We flew to Ballito on the eve of Christmas. Having just finished work the Friday before, it had not quite sunk in that I was finally on holiday. Not to mention, I also had to prepare myself for a proper family fiesta. My sister, her husband and their two little boys recently moved to Ballito; and brought it on themselves to host Christmas— parents, siblings, and all. Bear in mind, it had been some time since we had spend time together, so boy was I in for a surprise. From the dripping heat, thunderstorms, monkeys, jungle explorations, and beach missions, to festivities, fireworks, many laughs and even cries, I had a wonderful whirlwind of an experience in Ballito. So to all the Captonians out there who have not yet dipped your toes into South Africa’s eastern shores, here’s a rundown everything you need to know
Get used to the humidity
Stepping outside the plane at the majestic King Shaka airport was like walking straight into a hot and sultry steam room. This heavy heat was certainly something I had to get used to! Sticky, sweaty feeling aside, after a week in Ballito my skin felt AMAZING! After the hot, dry, windy summers of the Cape, the humidity was sensational for my skin, leaving it soft and supple.
A picture of paradise
Driving from the airport, I was blown away by the wild beauty of my surroundings. And I constantly had to second guess myself — was I even in the same country? I mean, not only is KwaZulu Natal technically in a different time zone to the Cape, it also looks like a completely different country. In contrast to the stark and strikingly mountainous Cape terrain, this tropical coastal region of Ballito holds this vibrant sense of life, a picture of paradise with deep red soil, lush greenery and sparkling blue oceans vistas. My sister’s balcony has a spectacular vista overlooking the coast and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of dolphins gliding gracefully along the shores of Ballito.
Watch out for monkeys
There was a troop of monkeys parading the neighbourhood. Although they did not look as menacing as the baboons of the Cape, my oh my, are they mischievous! Like an expert burglar, one particular delinquent primate found his way through an open window of my sister’s house and started feasting on a bowl of litchis. At that particular moment, my seven-year old nephew happened to walk into the kitchen area, and mister monkey made a move at him. Getting the fright of his life, my brave little nephew let out a scream that brought us all running. Luckily, mister monkey had the decency to scuttle away! My dad, who has had ample experience with monkeys having spent most of his life in the Zimbabwean bush, gave us some words of wisdom. The trick to look them in the eye and show them you’re not scared.
A couple of nights in, the thunder gods were knocking on our doors. With deep bellowing rumbles and flashes, a powerful orchestra in the sky played the night away. I must admit, it was quite a thrilling experience. The only thing is, it was a living nightmare for my sister’s dogs. As dogs have a frequency range of 40 000 – 60 000 Hertz, compared to our 20 000 Hertz range, loud noises are sheer torture for them; and their mournful howls joined the melody. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Life in the jungle
Hugged by tropical greenery, Waterbury Café was an absolute treat. As the festive season is a time to indulge, we went for creamy and delicious coffee shakes along with a medley of delectable cakes, from rich chunky chocolate, flavourful carrot with the most amazing frosting, and fresh lemon meringue pie to cheesecake that left my mouth watering for more.
Our tummies full and content, we then took a walk through the surrounding jungle. My three-year-old nephew clung onto my hand in awe of the massive trees and sense of awe-inspiring nature around us. We even spotted a delicate little duiker slipping through the pathway ahead of us.
Let’s go to the beach
As Ballito is overrun with “vaalies” during the festive season, the beach is avoided at all costs by locals. So, I had to be content cooling off in the swimming pool until my hair turned green. We did, however, manage to squeeze in one glorious day at the beach. We set up camp at Salt Rock beach, which has great rock pools — ideal for the kids to splash around in. While somewhat cloudy,muggy and still packed with people, I had a lovely lazy day languishing on a bed of golden sand and cooling off in the lapping turquoise waves.
Spending a day at Salt Rock was nostalgic for my parents, both of them having spent memorable childhood holidays here. Reminiscing about the good old days, they were eager to have breakfast at the Salt Rock Hotel. A time capsule from a bygone time, sitting on the terrace made me feel as though I was living a scene from an Agatha Christie mystery novel. Sipping on a cappuccino and biting into scones and cream, this was a great spot to people watch. From all walks of life, everyone seemed relaxed and enjoying their proper beach holiday.
Girls night on the town
As Ballito is famous for its nightlife, my sisters and I decided to get a teaser the night before New Years. We first went to the club Shakers. Although quite the vibey place, with the usual doof doof music, a generous bar and pool tables, one drink at this haunt was enough for us! Realising we were getting too old for this shit, we then opted for a cosy restaurant on the beach called The Galley. With one too many Piña Coladas, and a massive seafood basket to fill the belly, we ending up having a super fun time laughing the night away.
Ending the year with a bang
The biggest jol of the year, Balito is home to the ultimate New Year Street party. We, however, decided to enjoy the jam from afar. Instead, we had a lovely fish braai and concocted some potent cocktails to get us in the festive spirit. Best of all, we also had the best seats to the firework show from my sister’s balcony; and it was quite the performance. I swear I have never seen such amazing fireworks in my life! Although they completely freaked out the dogs, I must admit there truly is something so magical about clinking a glass of bubbly to the New Year, with the sky alive with sparks and colours.
Have you visited Ballito? Tell me more about your experience in the comment section below.
Photo credits: Sophia Turner