Whilst South Africa has one of the longest coastlines of any country in the world, and whilst that coastline is visually stunning, much of the water is very cold and not conducive to a tropical beach holiday.
However, for those who are looking for a 'white sand beach palm tree and cocktail' experience as part of their journey, look no further than the KZN North Coast, near to the Mozambique border.
We suggest starting with two or three nights at St. Lucia village in the southernmost section of the Isimangaliso area. St. Lucia is also confusingly the name most South Africans give to Isimangliso National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site that stretches along over 100km of pristine coastline from Sodwana Bay in the north to just south of St. Lucia. The whole area is filled with lagoons and wetland where you’ll find vast flocks of flamingos, hippo, and other wetland wildlife.
St. Lucia as a village is a small and pretty little town: there’s a lovely beach and it makes a great place to start your exploration of Isimangaliso from. It’s a good place to stock up on food and supplies before your next stop which is very remote. Our budget recommendation there is Parkers Cottage (no, not Parker Cottage 😊) which is a lovely little B&B that’s owner-managed. I particularly like the gardens which are a tropical paradise all of their own.
Following from there, we’re recommending five nights at Mseni Beach Lodge. Whilst this place is billed as a guesthouse, I would say it’s not really but is in fact more of a refined backpackers. You’re really staying here for the location which is superb. The rooms are private, clean but basic in terms of amenities. It’s actually a small resort, with a variety of wooden cabins (from 2 sleepers to 10 sleepers) just back from the beach hidden in the bush. There’s a basic bar and restaurant along with a swimming pool (why you’d need one when the ocean’s 28C I don’t know…) and you get a small kitchen in the larger cabins. If you've a group, we’d recommend not taking the larger 10 bed place but rather two smaller (4 sleeper) cottages for a group of seven as you’ll then get two kitchens and obviously two bathrooms which makes a big difference to people’s general demeanour, we find! Reviews are here.
They have a diving company that has an operation right on site and there is also snorkelling equipment available, as well as ‘fat bikes’ with sand tyres on. However, there isn’t a vast amount to do in the local area other than dive, swim and do beach life so we think after four nights you’ll probably want to move on.
We’d then suggest a short drive inland to Pakamisa which is a beautiful lodge decorated in a very chic style, which happens to be on a private, non-predatory game estate. The owner also breeds Arabian horses and you can take horseback safaris through the estate, guided or not. If you ride, or don’t ride, this is an utterly splendid experience. Then it’s back via Richard’s Bay and flights on to Joburg and Cape Town.
For a seven night trip, including internal flights and car hire, this journey comes in at around ZAR20 000 per person, which is EUR,350 and US$1,650. That's based on self-catering at Mseni, B&B at Parker's Cottages and full board at Pakamisa.