South Africa - Facts

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  • Pre-Arrival Declaration: All yachts planning to enter SA must register for pre-arrival authorisation from the MSCC and Department of Transport online through OSASA, prior to arrival. See Formalities for full details.
  • The number of cruising boats visiting South Africa has increased substantially over the last decade as the Red Sea route, previously preferred by yachts undertaking a circumnavigation, has mainly been avoided (first due to pirate activity and now due to increasing fees in Egypt).
  • All around the world races now include South Africa on their itinerary.
  • The best time to transit the South African coast is between November and January when the Indian High dominates and easterly winds blow along the south east coast.
  • Safe havens are limited and there is a lack of sheltered harbors and anchorages along the coast, particulary between Durban and East London. Passage planning should be done with care as conditions can change rapidly along the coast.
  • The Ocean Sailing Association of Southern Africa (OSASA) was formed in March 2021 by three South African cruisers, supported by South African Sailing, the coastal yacht clubs and marinas, SABBEX and the marine industry. OSASA have transformed the clearance process for foreign yachts and are working hard to improve conditions for yachts along the coast. Find out more here.
  • The country’s convenient position and excellent yachting facilities make it a natural stopover, added to which are the many nature reserves that make South Africa an interesting place to visit. One major drawback is the weather and sailing conditions; the waters around the tip of Africa being among the most dangerous in the world.
  • As there are yacht clubs in most ports, the clubs are the best source of information on local conditions. The yacht clubs like to be contacted in advance by those wishing to use their facilities. It is not normally allowed to live aboard a yacht, but a concession is made for visiting foreign yachts as a temporary privilege. Most yacht clubs, such as those at Cape Town, Durban and Richards Bay, have their own hauling facilities or work closely with a local boatyard.
  • Yacht clubs are also convenient places to leave the boat while visiting the interior. The Zululand Yacht Club in Richards Bay is a good place from which to visit the Umfoloze, Hluhluwe and St Lucia reserves. Kruger Park is approximately 570km by Road from Richards Bay.
  • See Yachting Essentials for more details.

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  1. April 23, 2024 at 11:42 AM
    profile photo
    Sue Richards says:

    The Ocean Sailing Association of South Africa (OSASA) have released some interesting statistics concerning incoming yachts from the Indian Ocean last year (2023): Richards Bay welcomed 133 international arrivals (including 20 yachts in World ARC and 13 with the GLWYO rally); Durban 14; East London 2; Port Elizabeth 6; Mossel Bay 1; and Cape Town 64 (including Ocean Race (5), OGR (14) and Clipper (11)). Twenty eight arrivals were UK yachts, 31 from the USA and Canada, 34 South African (mainly sailing the East Coast to Mozambique, Madagascar, etc.), 44 from Australia and New Zealand and 46 from France. Of the remaining 32, the majority were from Europe (Spain, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland), with 1 from India, 1 from Singapore, 2 from Malaysia, and a couple from Brazil. The majority came from the Indian Ocean via various islands.

  2. January 19, 2024 at 12:05 PM
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    Sue Richards says:

    South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced, on 22 December 2023, that due to continued and significant backlogs in processing visa documents, several concessions have been made. Visa applicants across a number of categories, including visitor’s visas and visa extensions which are pending as at 30 November 2023, will be granted an extension to 30 June 2024. If you wish to abandon your application, you must leave the country via a designated port of entry by 30 June 2024 to avoid being categorised as undesirable. See the DHA Accouncement – http://www.dha.gov.za/images/PDFs/Concession_Document_2023.pdf

  3. December 7, 2022 at 8:57 AM
    maryannewebb says:

    Load shedding (Planned Power Outages)

    If you visit to South Africa you are going to hear about ‘load shedding’ pretty quickly.

    As I understand it Load Shedding is a planned power outage; due to power grid and demand issues – areas of each grid/network deliberately have the power stitched off (often for 2 hours a day – sometimes more). This may be locally (daily or weekly) or even nationwide (more rarely).

    I thought I’d be fine (the boat is off the grid anyway) – but it is really useful to know the load shedding times of the areas you visit.

