South Africa’s beautiful beaches, which cover thousands of kilometers, attract millions of people every year. It is vitally important that visitors take note of beach safety procedures at the beaches they visit and adhere to instructions given by the beach lifeguards.

Did you know?

You can swim in both the Indian and Atlantic oceans while in South Africa.

At South Africa’s many beaches, safety precautions are clearly indicated on notice boards and, at most times of the year, lifeguards are appointed to monitor and enforce beach safety procedures.

While swimming is permitted at most of South Africa's beaches, lifeguards will mark out sections safest for doing so. Flags are erected in the sand near the water's edge to indicate the areas that are safe for swimming. It is very important that bathers do not swim outside these flags, as they may be caught in rip currents and swept out to sea.

Read online surf reports and get local advice about tides and currents before you go swimming or surfing, as these vary from beach to beach and from day to day.

Beaches in many parts of the country do not have shark nets and bathers need to be aware of this. At selected beaches, there are flags to indicate the presence of sharks. If you see a green flag, it means the water is clear and no sharks have been spotted. A black flag means that the water is too murky for the spotters to see anything. A red flag means that a shark has been spotted on that day, but is no longer visible to spotters. A white flag with a black shark means a shark has been sited and you should not be in the water.

At certain beaches, sirens will sound in the event that a shark is spotted. If you are in the water when this happens, leave the water quickly but calmly.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

National Sea Rescue Institute
Saldhana: +27 (0)22 714 1726
Cape Town: +27 (0)21 449 3500
Port Elizabeth: +27 (0)41 507 1911
East London: +27 (0)43 700 2100
Durban: +27 (0)31 361 8567
Richard's Bay: +27 (0)35 753 1991

Best time to visit

To reduce the risk of sunburn, avoid the beach between noon and 2pm on summer days. Swimming before sunrise or after sunset is very dangerous and should not be attempted.

What to pack

Sunscreen and a hat is essential when visiting the beach in South Africa. On hot days, some form of footwear will be necessary for walking on the hot sand and pavement.