South African nudists on Thursday prepared for an Easter weekend of volleyball and sack races when the continent's first official naturist beach opens despite objections from some locals. A 500-metre (yard) stretch of Mpenjati Beach, which lies on the Indian Ocean, received local government approval last year to become an official nudist venue.
South Africa has been home to unofficial nude beaches for decades, such as Cape Town's famous Sandy Bay.
Mpenjati Beach itself, located about 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of Africa's busiest port of Durban, has been a popular strip-off spot for about 20 years. "There has been no concern from the residents for decades until now," said Serge Pavlovic, chairman of the South African National Naturist Association (SANNA).
"Things over the years have progressed that now having naturist beaches is common practice. The logical consequence was to make it official so we would no longer need to fear arrest," he told AFP.
Nudists risked arrest for indecent exposure on South Africa's beaches in the years of apartheid rule. Technically, public nudity is still banned. The Hibiscus Coast local municipality approved SANNA's application in October and the beach was set to open officially Friday.
Last-minute objections by a local group secured a compromise from officials, who have designated the opening as a "trial run".
The residents' group said in its appeal that naked sun-lovers would have a "negative effect on a society that is striving for wholesome lifestyles". It also said visitor facilities cannot be built as the beach is a marine protected area.
But local authorities deferred a decision on the appeal, allowing the opening to go ahead. Pavlovic said planned weekend activities would include volleyball and sack races.