The shear number of beaches to choose from mean that you will never get bored. Durban really is the perfect spot to soak up the sunshine during the balmy winters of the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
1. Zanzibar, Tanzania
The islands of Zanzibar have been a stopover for travellers for centuries. These days, with the trade routes dominated by ocean liners, the tropical climate has become a mecca for tourists from around the world. Layed back and multicultural Zanzibar's average temperature is a cool 26ºC.
Zanzibar has two wet seasons. The "long rains season" runs from March to May and a "short rains season" between mid-October and December. While January and February are hot, the lack of wind tends to make it a little oppresive. The best time to soak in the sights and sounds of this ancient entrepot are July, August and September.
Stone Town is a must see and walking about its narrow streets is like stepping back through time. But the real joy of Zanzibar lies in the tropical beaches. Over 25 of these fantastic beaches are dotted around the archipelago. The joy lies in the discovery of these gems as each one has its own particular flavour. Some of them are so removed from the modern world, so remote, that the only noise likely to break the silence is the ocean.