Coastline confusion

Can anyone tell me exactly how long South Africa’s coastline is? I am talking about our coastline – excluding any islands that we may have jurisdiction over.

Situated at the southern tip of Africa and surrounded by sea on “three sides,” we like to assume that we have access to a generous coastline, but the actual length does not seem to be cast in stone.

I’ve had the opportunity to dwell on this elusive fact over the last few months while writing and editing a number of pieces for a variety of sources. I was even tempted to take out a length of string and attempt to do something I last did in High School during map work in Geography, but decided rather to spend my evening drinking wine with friends (achieving life/work balance).

But yesterday I received a press release that stretched our coastline to its limits. Apparently South Africa now has “almost 4,000 kilometres” of coastline to be proud of.  And it does not seem that the PR company was adding any offshore coast from island territories to this accumulation.

I am used to receiving press releases that peg the coast at anywhere between 2,500 km and 3,000 km long, so this additional 1,000 kilometres is really a windfall for the country.

Perhaps this is part of Operation Phakisa’s strategy to expand the maritime industry (the press release did allude to this Government-led project), but I am not sure that our neighbours would be too happy with us claiming a portion of their coastline in order to increase our maritime prospects.

So – can anyone tell me the real, undisputed length of our coastline?



4 thoughts on “Coastline confusion

  1. Hi Colleen

    Great read – wish I new the answer…

    Think I should also just rather stick to maintaining work/life balance [&#X1f60a]



    Yvette De Klerk Operations & Marketing Manager Marine Crew Services SA (Pty) Ltd



  2. Hi Colleen
    It all depends on the measurement resolution that is used. If this is in the hundreds of kilometers, then the smaller number would apply as the coastline could be estimated using a few straight lines.
    Dropping down to a few kilometers, smaller features like bays need to be taken into account and many more straight lines are needed. If the resolution is in meters then individual rocks start to get mapped and the coastline length starts to get really big. One can go even smaller where the individual grains of sand come into play….. It is called the Coastline Paradox.

    Brgds, Maurice


  3. Hi Colleen – From a trusted source:
    “The exact total length is 3924 km. Data source NGI. When we compare this to our vector coastline (charted coastline) we get very close, but as it is based on different scales some of the coastline may be a bit generalised and you lose some of the nooks and crannies.”

    Liked by 1 person

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