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    Bird watching of the feathered kind has become a significant part of our tourism mix here in the Ugu district.
    Avi-tourism as it is known in tourism parlance has for years been a growing aspect of our tourism offer and many destinations profile this pastime in their marketing mix.
    Our destination is no exception because we are blessed in having an abundance of birdlife at the coast and our lush forested hinterland as well. There are a number of birding guides and experts down here who can show our visitors our choice of over 400 species in some magnificent natural settings.
    For example, the new bird hide at Mpenjati situated on its picturesque lagoon provides binocular and Roberts Bird Guide junkies with an excellent spot to view the comings and goings of endemic and migratory species. Their view however may be distracted by some bathus naturalii who sometimes soak in the sun near there and do not feature in the guide.
    At the precipitous Oribi Gorge, the Cape Vulture colony is a sight to behold which is testimony to the outstanding conservation work done by local farmers and enthusiasts. Then in our uplands, KZN’s second largest indigenous forest at Ingeli is the habitat of many rare species including the reclusive Cape Parrot.
    In between all this, our many conservation areas and other Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife properties such as Vernon Crookes near Scottburgh and Umtamvuna Nature Reserves provide wonderful locations to ramble in nature and click away to one’s heart’s content.
    Birding is addictive- a friend from cricketing days who seemed to be very urban-social has now taken to this hobby and now he is on another tangent- no more beer with sports talk but more of where he saw some unpronounceable (Latin) bird in a tucked away place. To him seeing a bird from his bucket list is like finding treasure on some exotic tropical island.
    Avi-tourists are usually people in the 50 plus age group who are professional or retired, have disposable income and travel great distances at any time of year. So if you see folk in khakis, multi pocketed flak jackets, cameras with a zoom as long as an elephant’s trunk and binoculars with lenses more expensive than a Kruger Rand, you will know birders mean and are the business- great tourism business.
    Where better for them to do their sleuthing stuff than here- we are after all a birding paradise.
    Tweet your friends about it.

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    This is the last item for 2017 and no doubt all our locals and visitors will be soaking up all that we offer during this much needed year-end break.
    To me it is a time to shelve the stresses and strife of daily living and do so in a place where re-creation can flourish in the company of those precious to us.
    The South Coast and environs is the sort of destination that accommodates all visitor’s leisure needs.
    Our glorious beaches and multiple sand side entertainment programmes are legendary and for the more sedate, our seaside hamlets and tranquil coves offer that disarming respite from 21st century pressures. A water world day out is also a worthy option.
    In our main resort towns like Scottburgh, Margate, Shelly Beach and Port Edward the combination of sea, wining and dining and late night fun is always on the visitor’s menu. All our hosting towns and villages are spoilt for choice when it comes to having and ice cold pint or enjoying an inexpensive yet quality meal.
    There are those who love the presence of nature and our forests at Ingeli and the ever imposing Umtamvuna and Oribi gorges provide a playground for eco activity and adrenaline driving experiences. In addition our many conservancies and nature reserves from Umdoni all the way down the coast give us those special green spaces to relax and take in the diverse and unique flora and fauna.
    The more adventurous can go out to sea on dive and fishing charters and the rock fishing and camping folk can cast out and chill out next to the breakers. Those that like swinging (not that type!) can jump of cliffs or tee off at one of our ever hospitable golf clubs. Taking to the air in a plane of helicopter is another fancy of many as are beach horse rides and doing hosted beach hikes. This is excellent hike-bike and ride country.
    This is explore time in the rural byways where one can feel part of our proud cultural mix and the scenic environs in which people of our south live.
    One can also get revved up at our Dezzie South Coast Raceway where the excitement of motor sport will enthral those with a need for speed.
    This is shorts, T shirts, slops and light summer wear time where watches and cell phones are kept out of sight and our sub tropical nights and daily delights are enjoyed. 
    The retail junkies will be spoilt for choice at our many malls and shopping hubs and with over 200 event days (for all ages and interests) our summer event programme is worthy of checking out (www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za).
    In the similar words of that WW1 song “pack up your troubles in your old kit back and smile, smile smile”- have a very jolly holly here in our paradise.     

