The small Atlantic coastal village of Busua is dominated by a beautiful, sweeping beach that boasts safe swimming conditions and a laid-back vibe rooted in the hippy heyday of the early 1970s. A favorite spot with villagers and the occasional savvy traveler, the beach remains one of West Africa’s most unspoiled spots. If you tire of the beach, take a trip to the nearby fishing town of Dixcove, which has some elegant colonial architecture, or the remote estuarine villages of Butler and Akwidaa
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso is the largest and most ecologically varied coastal sanctuary in Africa, protecting a vast subtropical wetland system that stretches from the wildly beautiful St. Lucia Estuary in the south to the pristine Kosi Bay in the north.
A succession of spectacular and largely undeveloped beaches fringe the park’s eastern edge, including the popular swimming spots around St. Lucia village and the semi-deserted Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, and Rocktail Bay-wide arcs of peach-colored sand hemmed in by the world’s tallest forested dunes.
Simangaliso became South Africa’s first-ever UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It is a living Eden where rhinos, elephants, leopards, sharks, and whales thrive in a remarkable mosaic of natural habitats, from beach and coral reef to swamp, forest, and savanna. More than 500 bird species exist here, as well as high densities of hippo and crocodile, especially around the mangrove-lined St.
Lucia Estuary, which is easily explored by boat. The open waters offshore are legendary among game fishers, while the coral reefs around Sodwana – the most southerly reefs in the world – are lauded by snorkelers and divers. The beaches in the north of the park are a vital breeding ground for marine turtles, and on a clear day, hikers might well be treated to the distant sight of breaching whales from the tops of the sand dunes
Shela Beach, Lamu Island
The focal point of Lamu Island is the eponymous town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich architectural heritage and cultural integrity that makes it unique among the medieval Swahili ports that survive into the modern era. Only a 45-minute walk from town lies Shela Beach, a fabulous sweep of bone-white sand that fulfills every expectation of a tropical beach nirvana.
This is one of the few East African beaches to lack a protective reef, and although swimming is usually safe here, the sea is refreshingly lively. The nearby Peponi Hotel, which has been run by the same family for 40 years, is the ideal place for a drink or a fresh seafood meal after a day on the beach.
East Coast of Zanzibar
The east coast of Zanzibar isn’t the place to go for bland, international beach-resort luxury. Although its sandy palm-lined beaches are as idyllic as they come, the east coast offers visitors much more than just pretty beaches. The seafront is studded with traditional Swahili villages, including Bwejuu, Paje, and Jambiani, each one smaller and more rustically somnambulant than the one before, making it a great place to experience rural Africa on its own terms.
In keeping with this, accommodations tend to be low rise, low key, low impact, and low cost – it’s the ideal place to relax after a costly safari. Look out for the endangered Kirk’s red colobus, a fringed monkey endemic to Zanzibar.
Saadani National Park
Long, lush, and serviced by just two small and exclusive tented camps, the seafront of Saadani National Park boasts dozens of beautiful beaches and is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. There really is no better destination for discerning travelers looking for a true African beach wilderness – a stunning palm-lined beach where you have a good chance of encountering creatures as diverse as eagles and giant turtles, lions and dolphins, seagulls and hippos, and giraffes and jellyfish. What makes Saadani – which bills itself as “where the beach meets the bush” – even more special is that it is one of the only places on the planet where snoozing sunbathers might conceivably be interrupted by a beachcombing elephant.