The 30,500-kilometre coastline of Africa and its immediate surroundings are teeming with a marine life rich in biodiversity. Designated conservation zones abound for those interested in safaris to observe the water-loving creatures of the continent, whether they are breaching, lob-tailing, fluking, blowing, or spy-hopping.
A variety of ecosystems in the underwater wonder world of Africa has given rise to the nickname ‘The Serengeti of the Sea’ and are home to thousands of species that rival their land-dwelling cousins. These include some of the biggest animals that roam the oceans surrounding the continent—whales, sharks, dolphins, manta rays, seals, and a plethora of fish, as well as seabirds.
There are vast stretches along the African coastline where visitors are sure to discover the local marine marvels, mostly from June till September when it is bloom time for mating and breeding. From the Cape coast, all the way up the East coast of Africa and into northern shores of Egypt and Morocco, the antics of species big and small, powerful and dainty will create the most memorable of experiences.
The distinct aquatic system at the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian oceans at the southernmost tip of the continent must be regarded as the prime location to see sharks, whales, dolphins and other species in action. Along the Garden Route, between the Western and Eastern Cape, there are hot spots, fertile breeding ground and active hunting territories at Dassen Island, Dyer Island, Boulders Beach, Gansbaai, Hermanus, Mossel Bay, St. Croix Island, and Port Elizabeth.
Further along the South African east coast, the great sardine migration in June and July makes for impressive and spectacular viewing. The abundant food source that these massive shoals bring, attract other super species like sharks, whales, dolphin pods numbering in the thousands, as well as an array of seabirds.
For the more adventurous safari-goers, a variety of activities are on offer that comprises of interactions with Africa’s marine life. An important note— visitors should make sure to choose an ethical operator when deciding to participate in any one of these activities.
In South Africa, visitors can get up close and personal with great white sharks during cage dives in Gansbaai and Mossel Bay. Those brave enough can swim unconstricted between oceanic blacktip sharks and tiger sharks at Durban’s Aliwal shoal. The boat trips in False Bay, great for marvelling at the breaching of the great whites, also make for an unforgettable experience.
Swimming with these precious species can be done along the South African and Mozambican coasts, as well as in Zanzibar.
Tofo in Mozambique is the spot if snorkelling with whale sharks is on the bucket-list.
To meet African penguins at eye-level, it is best to visit Boulders Beach, Dassen Island, Stoney Point, as well as the aquariums in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban.
Observe the massive colonies of Cape fur seals at close quarters on the Skeleton Coast and Swakopmund in Namibia, Cape of Good Hope and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.