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East London Outdoor City: Everything Water

All things water

If the Eastern Cape is the adventure province of South Africa, then East London has to be its capital. Its stunning coastline, miles and miles of wide open spaces and moderate climate make it a favourite for those who love adventure and love nothing more than participating in activities that get the heart racing and adrenalin pumping.

There are many adventure activities available in and around East London, and here we are going to focus on all things WATER! So, if you love everything about the ocean, read on…


As we all know, East London is famous for its long stretches of beautiful beaches and these are, understandably, extremely popular with the surfing community of our city. Indeed, people come from far and wide in search of the ultimate wave in East London. And, each year, surfing championships are held here – from the SA Masters to the Billabong Junior Seriesattracting the crowds to both Nahoon and Gonubie.  East London offers the surfing enthusiast a wide range of surf spots suitable from beginners right through to kamikazi … as some of our more technically challenging surf spots are commonly named.

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to surf but never had the chance… there are no excuses in East London with plenty of qualified instructors just waiting to show you the ropes. Sugar Shack Backpackers in Quigney offer surf lessons at the local beach or at Nahoon  – call them on 043 722 8240/074 890 8405/083 320 5406 for further information and prices. Learn 2 Surf is another school which offers to teach you the techniques, with private and group lessons available. You can contact them via their website.

buffalo river yacht clubSailing

If you prefer to be on the ocean as opposed to in it and have a good pair of sea legs, then East London offers plenty in the way of sailing opportunities. If you are fortunate enough to own your own boat, you could participate in yacht races, held every second Sunday at the Buffalo River Yacht Club. Even if you don’t have your own boat (which, let’s face it, is the majority of us!), there are still crew opportunities for members of the public – get yourself down to the Yacht Club early enough on race day and make yourself available, you never know who will be looking for extra hands or crew! A fantastic opportunity for someone looking to experience sailing for the first time.

If you would prefer to just cruise around East London with somebody at the helm showing you all the beauty our city has to offer, you can take a trip with Ballyhoo Cruises. Relax in style and see East London from a new perspective with a trip into the bay and up the river before docking back at at the Buffalo River Yacht Club. For further information about the yacht races and bookings for Ballyhoo Cruises, you can call Nico on 074 758 2940.

opti-best-week-everIf you’ve dreamt of learning how to sail then the East London Yacht Club could help you turn your dreams into reality! The club runs a Learn to Sail training school where they teach adults and children from an early age (from the age of 9). The courses run for 10-week periods during the summer season and the school supplies the boats and equipment. A wonderful opportunity for both young ones and adults to learn a new skill! If this is something you would be interested in for yourself or for your children, you can call Bruce (the Yacht Club’s Commodore) on 082 550 0373 or his wife Jenny on 082 896 6433.

2014-vasco-winnerThe East London Yacht Club also holds regular Regattas, and it is the finishing point of the annual Vasca da Gama Regatta which stars in Durban.

Also operating from the East London Yacht Club is Blue Horizon Marine Academy. Run by John Barry and Glenda Wakeford, you can take a trip out on a catamaran and cruise the city in style. You can also get your Skippers Licenses at Blue Horizon for dam, river and sea. For further information on charters and licenses, contact John on 082 938 6275 or Glenda on 083 303 7652.

For more options to cruise around East London on the water, you can call Russell at On The Rocks Barge Cruises on 082 443 4166. Watch the sunset from the Nahoon River while sipping on a sundowner and for that real South African experience, take along your braai goodies too as there are full facilities on board. Or experience scenic views from the waves on a harbour cruise with Southern Cross, heightening your senses as you ferry out of the harbour and down the Buffalo RIver. You can contact Southern Cross on 082 938 6275.


If you prefer a more manual approach to boating then you won’t want to miss some fast and exciting rowing in The Buffalo Regatta. Hosted by the East London Boating Association, this regatta is the city’s oldest sporting event and in June celebrated its 125th year! For more information on the Buffalo Regatta you can contact the Boating Association on 043 726 4677.

Canoeingcanoe club

For canoeing in East London, the Border Canoe Club hosts around twenty races each year and has produced – and is continuing to produce – world class paddlers. The Border Canoe Club represents the river Canoeing and Surfski disciplines in the greater East London area and forthcoming events include the Pete Marlin Surfski Race in November and the PE2EL Challenge in December. If you are resident in East London and interested in becoming a member of the Border Canoe Club you can visit their website.

CaptureIf you are visiting our fair city (or indeed, a local who would like to do something different!) and fancy going on a guided canoe trail, then you can contact Allan on 082 783 1288. Allan guides canoe trails on the Keiskama River in Hamburg and you can book day trips or trips for two or three days, catered or self-catered. Don’t worry if you have never done any canoeing before as no previous experience is necessary, the canoes are very light and most of them are steered with a rudder.

areenaNo trip to East London would be complete without a visit to the beautiful Areena Riverside Resort where you can hire a sea kayak or canoe for a half day or full day and explore the stunning surroundings. You can also enjoy a leisurely trip to the river mouth on Kareena, a 40-person double decker river cruiser. Areena also has a slipway and jetties if you have your own boats. For bookings call 043 734 3005.

Inflatable Boat Racing

For boating adventure with a difference, you could try the uniquely South African sport of inflatable boat racing (the inflatable boats are also known as rubber ducks). Originating in our own fair country, BIBC 7this type of boating is now becoming popular worldwide with races taking place on a regular basis. If you fancy trying this adrenalin pumping boating experience, you can contact Rowan Hawkes on 083 255 7739.  The BIBC (Border Inflatable Boat Club) is situated in East London and holds races at local beaches around the city.  A highly enjoyable adrenalin filled event, suitable for the whole family – look for details of their events in the press.

Scuba Divingmanta marine

If you prefer to get up close and personal with what lies beneath you in the water then why not try scuba diving? There are a few options in East London if you are keen to explore the world of indigenous marine life, beauty and colour.

Manta Marine is a PADI training centre run by Mark and Jackie Weaver and, alongside training you for your certification card, they offer the opportunity to try Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) – this is a quick and easy introduction to what it takes to explore the underwater world and the perfect opportunity to see if scuba diving is for you. Manta Marine also runs boat charters and although they operate on octo diversweekends, it is very much weather dependent – the Winter season provides better diving conditions with less wind and rain. You can contact Mark or Jackie for further information on training and charters on 043 721 1973.

Octo Divers can also train you at their PADI Diver Training Centre in both scuba diving and skin-diving (which we have only just discovered is another word for snorkelling!). To find out more about Octo Divers’ training courses you can contact Glen on 084 225 5669 or Candace on 084 226 3483.

Deep Sea FishingDeep Sea Fishing

If you’d prefer to stay on the boat but are still very much interested in what’s below you then perhaps deep sea fishing is for you!

Wayne Sparg runs Wayne’s Fishing Charters and he can take you out to the deep any time of the year for game, bottom fish and sharks (catch and release). Wayne can take between 1 and 5 people (the less people there are, the more expensive per head it will be) and you will just need to take your own cooler box and fishing permit, available at the post office. You can contact Wayne on 073 155 7999 for further information and bookings.

East London is a unique coastal city with 4 major rivers running through it and a beautiful unspoilt coastline stretching on for as far as the eye can see.  Visitors and residents alike can take part in the many water activities available on our wide range of beaches and rivers both in and around East London.

If however you are not the adventurous kind and are just looking for a quiet getaway, why not pack a picnic basket, a fishing rod, a book and a frisbee & beach-ball for the kids, and head down to one of our beautiful natural beaches for a quiet family day in the sun.  Don’t forget the sunblock!

Day at the beach

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