When the infamous shark attacks took place in the small coastal villages on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal in December 1957, they transformed the once popular holiday areas into virtual ghost towns. During what became to be known as Black December sharks literally had free reign on beaches unprotected by shark nets. Attacking indiscriminately, they killed and maimed bathers in Margate and Uvongo, terrifying holidaymakers who were visiting the area. The drama that saw five bathers lose their lives and numerous others maimed started in Scottburgh on 18 December when a 16-year-old lifeguard felt something brush against his leg. The bodysurfer soon realised he was in trouble as a large dorsal fin broke the water close to him, before the shark attacked him. The young man however, was one of the lucky ones, only losing part of his leg in the attack.
A sign of things to come, the coast continued to be terrorised by these mighty beasts for the next year and most families did the sensible thing and fled. Newspaper reports indicate that the panic was widespread. Traffic jams stopped the flow of people as those desperate to get away from the threat clogged the narrow coastal roads as they attempted to leave. Despite attempts by local businesses and hotels reliant on the holiday trade to protect the bathers by erecting crude ‘shark nets’, the visitors fear was too deep rooted and many businesses were unable to continue operating and finally declared themselves bankrupt.
The need for something to protect bathers became paramount and the subsequent research led to the formation on the Natal Sharks Board. These days most beaches from as far as Richards Bay to the north and Port Edward to the south have shark nets, allowing bathers to swim in relative safety.
Once the threat of the attacks had been removed, holidaymakers returned, bringing welcome relief to those who lived in the area. Today there is scant reminder of the horrors that took place here so long ago – except the regular patrols by the Sharks Board who go out on a daily basis to check that the nets are secure.
As with other coastal areas, the once sleepy seaside area was transformed in the boom. People who had been holidaying in the small towns for years suddenly had the opportunity of owning a holiday home. Large developments seemed to pop up on a daily basis to keep up with demand and prices soared. Unfortunately, as with any recession, coastal properties appear to bear the brunt of a downturn. For sale signs started littering the streets as many homeowners realised that owning a second home was an expense they could no longer afford. Sales slumped as the demand far outstripped the demand.
The tide is beginning to return as more and more people discover this gorgeous stretch of coastline. Shelly Beach in particular has seen a healthy return of sales. Regarded as the commercial hub of the entire region, the area has always been a popular choice for those looking for a little action. Situated in the middle of the other holiday hotspots, Margate, Uvongo and St Michaels are all within close proximity.
Lightstone statistics reveal that there have been a total of 130 sales concluded in the area in the last 12 months. There were 78 freehold sales and the average price paid for a free hold property was R1040 000. The highest price attained in this sector of the market share was R3.2m. Sectional title sales made up 52 sales for the annual period and the average price paid for a unit in the area was R1022 000.
The area has been a popular holiday spot for years and many of those who no longer need to take an annual break retire here. Crime levels are relatively low and the scenery is beautiful – small wonder then that the South Coast is once again coming into its own.