Beaches in Africa
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Boa Vista beaches
Boa Vista island
Boa Vista has some of the finest untouched beaches on the planet. Never-ending stretches of soft white sand, fringed by desert inland and by bright turquoise water oceanside. It doesn't come more picturesque than this. The thing is, there is nothing else here. No palms, no shades, no roads, no people, no bungalows, no beach huts, no resorts (besides the few on the whole island). Just sand, sun, and the sea... and, of course, the wind.
Santa Maria is the tourist capital of Cape Verde. Lots of hotel complexes with sunburned Europeans and even more construction sites with half-built resorts extending along the long sandy beach from Santa Maria town. The town itself is surprisingly nondescript outside the tourist zone, which consists of the tiny town square and the streets leading up to it. There is a small selection of bars, restaurants and shops - and to less appeal, a never-ending flow of West African touts. So yes, Santa Maria is as touristy as it can get, but it still provides what most people are coming for; namely sun, sand, and chilling at the beach – not to mention wind for the kite surfers.
Tiwi and Diani Beach
South of Mombasa
Tiwi and Diani Beach are neighbouring coastal destinations just south of Mombasa. They are justifiably popular due to their close proximity to Mombasa, but that is all they have in common. Tiwi (pictured) is the more secluded of the two. It is set up almost exclusively for self-caterers, which makes it less ideal for those without access to a car. The beach here offers a greater degree of privacy, and the number of beach boys selling snorkelling trips or fresh fish is decidedly smaller than at its busier neighbour. Diani Beach boasts a nicer beach and a much wider range of accommodation options. There are restaurants, supermarkets, a surprisingly large local market and a bit of a night scene. Expect more hassle on the beach, however.
At the tip of a peninsula at the bottom of gorgeous Lake Malawi lies adorable Cape Maclear. The rural village has been a favourite of backpackers and overlanders for decades, and for a good reason. Green mountains make up the inland while the lakeshore is blessed with a narrow sandy beach. The village is a one lane place with shady baobab trees. The men go out on the lake for fishing in small canoes, while the women are constantly washing at the edge of the lake, with playful kids everywhere. The main event of the day is sunset, when the sky turns bright orange before the sun burns out behind the hilly horizon across the lake. Be prepared with the cold drinks for the spectacle is rather short. Afterwards, the night gets filled with African rythms pumping from the small bars along the beach.
Two-hour drive from Lilongwe
Senga Bay is the closest beach to Lilongwe, and is a very pleasant place to spend a few days. Senga Bay itself is a sleepy village, but nearby Salima has shops, fuel and ATMs. The Ilala ferry does not stop here, so it can only be reached by road – two hours from Lilongwe or Nkhotakhota, two and a half from Cape Maclear. Senga Bay is a fishing village, and boats line the beach in the village itself. Fruit and various snacks can be purchased. Diving, snorkelling, kayaking, trips to Lizard Island and beach barbeques make Senga Bay an easy place to spend a few days if travelling up or down Malawi, or a convenient weekend trip for anyone based in Lilongwe. The beach itself is nice (for Malawi) but quite narrow – the result of illegal sand mining and consequent erosion. There are plenty of (real and meaningful) volunteer opportunities in Senga Bay for those wishing to stay a bit longer.
Imagine a tropical island paradise, and chances are pretty good that what you have in mind is something akin to Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago. These six islands were formed by sand deposited by the Save River, and the archipelago boasts an array of incredibly pristine beaches, azure water, coral reefs, tropical fish, giant turtles and, in the right season, whales. It is also home to the very rare dugong – a marine mammal similar to the manatee – although you would have to be extremely lucky to see one. Add lots of lush, tropical fruit and seafood galore to the mix, and the result is pretty incredible. If lounging on the beach is not your thing there are plenty of other things to do here. The snorkelling and diving is excellent, dhow trips are a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or three, surfing is possible, whale watching trips can be arranged from the mainland. It is also much less busy than some of the more accessible mainland beaches farther south, although popular snorkelling spots can fill up with visitors from Vilanculos.
The area around Memba Bay is a hidden gem. The beaches are pristine and white, and there are plenty of little bays without a single other person in sight. Quaint fishing villages line the coast, and beyond the beach the land is dotted with baobabs and mango trees, lots of mango trees. In season, the mangos are literally everywhere. The coast is lined by coral reefs, so the diving and snorkelling is great, and humpback whales make their way into the bay during the winter half of the year. This is a wonderful place to simply sit back and let the time pass, or to explore the underwater world. It is also a good place to interact with the locals, or just to watch them go about their business - grilling cashew nuts, catching fish, collecting water and playing on the beach. It is surely only a matter of time until this part of Mozambique becomes more developed, so do yourself a favour and spend some time here as soon as you get the chance.
The Quirimbas is a string of 32 idyllic islands along Mozambique’s northern coast. This archipelago contains a bit of everything: pristine beaches, ancient settlements, luscious mangroves, amazing dive sites, beautiful coral reefs, pods of dolphins, warm water, a huge variety of tropical fish, an abundance of fruit and as much seafood as you can eat. Although dotted with important settlements in the past, the Quirimbas Archipelago is now virtually unknown to the outside world, and only visit by few tourists. The days are hot, and life is slow - much as it was a hundred years ago. So take a dhow trip around the islands, lounge on one of the endless white beaches and go for a swim in the azure Indian Ocean - you probably deserve it.
Tofo beach is THE beach for backpackers, overlanders and whoever likes a bit of party and cool beach vibe in Mozambique. The sea is azure and the crescent shaped beach is long - though not palm fringed. Tall sand dunes stretch right to the edge of the sea in the north end, while the middle and south sections have most of the accommodations. Diving is popular and the surfing can apparently also be good, but else there isn't much more to do besides eating seafood, chilling and maybe a football match with the beach boys in the afternoon. The adorable town of Inhambane is just a chapa (minibus) ride away, making it a perfect day trip from Tofo.
The white beach at Vilankulo seems almost never ending and slides into the clear turquoise sea with views of the gorgeous Bazaruto Islands. Dhows are anchored up in the shallow water before they sweep out to sea for fishing, only to return in the afternoon to unload their catch to the waiting fishmongers. At low tide, the beach becomes so wide, it gives you the impression that you could wade right out to the islands, but don't try. Instead go on a dhow safari for some chilling and snorkeling at the islands, which otherwise are reserved for luxury resorts. Accommodations in Vilankulo are spread out along the shore and lie among the small huts and houses that make up the town. This means there is a lot local life, both on the beach and in the sandy back alleys, giving Vilankulo lots of local flavour, but also at times a rough vibe.