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    Over the past few weeks a number of media houses have been providing news that the domestic tourism season in South Africa looks to be down on the 2016/2017 holidays.
    It is not surprising given that the economy is in a shattered state, unemployment is worryingly high and socio-political uncertainty dominates the media waves.
    Down here we like the other tourism orientated destinations are not immune to this reality however we continue to promote our varied and worthy attractions and products as very much suited to the hard pressed wallet. We are not an expensive place to visit and as such I am confident that the market will realise this during the weeks ahead.
    There is no way that the local tourism sector is going to take our national circumstance lying down. Hospitality providers have been creative in their pricing and incentives and have also been pro-active in offering various and generous packages (e.g. golf) that will appeal to our various markets and at this time of year those with families.
    The South Coast no matter what will put its best face forward and with our extensive events calendar from Scottburgh to Port Edward providing much choice for our guests, come hell or high water we intend to make their stay as rewarding as possible.
    Talking of water, even though we have had generous rains of late, the recent drought has not been fully overcome and many of our province’s dams are still low. It is appropriate then for us all to remain water conscious and have that spare supply on standby.
    As I write the weather is yet to show a more favourable hand but by the time that most visitors are here, we will have blue sea and sky days that will lighten up the festive spirit.
    Please drive safely and consume alcohol responsibly so that we all can have a sunny and safe time and may 2018 be better for all.

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    Last Week we hosted senior representatives from the Consul General of the USA and the KZN Premier’s Office and part of the day involved short visits to some of our tourism experiences.
    We decided to focus on the Umtamvuna area where we took in a very informative tour of the unique and hospitable coffee farm at Beaver Creek. It is amazing how the coffee culture has taken root- coffee being the most traded commodity after oil! Now we have an increasingly popular agri-tourism attraction in our mix of banana, sugar and crocodile farm experiences.
    In the afternoon we went on a beach horse ride from Selsdon Park Estate. Having not even sat on horse for more than 40 years I was initially a bit weary however the very gentle and well trained quadrupeds did their bit to perfection. It was a doddle.
    The ride took us through the rolling cane fields, some handsome holiday home properties, lush coastal bush and finally on to the shores of the ocean. My take is that the ride gives one an opportunity to connect with the senses and have time to contemplate and realise the importance of timelessness in nature.
    Needless to say after the lovely time out, my rear was a bit stiff but I guess that goes with many decades of not being on a horse! My great-grandfather would be turning in his grave as he was a successful saddler in Durban in the early 20th century.
    They say if we learn something from each experience then the journey is all worth the while and for me it is that I am further convinced that our great destination has wonderful things to do other than going to our ever popular beaches or being captured by the lure of the deep sea.
    One may say “aah your day was just a coffee and a canter” – aikona it was much, much more than that and our guests (especially the well travelled diplomats) were very impressed with our sub tropical garden of adventure.
    We are certainly a much to do and see destination and to our guests I advise try the unusual and unexpected it will make such a difference to your already enjoyable stay.

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    Global brand Coca Cola has selected our resort town of Margate as one of its world-wide selected tourism destinations as part of its newly introduced branding campaigns.
    The company is to brand Margate on their destination packs and this is great news for us! It is our sun tropical Margate not that grey town on the chilly shores of the English Channel.
    Margate has been selected along with other well known destinations such as Monaco, Hawaii, Miami, Barbados and Bali we are in good company.
    This is a wonderful accolade for Margate and the South Coast. To have Margate on destination packs for arguably the world’s most recognised brand is an indication that our tourism offering has been a South African favourite for decades.  Margate can proudly sit alongside some of the world’s big ticket destinations that are profiled within this huge campaign.
    I know that there are thousands of people who collect such memorabilia so they should come down to the South Coast and source these unique items whilst they savour the famed hospitality of South Coast the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.
    It appears that “our” cans and bottles are already on the shelves so why not grab a few and share with our visitors?
    This pleasing development could not have come at a better time as the summer season gets into gear. I am hopeful that our visitors will once again really enjoy our lovely leisure-land and all the entertainment and events that will be on offer. My marketing team tell me that over 200 events are on the calendar- there is going to be mega choice for our guests this year!
    So before the inevitable rush we would like to wish all South Coasters a sunny and safe season and may our taps run filled all season.
    Enjoy- I’m off to source a Margate in a can!

