If you are heading to South Africa between our summer months of December and March and have nothing but sun, beach and relaxation on your mind, we’ve got you covered. Cities like Cape Town have been known to experience all four seasons in one day so with that in mind, here’s a few tips on what to pack when coming to South Africa for a beach break.
1. Sun Shields
Don’t be fooled by the strength of the African sun. While many visitors come expecting heat and sun, seldom really anticipate its strength and leave as red as lobsters with peels and pain to boot. So come prepared ( or save the check-in weight and buy it here) with minimum factor 50 sunscreen and aftersun cream. And be sure to keep young ones covered in UV-Protective swimsuits especially if they have very pale skin or not used to hot climates.
Pack your favourite hat, sunglasses and shoulder-covering T-shirts, blouses or kaftans. You’ll need to wear all of the above for any beach days, trails, or walks ( even on cloudy or windy days). The clouds and wind often fool you into thinking you won’t get burnt, but the sun’s UV rays will find a way to get you regardless.
2. Beach-friendly Shoes
So depending on what your favourite beach activity is, you need to pack the correct shoes. If you’re going to exploring rock pools with the kids bring aqua shoes with a good rubber grip, your favorite delicate sandals for cocktails and beachside/poolside dining and of course flip-flops for every beach day. If you’re planning to snorkel or dive, all the necessary equipment will be here for you to hire.
3. Light-Long sleeve clothing for coastal walks and evenings
Depending on how far up the South African coastline you go, you may definitely find yourself on a coastal trail or walk along the wild Coast, a horse-ride on the beach or long walks. If you’ve got a long trip here, it’s safe to cover up with light, cool clothing to prevent you burning. If you’re along the Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal coastline where there are mosquitoes and malaria ( in certain places), the light long-sleeved clothing will help with bite prevention.
4. Windbreakers, rain mac and jacket for cold evenings
Evenings anywhere along South Africa’s coastline could be cool, bringing wind, mist and cold temperatures. So if you’re doing trails, hikes or beach picnics late afternoon to evening, be sure to pack warm clothes for when the weather changes. Keep an eye on the local weather of that particular city and region as these will different vastly from one another.
5. Day backpacks
When visiting another city, these are always suggested as you can put your beach essentials in it. On South Africa’s beaches ( especially in the bigger cities) it is advisable to never leave your belongings of valuables on the beach unattended. If you need to take a phone or camera for photos then make sure one of you is always with it while the others swim. Leave your giant DSLR cameras at your hotel if possible and bring a small device instead. There is a huge income and wealth divide in South Africa, making poverty a number one reason for theft especially amongst those seen as tourists.
Beach days ( sans kids) are the best for reading and flipping through magazines. If you didn’t have space to pack your favorite novel, your accommodation should have a small library available ( and hopefully in your language). If you’re coming with the family, save space and buy cheap beach toys ( buckets and spades) here to keep the little ones occupied outside of the water.
A few tips for your beach break:
- Rent an umbrella from the beach you’re visiting if available or buy a cheap sun shade to take with you on all your beach visits.
- Beach mats are also useful for long days at the beach to keep all your goodies off the sand so you can use your towel to dry off and not only to sit on.
- Depending on the month and the location there may or may not be lifeguards on duty. In the bigger cities, lifeguards will usually only be present on popular beaches during December-January months, while small towns and more remote beaches won’t have any present. Speak to locals and your hotel first about the currents and rip tides, as even though the ocean may seem calm, rip tides are often prevalent and there could be many hidden, sharp rocks. So watch locals first before you dive into the ocean for a swim/surf or another water sport.
- South Africa ( especially in the warmer waters of False Bay, Wild Coast, Sunshine coast etc) is home to many great white sharks. At main beaches like Muizenberg and Fish Hoek in Cape town and some Durban beaches will have shark spotters who signal alarms and change the shark flags to indicate things like poor visibility, all clear or sharks seen in the bay within the last two hours. At these beaches a siren will signal to indicate that you should leave the water. Other beaches will have shark nets which allows for safe swimming. Try steer clear of river mouths leading into the ocean especially in remote areas as these will draw sharks to feed.
- Never leave your bags or valuables unattended on a beach. If possible try leave as many of your valuables at the hotel for safekeeping.