    Local cell phone towers are without power during load shedding – they have backup batteries to cover this, but these don’t always last the full downtime (and are sometimes stolen anyway) – so if your signal fails this is often the reason (avoid planning critical calls and zoom-meetings where you will need phone/data connection during such times).

    Even if power is up where you are – we found ATMs often didn’t work since the hub sever was under load shedding. We found some services at the mall were impossible (eg getting a SIM card – since servers were down at one end or the other). A Dr visit was interrupted while we waited for generators to kick in, Attempts to make online payments for customs duty repeatedly failed, etc., etc.

    There are apps that tell you when to expect load shedding by area (ask the locals which zone you are in – each town seems to have multiple areas so the mall is often different from the anchorage/dock areas). Eg Apps such as ‘LoadShedding’ or ‘EskomSePush’. Also community Facebook pages tend to post details.

    While many business have their own generators, Some restaurants may pause service (not always)… some shops just close their doors, traffic light junctions revert to 4-way stops, etc.

    So … Load Shedding really is something you need to know about and most activities can be made easier if you plan/call ahead so as to avoid, or allow for, load shedding times.

  4. July 22, 2022 at 8:16 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    OSASA report on the approaching 2022/23 season: “It looks as if we will have a full season for 2022/3 – both the Oyster World Rally and the continuation of the World Arc are planning to make extensive stops in South Africa at the end of 2022, the Cape 2 Rio leaves again Jan 2023, and the Ocean Race arrives in Cape Town in Feb 2023. The Golden Globe does not call, but passes through a “media gate” off Cape Town, sometime in December.”

  5. July 22, 2022 at 8:15 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    Des Cason in South Africa has for many years been an incredible aid to cruising boats tackling this coast and the notorious Mozambique Channel, with his free routing and weather advice. To date he has assisted over 500 yachts. Useful articles by Des can be found in the Cruising Resources/Routing/Indian Ocean pages including these 2 very helpful reports: [https://www.noonsite.com/report/crossing-the-indian-ocean-guide-2020/] and [https://www.noonsite.com/report/madagascar-and-mozambique-channel/].

  6. March 28, 2022 at 10:49 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    OSASA [www.osasa.org.za] report that the South African Affiliates Council has had its first planning meeting together with other interested parties, to look at the creation and use of a simplified uniform Port to Port Passage Plan, which will be used by all yacht clubs and marinas to advise both Ports and clubs/marinas of boats travelling along the coast. This will be free and online, sent to each departure and destination port, and hopefully be used by all. It is hope this will be finalised soon.

    OSASA also want to remind all incoming yachts to South Africa that it is a LEGAL requirement for ALL yachts (even local ones) who are returning to the country to complete the online registration for Department of Transport, through the OSASA online portal http://www.osasa.org.za. Plus, remember to check your visa viability – not all countries will automatically receive a visa on entry and if you arrive without one (and need one) you will either have to fly back to your home country to get one, or stay on board at all times.

    See Clearance for full details – https://www.noonsite.com/place/south-africa/formalities

    Download OSASA’s great cheat sheet for a round-up of South Africa port information [https://www.dropbox.com/s/h9hqy0py038fw1n/South%20African%20Coast%20Cheat%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0].

  7. September 13, 2021 at 4:21 PM
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    sue-richards says:

    Posted by Mike elsewhere on Noonsite – 09/09/2021
    I am currently at the Durban yacht club on a 50 foot cat.
    There is not much room in the marina currently. I think I was lucky to get a berth. However the staff here are very good and will do everything they can to accommodate you.
    It is very quiet here re tourists. Most services are back to normal now with plenty of food and fuel.
    Moving on to Cape Town on the next weather window.
    I wouldn’t recommend cruising anywhere unless you are fully vaccinated against Covid19
    Previous to Durban we were in Reunion which was the only Island in the South Indian excepting cruising yachts. Well worth spending some time there with a lot more to see and do.
    The marina there is also quite full, so you may have to tie up to the wall as we had to.
    Cheers Mike

  8. August 16, 2021 at 1:50 PM
    Arnold says:

    Excellent experiences in Cape Town,SA, with contractors for repairs.

    The friendly and save RCYC is a good place to relax and to make repairs .

