THE SIMPLE TRUTH IS THAT YOU WILL NOT FIND A Southern African marina included on in any one of the top 10 listings of superyacht destinations. These lists are dominated by marinas in Italy, Spain, France and the USA etc. that are touted as ‘elite destinations’ with infrastructure that cater to the extended lengths and draughts of these luxury vessels. It is also true that the sheer size of some of the world’s super yachts can see them relegated to commercial harbours and not to the more comfortable yacht basins of Southern Africa. But that does not mean you cannot make the region a destination of choice, or that it has nothing noteworthy to offer.
Southern Africa is not seen as a traditional destination for superyacht cruising, but the region is blessed with a number of attributes that could one day make it the next big thing as more investment is being allocated towards infrastructure and word-of-mouth starts to work in its favour. Unlike the European coastline where marine tourism has a long history of development and where investment into marina facilities has assisted the advancement of the superyacht culture, most South African marine infrastructure has focused on enhancing trade and the marine services sectors.
But, as African countries start to wake up to the opportunities that exist, more attention is being paid to those in the tourism sector. Most recently there has been an emphasis on developing cruise terminal infrastructure as governments eye the multiplier effect of welcoming international cruise tourists to their shores, as well as selling the sector to the local markets.
In Cape Town, South Africa, for example, the V&A Waterfront was announced as the preferred bidder of a US$ 13.6m investment to build and operate a luxury cruise terminal over a 20-year period. Similar efforts to attract appropriate investment in the Port of Durban are ongoing as cruise tourism shows an almost 50 per cent increase in the area.
Africa is turning its attention to the sea and the blight of ocean blindness is slowly being cured. The next step should arguably be the advancement of infrastructure that would prove conducive to the superyacht industry. Given the gamble that many African countries took in developing port infrastructure aimed at the offshore oil and gas sectors, which has slumped severely over the last few years, it is being realised that a more multi-sector approach would be prudent.
But, despite the lack of bespoke infrastructure the region is very well-placed to host those wanting to experience a different type of destination and is extremely well positioned for those keen to venture further south towards Antarctica. Vessels should not feel deterred from visiting and can make good use of local ships’ agents to help them navigate the local bureaucracy that all countries have in place.
Indeed, some of the most iconic and exclusive luxury yachts do include South Africa on their itinerary for very good reason. Recent visitors include the 96 m Vava II owned by Ernesto Bertarelli as well as the 126 m Octopus owned by Paul Allen. The 74 m Enigma owned by Aidan Barclay has even opted to call Cape Town ‘home’ for the past few months.