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Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Foot Notes | Sun, sand, surf

At 5.30am on Dyer Island, off the fishing village of Gansbaai in the western Cape, I watched shards of sunshine rip through grey-blue clouds. Thirty minutes later, I threw up the remnants of last night’s dinner (kudu steak, medium rare) into the ocean, while a bunch of brave-heart tourists stepped into metal cages and were lowered into the water to sight a Great White Shark.

“Don’t worry, there’s more," an Irish volunteer at the shark-diving centre said, materializing by my side on the boat, rocking a 2ft tattoo of a Bolivian elephant on his bare back.

As I realized on this trip, there’s always “something more" to see, do and marvel at on South Africa’s spectacular 2,700km coastline.

I was not disappointed—here are five of my favourite towns.

Hermanus

Hermanus, a 90-minute drive from Cape Town, is one of the best land-based whale-watching destinations in the world. I spent a day gadding about town, chatting up the locals, and checking out the contemporary art scene.

The whales are quite the show-stealers here, alternatively breaching, lobtailing, skyhopping and spouting—and are best spotted from the Bientang’s Cave restaurant over a meal of seafood potjie (stew). Later, I tried my hand at zip lining, quad biking and other adventure sports organized by the company Hermanus Forest Adventures.

The town also holds a whale-watching festival at the end of September, a festival of food, music, theatre and the arts.

Scottburgh

I brought out my swimsuit before heading off to Scottburgh (pronounced scott-burra), a town along the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. A 40-minute drive from Durban, the beach is ideal for swimming and surfing and offers a wide range of attractions on shore—canoes on hire, a super tube waterslide, miniature railway, mini golf course and bodyboards.

Witsand

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An aerial view of the beach at Whitsand

Mossel Bay

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A tandem skydive at Mossel Bay

Kleinzee

Kleinzee is a De Beers mining town where diamonds were first discovered in 1925. It became a “ghost town" virtually overnight in 2011 when the company shut operations there. The Buffels river estuary is a birder’s delight (look out for the iconic African Black Oystercatcher). There’s a massive fur-seal colony near the beach—permits and prior notice are needed. I went on the Kleinzee Shipwreck tour—an adventurous, bumpy, 4x4 ride, 37km between Kleinzee and the nearest town Koingnaas.

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