East London is an attractive city on the Eastern Cape’s “sunshine coast” in South Africa. Peak periods see scores of holiday-makers enjoying the white beaches, fun water-world activities and the rocky tidal pools that stretch for miles. The best known beaches are Nahoon Beach with its rocky walkway, Orient Beach with superb grassy areas and swimming pools and the Blue Flag Gonubie Beach 25 kms north of the city. Some less crowded beaches are gaining a reputation as Black Flag Beaches, as two young women tourists from Dallas, Texas, well know.

Crime on the beaches becoming prevalent

Crime on the beaches rarely makes for national headlines in South Africa, but it is becoming more prevalent. Having booked into the restful and attractive Natures Rest Chalets at Rock Cove south of the city, we naturally wanted to explore the beaches close by. The nearest beach, right next to the Race Track, was only a few hundred meters away and looked attractive and interesting. Rocky tidal pools beckoned, and away to the right stood Cove Rock surrounded by white sand. Through a chance encounter at the resort’s swimming pool, one of the campers told us to be very careful about going down to the beach as there had been reports of theft of cell phones and money by beach-goers. “It is not safe to park your car there,” he told us, as we might be ‘hijacked.”

Prostitutes and drunks

How disappointing  it is to be right at the beach and not be able to go and play on it. We took a drive instead, and followed the road through what appeared to be old municipal change rooms and picnic spots, now derelict and overgrown. There were many prostitutes dotted along at intervals, brazenly offering their services to passing motorists. A drunken man staggered past and slumped down next to the road. That decided us, so we planned to #Travel down to Kidd’s beach the next day to enjoy a day at the sea. On the way back to our rest camp we saw two young women running through the dunes and onto the road. Waving frantically, they ran towards us and asked us for a ride.

A near miss for two American women

The girls were staying in the area and it turned out that they too had just arrived. “We wanted to walk on the beach, you know," said Angie in her Texas drawl, “when this man came up to us and said he wanted to make love to us.” They were so concerned about his aggressive attitude that when they refused and he demanded money, Jenny, her companion threw a handful of money at him and they ran. It was fortunate for them that we were passing by. We saw the man skulking off into the dune forest. Angie and Jenny did not want to go to the police to make a report; they just wanted to get out of East London as quickly as they could.

Fishermen attacked

It appears this is not an isolated incident.  The Daily Despatch reported in 2013 that Leach beach, where the fabulous Waterworld Fun Park is situated, is one of the most dangerous crime areas. Dispatch Live reported last year on a man who was severely assaulted whilst out fishing at the Gulu River Mouth. In another incident at the Race Track near Rock Cove , a fisherman received an injured skull after being attacked by a man with a brick. There have been incidents from Chintsa, Bonza Bay, Gonubie, Cove Rock, Xanadu, Monkey Bay and Gulu over the past years.

Travellers must be aware of the dangers

Travellers to East London need to be aware that they should take care of which beaches they choose to stroll along on the sunshine coast. It is a good idea to stay close to other holiday makers and keep valuables such as mobile phones out of sight. Nobody wants to end up as a victim of South Africa’s escalating crime problems on one of the Black Flag beaches .