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  • Looking into Africa

    We on the South Coast have consistently recognised that the key markets for our diverse leisure and lifestyle mix lie in our South African consumers.
    It is however worthwhile for us to seek new opportunity from Africa itself. After all, the vast majority of our foreign visitors come from SADC nations albeit mainly for retail and business purposes.
    We also need to recognise that the African market for holiday and leisure is an opportunity to pursue. Africa is gearing up for tourism growth according to Issue 4 2017 of African Decisions.
    It is reported that by 2034, air travel passengers on the continent will triple from 107 million in 2015 to 294 million with an average 4.7% growth. In Ethiopia, their international airport will from 2024 serve 120 million passengers – this will make this hub larger than Heathrow Airport in the UK.
    In 2016, African airlines recorded their best growth (7.4%) since 2012 which suggests that there is increased mobility for air travel – as of 31 July 2017, there was a year-on year increase of 16.8% in seat bookings. Johannesburg and Durban airports are considered of the busiest in Africa and as such, we need to aspire to those inbound visitors to translate their reason to visit as holidaymakers and leisure enthusiasts.
    This is one of the reasons why we promote the South Coast at the annual Tourism Indaba which is morphing into a continental expo as opposed to just a South African event. Furthermore, our promotions in Johannesburg are showing increased attendance of ex-pats from other African countries seeking ideal leisure options whilst they are here.
    I believe that in sustaining our long haul markets in the northern hemisphere remains vital but going forward promotion in the SADC countries could well bring new flows of tourist to this great part of South Africa.
    A start was the recent tour of our destination by a group of Namibian travel agents who by all accounts were impressed with our diverse set of tourism and hospitality options.
    They loved their stay in our impressive leisure land as I am sure will the rest of our African guests from outside our borders.

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  • KZN and South Coast is Summer

    At the end of last month the South Coast was privileged in being the host destination for the launch of the KZN is Summer campaign which is a provincial initiative to garner public interest in KZN for the forthcoming festive season.
    Part of the day’s programme at St Michael’s Beach was a live SABC broadcast at the crack of dawn which was an excellent and effective publicity opportunity.
    Before going on camera I looked around the area and it was great to see dozens of surfers relishing their rides and even more people getting ready for the weekly Park Run and on the beach, young people were happily playing volley ball and soccer.
    The precinct was a hive of healthy activity which really put our area in a good light on national television. The chilled essence of the South Coast really came to the fore.
    The day did not just focus on the coast. Later on, we hosted the MEC, media and the public at Kwa Nzimakwe which is a rural tourism development project also featured in our informative Southern Explorer Route Guide.
    Being there was a pleasant change from surf and sea and the views from up there are simply outstanding. In the mix were visits to clan elders, a sangoma and the impressive craft market – all within walking distance from the secure parking lot at the well appointed visitor centre.
    What was interesting is that two citizens from north of the equator have built comfortable homes and live there. One I spoke to is from the UK and in his words- “This is far safer and more pleasant than living in any urban area”. Seeing what is there I think I concur- there is really a sense of community and people who know everybody else and they pull together so there is scant scope for baddies to do their disruptive stuff.
    It was also an honour to meet with the Nkosi who is very supportive of tourism initiatives and clearly wants his people to have a slice of the tourism pie. Next week we are going back there to do a full potential and needs audit as a means to determine value adding aspects to the local area and capacitate members of this friendly host community.
    So as summer gathers momentum, spare a thought for our lovely inland routes and take some great drives out. One will be pleasantly surprised.

