Yesterday was World Oceans Day, which got us thinking about the many varied ways that we love to explore the oceans of Africa. So, today we thought we’d highlight some of the best ways to enjoy the waters that surround this beautiful continent! We’re also including a recommendation of where to stay to enjoy each of these adventures, but keep in mind that many of these activities can be enjoyed in a variety of destinations, so be sure to reach out for our customized recommendations!

Shark Cage Diving

Gansbaai, on the southern coast of South Africa, about 2.5 hours from Cape Town, is known as the great white shark capital of the world, so it’s the perfect place to get up close and personal with these thrilling predators. Take a cruise out from Gansbaai to waters that great whites are known to frequent and see if you’re up for the thrill of a lifetime!

Where to stay:
In Gansbaai, we adore Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, which offers not only shark cage diving but also coastal safaris, river cruises, whale watching, marine safaris, as well as a number of land-based ways to explore nature.

Paddleboarding with Penguins

If you’re headed to Cape Town, you’re probably planning to make a trip to Boulders Beach to visit the famed colony of African Penguins who make their home there. But if you want to get off of the boardwalk and away from the crowds for your penguin experience, consider hopping in the water with them atop a stand-up paddleboard!

Where to stay:
At Tintswalo at Boulders you can watch the penguins at Boulders Beach from your balcony, but you can also kayak, go whale watching or hiking, or use the hotel as a base for activities throughout the Cape Peninsula and the Cape Winelands.

Whale Watching

South Africa is one of the best places in the world to spot whales in the wild, with nearly 30 species of whales and dolphins making their home in these coastal waters. Popular species you might see during a whale watching excursion include the Southern Right Whale, Humpback Whale, Bryde’s Whale, Minke Whale, and Sperm Whale. Whales can really be found throughout the coastal regions of South Africa, but top areas for spotting these mighty creatures include False Bay (near Cape Town), Hermanus, and Port St. John’s. You’ll also fare well in coastal Kenya, Mozambique, Madagascar and Namibia!

Where to stay:
Located on the cliff’s edge in Hermanus, Birkenhead House offers the ideal spot for whale watching without even leaving the shore. From the main deck here, it’s not unusual to spot pods of dolphins or Southern Right and Humpback Whales, and the hotel even offers a telescope and binoculars for guests to get a closer look.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

There are many stunning destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling in Africa, but some of our favorites are in Mozambique, Zanzibar, and South Africa. Mozambique is home to the largest Marine Protected Area in Africa, and is home to coral reefs and mangrove forests that protect reef fish and marine turtles. Mozambique is also well known as a haven for whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales.

In Zanzibar, you’ll find some of the most abundant coral reefs in the world and is one of the best places in the world for sighting the whale shark, and sea turtles and dolphins are also seen in certain months.

South Africa is home to a wide range of scuba and snorkeling opportunities, from big sharks to schools of sardines, and from tropical reefs in the northeast to rocky reefs in the west.

Where to stay:
Since there are so many diving and snorkeling destinations in Africa, it’s hard to recommend a single place to stay, but ONE of the many options is Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort, located on the private island of Bazaruto, just off the coast of Mozambique. Here, you can have world-class dive sites practically to yourself, and snorkelers can head to Paradise Island to swim among schools of brightly colored fish. You can also search for dugongs, turtles, whales and dolphins in the warm waters; go deep-sea fishing; go horseback riding through the dunes; or even go dune boarding down the towering dunes.

Surfing

Africa (especially South Africa) is a huge destination for surfers … despite the fact that it’s also home to more than a few great white sharks! There are safer beaches, however, and excellent surfing for beginners and professionals alike. Jeffery’s Bay in South Africa hosts the annual Billabong Pro Surfing Challenge each July, and Cape Town’s Hout Bay hosts one leg of the Red Bull Big Wave Competition. But for consistent waves, you can’t beat Kommetjie, just 40 minutes from Cape Town.