    Action Yachting in the Club ([email protected]) with his expierented manager David Barnes with the repair of my hull/keel section did a great craftmanship to moderate and fair prices.
    Associated Rigging makes a rigg check for free and a good job.
    If dfficult problems with engine ,electric, electronik or SSB( operates the only working SSB digipeater between Saint Helena and CT) appear call Colin Porter (+ 27 (82) 343 2444) . He will find a professional solution.

    Arnold Schaefer,Germany,SY Incroyable

  9. July 29, 2021 at 11:30 AM
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    sue-richards says:

    Posted on OSASA Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1356933018022241

    Some recent activity around the S African coast – always stories to tell!
    Catamaran 1 left Richards Bay bound for Tanzania, and was t-boned by a fishing boat in the Mozambique Channel, necessitating a swift return to RBay where she is still sitting, waiting repairs.
    Catamaran 2 left Richards Bay also bound north, only to hit a whale in Maputo Bay! Also smart return to RBay for repairs!
    Then a yacht arrived in RBay directly from Malaysia, having left there in a hurry to return home to SA when Malaysia said everyone had 30 days to leave. A long long passage with damage to the boat when they lost one mast, but they limped into RBay – only to be refused clearance by Immigration because they have two dogs on board and did not have import permits. Have had to sail on to Cape Town in order to put the dogs in quarantine with the State Vet – only quarantine facilities are at Johannesburg and Cape Town airports.
    So, current rules are you can IMPORT pets only by air.
    However, OSASA is in protracted discussion with the State and National Vets to determine what the rules are for pets “in transit”, which will remain on board and not be allowed off the boat. Watch this space!

  10. June 20, 2021 at 8:06 PM
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    sue-richards says:

    A word of warning about entering South Africa. Please ensure you have registered on http://www.OSASA.org.za before leaving your last port of call- this is not a optional extra, it is a real necessity! See the Formalities page for all the correct information: https://www.noonsite.com/place/south-africa/formalities/

  11. April 4, 2020 at 11:50 AM
    skiboatmobile says:

    Peri peri net is still in operation on 8101usb, from 06h50b (04h50gmt)
    At the moment we have Robin, (Riptide), on the natal coast and Andrew, (-Easy Rider) in Cape Town…..can give good weather info.

  12. March 19, 2020 at 5:55 AM
    RSPugin says:

    If I want to sail from SA to UK stopping St Helena and Cabo Verde are there restrictions

  13. January 18, 2020 at 6:01 AM
    tomasz says:

    Visa extension.
    As a new rules apply from December 2019, and new systems on the South African borders, visiting neighboring countries will NOT give you extra 3 months visa.
    The only options are to fly back to you country or apply for extension.
    As we were rebuilding our engine, we were running out of time and flying back to Australia is expensive business. We did apply for extension in Durban couple of weeks before our visa expires.
    Process is frustrating and officials, well, no comment there…
    Paperwork plentiful, clerks working for the visa company incompetent with no people skills.
    On lodging application and fork R4000 for 3 of us, up to 8 weeks waiting started with no guarantee at the end.
    Good part is, with the receipt from the department we were LEGAL in the country while waiting.
    We were in Richard’s Bay at that time, sail down to EL and received email that our Visas were granted.
    Tricky part is, had to pick a visas from the place of lodgement so one of us had to fly back to Durban.
    After couple of cold beers in East London we didn’t think much about stupidity, incompetence, frustration, money spent, time wasted. All good

  14. August 19, 2019 at 1:25 PM
    ldorenfest says:

    The Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation (RCCPF) has come out with a free passage planning guide from South Africa to the Caribbean Sea https://rccpf.org.uk/pilots/177/South-Africa-to-the-Caribbean

  15. April 13, 2018 at 2:21 PM
    Data Entry1 says:

    There are two sides to every story. The Customer emailed the Ullman Sails representative categorically stating that he “received two attached documents that I did not open them”. Those documents reflected the quotation and on the 2nd page under “terms and conditions” it is clearly stated that VAT is not included in the quoted price. The Customer failed to read these documents.

  16. March 14, 2018 at 10:12 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    the mail is also a disaster.
    Don. t expect to receive anything, even registered when shipped from overseas.
    I lost 2 credit cards, registered mail lost.