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  • South Coast Bike Fest 2018- Bring It On

    South Coast Bike Fest 2018 (27-30 April) is a go and following from its 2017 success we look forward to hosting an amazing feast of festivity, music and an impressive array of motor bikes and their owners who have come to love Margate and the South Coast for their preferred ride to leisure and pleasure.
    This is a bikers paradise- one happy biker said last year “Its lekker in leisure land”.
    Just a thought-  if we have about 500 bikers resident on the South Coast and each personally gets 5 bikes to the South Coast, that equates to 2 500 bikes Not to be scoffed at and that’s just for starters.
    Naturally, through our marketing and promotional actions in the media, extensive biker networks, dealerships and clubs we should have at least a further 2-3 000 bikes at the event. A conservative attendance of 5 000 bikes (more than that in terms of people) would then make for an impressive biker aspect to the event which for them will be gratis.
    The beauty of this extravaganza is that most attendees are from outside our area and in most cases they overnight and spend at the number of hospitality venues and retail outlets. Furthermore, bikers and visitors will also trek out into our lovely rural and inland areas. Bikers are an adventurous lot so spend away from the coast will be of much value to the local economy in those areas.
    The added value of retail, superb entertainment and fun within a secure and aesthetically conducive seaside promenade will also provide an excellent reason for the general public and visitors to stream into the precinct and join the value for money vibe. It will be quality leisure time at its best.
    In 2018 we want to exceed 60 000 attendees over the four days and if we do, the fest can again rightly claim to be the biggest of its type in Africa- what an incentive so all and sundry get your invites out and join us in making next year’s fest magical.
    The organisation for South Coast Bike Fest 2018 has kick started (in fact much was being done some time ago) so may Margate and our entire destination once again present itself with pride.

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  • Have We Noted

    Recently I took a beachfront drive between Port Shepstone and Margate and there was clear evidence that once basic beach properties are being renovated and in many instances rebuilt with the creative help from I would guess pretty expensive architects.
    This sends a clear signal that people with or longing for a coastal property see the merit in our destination and a location worthy of capital investment. The investment appeal of the greater South Coast is coming back and rightly so.
    The new and impressive Saints View timeshare at Uvongo with its vista filled views is another example of this trend. If we add to this municipal investment (some say at last) in fixing the fishing pier at Uvongo and getting ahead with the repairs of the Olympic swimming pool and the new beach club on the riverside, both private and public investment is uplifting the discernible merits of our destination.
    Scottburgh has already started with their large new residence property called Renishaw Hills and a new investor for that grand dame the Cutty Sark Hotel has come to the fore. Inland in our ever popular eco activity area of Oribi Gorge there is new ownership with improvements at the hotel there and at Ingeli a newly formed hotel group has included the lodge at the forest in their stable of properties.
    Furthermore, First Group who own a number of hotel and timeshare properties continue to invest as do the Beekman Group who have also had a hand in sorting out repairs to the beach walkway at Banana Beach.
    Cem Air, provider of flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town have announced that they plan to utilise a new 76 seat aircraft to for the Margate service. This they would not do unless consumer demand was evident. They also have a 90 seat plane handy as well. This is noteworthy.
    Our major road system is being upgraded and that does influence road user comfort in getting around our lengthy coastline and inland as well. In last week’s paper, calls for small craft harbour development were made and upgrades to certain beach amenities (e.g. Southport and Margate Whale Deck) have been done.
    At our gateway Scottburgh, upgrades to the main beach precinct have commenced and the municipality has allocated funds to do likewise in places such as Park Rynie and Pennington.
    There is some way to go when we can universally say all is spot on and certainly pockets of amenities and essential services do require attention however we also need to recognise the good stuff- and that is happening all round us and to the benefit of this lovely destination.

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  • Summer Season Launch

    On the 28th of this month, KwaZulu-Natal is doing the official summer season launch from St Michaels Beach.
    The occasion will not only give us an opportunity to profile our destination to the accompanying media (including TV) but also to provide a platform for us to engage with the top brass in government regarding new tourism developments throughout the district.
    Naturally other areas will be joining us but we see the day being one for us to strut our stuff as it were- our local Area Committee Chairpersons will be invited so that they too can get interest in their localities as well. Tours have been arranged for delegates and media and SABC TV will also be filming our tourism assets at the coast and in our rural areas.
    Beach games will be on the go at the site which we hope will impress our visitors and event attendees. After a disrupted spring holiday, we are grateful that the tourism department has identified us as the host area so that we can get pre festive season interest on the up.
    Before we know it, the end of year season will be on us so this launch will mobilise the tourism sector into top gear so that we can have as good a season as possible.
    So get the festive lights ready, give your property a good lick of paint so that come year end the South Coast can really impress.
    When on song this has to be the best leisure option around.

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