Beauty and the Beach

‘Know most of the rooms of thy native country before thou goest over the threshold thereof.’

Thomas Fuller; The Holy State and the Profane State (1642),

At Waterfront Charters we don’t often have issues with Tripadvisor. They offer a brilliant service to travellers and members of the travel industry alike. But for once – just this once – we must wag an admonishing finger: they published a list of the 25 most beautiful beaches on the planet and not one South African beach featured! When we first saw the heading we were wondering if any beaches in the world other than Cape Town’s beautiful selection had made the list; but Capetonian parochialism aside, South Africa has a vast array of superb shoreline spots that are breath-taking for a wide variety of reasons. From the wild West Coast right around to the Mozambican border are South African treasures both known and unknown (except for a few people who aren’t talking.) Just one question to Tripadvisor here: where’s Clifton Beach?

Having posed that query, peering through the list that Tripadvisor has put together is mouth-watering, to say the least. Top of the tree is Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, which looks a lot like… Long Beach in Noordhoek. Possibly a bit more sheltered, but if you are a surfer, who cares? Santa Maria Beach, Cuba, comes in second, but the picture that is displayed could be anywhere: an expanse of calm sea with a few bathers dipping toes. A little further research shows a curving beach that resembles our own Crayfish Factory beach near Scarborough; we agree that the sea in Cuba is likely to be a touch warmer than our Atlantic Ocean chill, but it’s beaches we are talking about here, and beauty. The Misty Cliffs area along our coastline is as stunning as any shoreline on the planet.

You see where we are going with this. Baia Do Sancho in Brazil, rated number three, is a dead ringer for Llandudno (ours, not the Welsh original, which is not in the same class), and number four, Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales could be Plettenburg Bay. We don’t have to go any further, except to say that the fact that the abovementioned Clifton Beach is not on the list is beyond surprising: it’s one of the most famous beaches on the planet, and attracts everyone from billionaires to amazed tourists and proud locals. If you have fifty million rand or so lying around, you could even purchase a small apartment overlooking the scalloped beaches with their ice-white sands and granite sentinels. It’s no surprise that Waterfront Charters perennially favourite cruises include all our Clifton options: not only do guests get to see the beach, the mountain backdrop and the translucent ocean, they do it from the deck of a luxury catamaran. Who needs a fifty million rand apartment, anyway? With all that traffic…it’s always better by sea.

Talking of beaches, the word itself has quite a history. Originally the word stemmed from the Sanskrit bhanga, which meant ‘wave’. But from here it didn’t take the obvious route directly to the beach as we know it today; it was borrowed by the Old Germans as a shortened bah, and meant a brook or stream. The Saxons mutated the word to beki, then sailed off to Britannia in the fifth century, booted out the Romans from the Eastern parts of the land, and impressed on the locals that they were now to speak Saxon. Beki became bece (pronounced ‘beck’), a stream, and that in turn denoted a river. The hard ‘k’ sound softened to the ‘ch’ we use today, and somehow – as language does – the word bǽce started to refer to the area around where the river entered the sea. And ‘beach’ it remains to this day in a much expanded form, unless you are a marine biologist, in which case it is the ‘littoral zone’. Not nearly as romantic: ‘The Waterfront Charters Clifton Littoral Parties’ loses just a little of the magic, we think.

Tripadvisor’s beach selection is beautiful, no doubt about it. But getting to these exotic places at the best of times can prove to be tricky, never mind when travel is all but impossible; why not take full advantage of the beauty on our own doorstep, or more appositely, shoreline? From Blouberg to Hangberg there are a plethora of beautiful beaches on our Peninsula. Even better, join us on a Waterfront Charters Coastal Cruise or one of our Clifton Cruises to see some of the most beautiful unsung beaches on the planet. With a chilled glass of something special and a gentle breeze cooling the summer air as you gaze shoreward; as we said – it’s magical.