Where to stay:
In reality, if you stay in Cape Town, we can arrange for surfing lessons or tours from just about any location. But if you want to be as close to the action as possible, we recommend Last Word Long Beach in Kommetjie. With several breaks nearby and surfboards, wetsuits, and surfing lessons on offer, it’s truly a surfer’s paradise.

Snorkeling with Seals

In Cape Town’s Hout Bay, you have the opportunity to snorkel with hundreds of playful Cape Fur seals in their natural habitat near Duiker Island, which is home to more than 5,000 seals (and no great white sharks!) You can play with the seals and interact with them on their own terms during this fun activity.

Where to stay:
One of our favorite hotels in the Hout Bay area is Tintswalo Atlantic, which is nestled along a pebbled beach at the foot of Chapman’s Peak and offers panoramic views of Hout Bay. From here, you can certainly snorkel with the seals, but you can also explore Chapman’s Peak and Table Mountain, ride a horse along Long Beach, go stand-up paddleboarding at Clifton Beach, or head out to visit the Constantia Wine Route.

Dhow Cruise

The dhow, a wooden sailing vessel, is a common sight in the Indian Ocean near Zanzibar, and taking a sunset cruise aboard one of these iconic boats is an excellent way to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding waters. Many hotels and resorts in Zanzibar can arrange dhow cruises for their guests, often with snacks and drinks and sometimes a stop for snorkeling or a beachside picnic.

Where to stay:
There are plenty of reasons to stay at andBeyond Mnemba Island that go well beyond a dhow cruise, but cruising through the aquamarine waters of Mnemba Island while the sun sets into a glorious array of pinks and oranges is a pretty good way to spend an evening on this island paradise!

Kite Surfing

Kite surfing is BIG in Africa, and there are many different kite-surfing hot spots to choose from. Cape Town, of course, tops most any watersports list, and nearby Langebaan (about an hour and a half from Cape Town) is a mecca for kite surfers, with a 95% wind reliability during the summer months. Zanzibar is another great kite-surfing destination, with the best winds blowing between December and March or July to September.

Where to stay:
This is another activity where it’s hard to pick just one recommended resort, but we love Mozambique’s andBeyond Benguerra Island as the perfect spot to combine barefoot luxury with kite-surfing adventures. They’re also known for scuba diving, swimming with horses, sunset dhow cruises, and their iconic “castaway picnic,” where you boat off to a secluded spot on the archipelago to lounge on the sand and enjoy an afternoon picnic as though you are stranded on a deserted island.

Swimming with Horses

We mentioned it above, but a truly unique way to explore the oceans is to ride on horseback through the calm, aquamarine waters of Mozambique. Afterward, the horses love to take a roll on the beach, which is a delight to watch. You can also plan to spend additional time exploring the island on horseback.

Where to stay:
Azura Benguerra is one destination that offers swimming with horses, and with its position within a Marine National Park, has a lot to offer both in and out of the water — island hopping, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, weekend soccer matches, private beach dinners, and more. The resort’s 20 villas are all beachfront with private pools, so you are never far from the water!

Kayaking

There are plenty of places across the continent where you can kayak, and each destination offers its own benefits. In Cape Town, you can kayak with African penguins, and off of the east coast of Africa, you’re able to glide through calm, crystal-clear waters in search of wildlife, secluded beaches, or nothing in particular.

Where to stay:
One unique kayaking opportunity is at Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas and Spa, with their crystal kayaks! Glide through the transparent waters of the Indian Ocean in a transparent kayak and watch life below the surface without getting wet. Here, you can also paddleboard and bicycle, lounge at the pool, play games on the lawn, and more.

So, have you added any new watersports or activities to your wishlist? We’d love to help you plan your upcoming trip to Africa, whether you’re headed for the oceans or prefer to stay on dry land! Give us a call at 1.800.940.9344 or email explore@hillsofafrica.com, and let’s get started!

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