Telling people you're going to Africa for a beach holiday is like saying you're going to Paris for the barbecue ribs. People probably won't get it. But why not? With one of the longest coastlines in the world and the perfect latitude for chalk-white sands, warm blue waters and plenty of marine life, Africa's beaches take a backseat to no-one.
The sky-blue, perennially warm waters that lap up against Mozambique’s coastline make this one of the premier stretches of white sand in all of Africa. And for you divers, there are reefs and marine life aplenty just off shore. Whale sharks and manta rays patrol these plankton-rich waters year round (try finding that in the Med) and it’s the perfect spot to cruise along in a traditional dhow and watch the coastal mangrove forests drift by. Grilled seafood dinner anyone?
For over 2,000 years the warm trade winds of the Indian Ocean have shaped the little archipelago of Zanzibar, bringing Persian sailors, Indian traders, Omani sultans and now beach-hungry travellers. You won’t find this combination of pristine sands and Middle Eastern vibes anywhere else on the continent. And if you can drag yourself away from the turquoise waters, there’s always the island itself to explore: clove fields, Indo-Arabian architecture and old men playing bao on street corners. Perfect.
The island of Madagascar has had tens of millions of years to get things right. When it separated from the continent it took a handful of animals, several boab trees and some of the finest beaches in Africa. Shake that mix up with sandy deserts, offshore reefs and lush rainforests, then leave to simmer for a few millennia, and you have something pretty close to paradise. If you’d like your beach break with a side of unique wildlife (5 per cent of all known animal species live here and here alone), Madagascar might be the isle for you.
The name Essaouira literally means ‘image’, which is kind of appropriate given how picture perfect this place is. On the outside you could be in Brittany – fortified walls, a fishing harbour and hundreds of seagulls wheeling overhead. On the inside, though, Essaouira is all Morocco – a maze of winding streets, the scent of thuya wood and turmeric, palm trees swaying above the city walls. Its beaches aren’t known so much for their sand as their surf: the coastal wind (Alizee) whips up the waves here to create some of the best kite surfing on the continent.