Only 30 minutes away from the surfer’s paradise of Jeffrey’s Bay lies St. Francis Bay. Driving through this little village of thatched-roofs and white-washed houses, it’s easy to see that this enclave holds a lot of wealth. As with many places in South Africa, you won’t have to look too far either to view extreme poverty close by.
On the drive to Port St. Francis, we passed little children playing outside their houses made from tin. This was such a vast contrast to the luxury exuded once in the port. We stayed in a friend’s apartment and from the lounge we could see the yachts and expensive boats moored in the port.
This was a place where many owners came to retire and enjoy their wealth or holiday occasionally. Fishing boats from the main harbor would leave early in the morning and return as the sun was setting. We sat out on the balcony, braaiing delicious meat and having drinks to keep us refreshed.
Surfers cut up the waves at seal point, maneuvering their hips to get in, out and above the waves before dropping down for the ride. Their wetsuits guarded them from the cold waters and they moved skillfully away from the rocks. It was easy to see that they had been surfing here their whole lives. The lighthouse stands proudly in the corner acting as a protector for all passing ships and vessels.
One of the best ways to get around and view the town is by boat. We hired a small dingy and puttered off along the waterways and canals between the houses. It was low-season so everything was quiet and only a few people could be found on their balconies or out on the water. Once under the big bridge, we slowed as my husband steered us between hills growing with luscious vegetation and high reeds banking the river.
Closed houses are empty for the autumn and winter months and stand barren in wait of their owners return.
Birds with long legs and webbed feet waded in across the shallow parts of the river. A couple picnicked on a tiny outcrop of land beside the shore. Trees hung low over the water in a thirsty fashion. Aloes are scattered all over the Eastern Cape bushveld and present the brightest orange blooms.
The town is not entirely without shops and in the centre you can find coffee shops with wifi, video rental stores, a supermarket, art gallery and surf stores. All in all, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this town, if you’re looking for peace and quiet come in the off-season and find relaxation by the sea.