SOUTH AFRICA: Jeffrey’s Bay, Eastern Cape

Teacher Emma Stevens reports from South Africa.

Jeffrey’s Bay or J Bay as it is affectionately known is one hour’s drive west of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It is famous as South Africa’s premier surf resort and as I am an amateur surfer, I was particularly excited to visit here.  J Bay hosts the ASP Tour annually in July. This is an international surf contest attracting the best surfers from across the world, such as Kelly Slater, John Parkinson and this year’s winner Mick Fanning.  Jeffrey’s Bay grew in popularity in the 1960’s.  Apparently during this period girls ran away from home in Cape Town and Jo’burg to join the hippie surfers and relaxed lifestyle.  There was even a Government campaign to discourage this.  However, it had the opposite affect and the resort grew in popularity.  It gained even more publicity when Bruce Brown, who travelled the world searching for the perfect surfing experience, featured it in his 1966 surf film “Endless Summer”.  Surfers from around the globe flocked to surf, arguably, the world’s best right hand break.  Over the years J Bay has grown in size but it is still small enough to stroll around and has a laid back vibe.

Entering the town along the R102 from Port Elizabeth one can see the dunes stretching out to the right and on the left a long peninsula stretching out to sea, fringed by a shore line of black rocks.  We passed the sign announcing our arrival to Jeffrey’s Bay which is stickered with surf labels, due to many surfers through the decades paying homage on their arrival at their surfing Mecca.

There is a plethora of accommodation to suit all budgets from backpackers to hotels overlooking the sea.  We stayed at a small self-catering complex, Dirkies Dream.  It was located on the sea front with stunning views in both directions of the coastline by the world famous “supertubes”. (J Bay is divided into different wave breaks). The accommodation was excellent and very good value for money (R750 for 3 people per night).  I never bored of watching the waves and the sound of them as I drifted off to sleep was very relaxing.

Jeffreys Bay Eastern Cape
Jeffreys Bay Eastern Cape

May – August is the peak time for whale and dolphin watching. The dolphins did not disappoint. We saw pods of them surfing the waves as they have done for centuries, the original surfers of Jeffrey’s Bay.  We were also lucky to see a whale blowing in the distance.  Apparently the sheer numbers of dolphins in this area keep the sharks away.  Therefore J Bay has the lowest number of shark attacks in the country.  The dolphins seem happy to share their waves with the talented local surfers who carve with such skill.

Dolphins surfing the waves at Jeffreys Bay
Dolphins surfing the waves at Jeffreys Bay

On the first night of our stay we ate at an excellent seafood restaurant, Kitchen Windows which overlooks the beach break of the same name.  Despite there being a power cut all evening, the food was delicious, fresh fish cooked superbly with a very good wine selection at reasonable prices.  Three of us ate a main meal and dessert with a shared bottle of wine and water for R550.

Another restaurant worth mentioning is Nina’s.  A modest venue on De Gama road (near Super Spar).  Adorned with surfboards and memorabilia on the walls we had a cracking breakfast with coffee for only R40 each.  They also serve a wide variety of other food including curries, seafood and salads.

As I wanted to get to know the waters and brush up on my decidedly rusty surfing skills, I decided to book a surfing lesson.  I chose Wavecrest, located a few metres from the main Dolphin Beach, who were top of the ratings on Trip Advisor.  Reyno was my surf instructor, a stereotypical surfer, with his dread locked blonde hair, tanned skin and laid back demeanour.  He was an excellent teacher and quickly worked out where I had been going wrong and taught me new techniques. The waves were perfect for learning, the beach virtually empty and the weather idyllic.

Empty beaches and perfect waves for a surf lesson
Empty beaches and perfect waves for a surf lesson

Even if you aren’t into surfing, young or old, Jeffrey’s Bay is definitely worth a visit. My parents enjoyed long walks on the deserted beaches collecting the amazing shells, paddling and shopping in the numerous surf shops.  There are many activities in and outside J Bay such sand boarding, horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing and kite boarding.

We were definitely sad to leave this little town.  Everyone we met was very friendly and welcoming from our host at Dirkies Dream, to the car park guards and waiting staff in the restaurants.

For us August seemed to be the best time to visit as it gets incredibly busy during the SA school summer holidays in December and January.  I will definitely be returning to Jeffrey’s Bay.

Jeffreys Bay

Jeffreys Bay