  17. March 14, 2018 at 10:04 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    I was extremely well received in the Yacht Clubs of South Africa.
    This country has strong contradictions and some business relationships were surprising.
    I had a very bad experience with the local sailmaker in Simon’s town: Ullmann’s Sails. (They gave me a) misleading quotation, my debit card was debited for more than asked, refusal to handle the problem, threats and a very un-polite attitude.

    As for the quality of the product (trampoline), they first denied a big mistake (10cms error on 200cms)and said that my boat was crooked, while it was symmetrical within one cm. They agreed to fix the problem, but I never received any excuse either for the wrong overcharge, VAT not specified as excluded from the quotation, never refunded, neither for the technical mess.
    I was even told that I was dishonest. I strongly advise cruisers to avoid this company, at least the Cape Town branch.

    1. March 25, 2020 at 10:13 AM
      theotterman says:

      Ullman Sails are not my favourite, either… Had a stackpack order completed by them and it literally fell apart when we got to Grenada – seems they did not bother to use UV – resistant thread when sewing the panels. How much more would that simple fact have cost them and us? Instead, we had to have the whole stackpack resewn in Trinidad, at our expense. Grrh!

  18. December 2, 2017 at 6:16 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Concerning Pets in South Africa:
    You don’t need to get a pet import permit if your pet stays aboard during your stay in South Africa. I have gone through the trouble of applying for the pet import for our cat, which is not easy. You need for example a South African postal address. During this process, I learned from a South African State Veterinarian that no import is needed if the cat stays aboard. The cat is then “in transit”.

    So when we cleared into Richards Bay, I did not mention the Pet Import permit but said the cat is in transit and stays aboard. This was no problem, the quarantine officer only wanted to see the cat’s documents (vaccination). I know other sailors who entered with a cat and without the pet import permit and they had no issues. (Experience in Richards Bay, Nov. 2017).

    If anyone would like to know more about our experience or reference to the state veterinarian, please feel free to contact us, evibettac(at)web(dot)de.
    Enjoy your stay with your cat in South Africa!

  19. September 5, 2017 at 2:31 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    This refund is a hoax – don’t plan on getting anything but a disappointment! The best option is to pay cash for labour and no VAT.

  20. March 16, 2016 at 1:03 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Further to my comment about a lost customs claim refund posted December 2014 subsequently all the documentation was returned to me last year stating the claim was invalid because it had not been submitted in time. In fact, it was submitted on 12 May 2014 the day before our departure and was lost by customs. I recommend that all yachts should be very careful if they hope to have a claim for a VAT refund on capital purchase to be refunded.

  21. May 2, 2015 at 2:55 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    I practised as a barrister – and a solicitor – in South Africa for many years. Yacht Silvercloud has it exactly right. Show your teeth and you’ll have no further trouble. You can threaten them with your embassy too – its a lot cheaper than a lawyer!

  22. January 14, 2015 at 6:13 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    The SA authorities are mostly run by disgruntled whites or unqualified blacks. They seem to make their own laws outside the real laws. Use a good maritime lawyer and they will back down quickly. There is no need to involve any yacht club or make payments to private yacht clubs as that is not law. Nor can they insist on anything other than international laws pertaining to visiting boats. Right at the beginning of the real law foreign registered boats are excluded. Insist on your rights or take them on.

  23. December 5, 2014 at 3:57 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    We left South Africa in May 2014 and put in a claim for a customs refund on over 200,000 rands for goods supplied which was worth about $3000.We waited 3 months and contacted the refund company who had no knowledge of our claim. After repeated emails and letters we have not received anything and now regard it as lost by South African Customs (SARS)

  24. December 26, 2013 at 8:18 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    Having investigated the above comment it appears that this regulation/inspection only applies to commercial boats over 7m. The author operates a charter boat out of Richards Bay.

  25. December 19, 2013 at 5:29 AM
    Data Entry1 says:

    We were informed by a South African Maritime Safety Authority yesterday that any foreign vessels arriving in South Africa without or with lapsed safety certificates will need to undergo a SAMSA safety inspection. The requirements are set out at http://www.samsa.org.za/category/social-tags/checklist and http://www.samsa.org.za/content/small-vessels. They informed us that we would need to unpack everything so that they can inspect all bulkheads, frames and stringers.