10 Experiences To Be Had Along South Africa's Wild Coast.
South Africa’s least spoilt coastline is found in the Eastern Cape between the Mtamvuna River in the north and the Great Kei River to the south.
Offering visitors a temperate climate, long walks on unspoilt beaches, Nguni cows lazing on the beach, colourful Xhosa homes, prolific and plentiful birdlife, friendly locals, breath-taking cliff hikes/walks and great expanses of undeveloped wilderness – not to mention the incredible sunrises and sunsets. It's the perfect destination for an untamed, rugged, remote experience- and the perfect place to go to get away from it all.
Here are 10 not-to-be-missed experiences during your visit:
1. Cathedral Rock, Waterfall Bluff & Trail - Port St Johns
A series of near-vertical cliffs south of the Msikaba River, between Port St Johns and the Mkambathi Nature Reserve (but closer to the Msikaba River than Port St Johns), Waterfall Bluff is one of only 19 waterfalls world-wide that fall directly into the sea, and only one of two such waterfalls in Africa.
Know that the waterfall is not that easy to reach; and one can't simply drive to a clearly marked lookout point and gaze at it. However, hikers can get right to the waterfall and even behind the falls. Reaching the waterfall as part of a hike is not that difficult. Depending on how you plan things. There are numerous options. You can do it as part of a seven-day waterfall hike, or as part of the famous (read: taxing 280 km trail; although you can break it into shorter chunks) Wild Coast Hiking Trail.
OR you can choose to stay at Mkambathi Nature Reserve (in which case the falls are relatively close), or nearby at Mbotyi, in which case the hike is bout 28 km up the coast (you will need a guide).
A few kilometres walk from the bluff is another geographical phenomenon, a free-standing, vertical rock with its own 'hole in the wall' known as Cathedral Rock, well worth the additional steps. Also, if you're with a guide, he or she should include the undisclosed Mfihlelo Falls, just a few kilometres away from Waterfall Bluff. Another waterfall that falls straight into the ocean (and one that is not registered on the world list of waterfalls that fall into the sea).
2. Mapuzi Caves & Trail
The Mapuzi Cliffs and Caves are considered a gem of the Wild Coast that you shouldn’t miss. It is a great full or half-day hike from Coffee Bay- only 2.5kms away its perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time to spare.
The Mapuzi Cave takes you along the cliff toward the cave where the cliff meets the ocean. At the cliff you'll find cave pools, a natural jacuzzi formed by rocks, shells and, if you're brave enough, mind-blowing cliff jumps. The highest cliff jump at the Mapuzi Cave is 14m.
3. Grab a drink in a local shebeen.
I consider this to be top of the list of must-do's when in the Transkei. A shebeen isn’t your typical pub down the road, it is merely a quirky structure comprising of whatever was in the area at that time, with a tin roof. Grab a quarts, mix with the locals and enjoy a taste of the simple life.
4. Bulungula Beach
Bulungula is secluded, making the drive to it challenging. A 4 x 4 is preferable, and it is recommended that visitors stay for longer than a brief day trip. Local activities include swimming, surfing, hiking, fishing, cycling and canoeing. Because of the spectacular vistas all around, even lying on a blanket and reading a good book is turned into an unforgettable memory.
5. Mdumbi Beach
A very small, secluded beach, known only to locals and avid surfers that are familiar with its incredible waves.
6. Umngazi River Bungalows, Hotel & Spa
Umngazi Hotel & Spa is situated about 20km south of Port St Johns on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. It is a magical holiday destination offering all guests the opportunity to escape from reality and truly relax, refresh, rejuvenate and reconnect. With wide open spaces, fresh clean air, a wild warm ocean, a pristinely beautiful beach, a variety of hikes, walks and trails, comfortable accommodation and delicious mouth watering meals (included in the rate), there are not many reasons not to visit this idyllic paradise.
Set high on the Umngazi hillside, with breathtaking views of the coast below, guests are treated to a tranquil experience, which is difficult to beat. Dedicated, professional therapists are on
hand with a full range of treatments and therapies at the Umngazi Spa.
7. Hole in the Wall
One of the most iconic of the natural wonders of the Wild Coast is Hole in the Wall in Coffee Bay. Living up to its name, this is a massive hole carved by the waves in a free-standing mountain (or island) in the water.
The mountain is impressive in stature, standing proud like a sentry at the shores of the Eastern Cape. The waves crash around it and burst through the hole; creating a stunning display of the power and magnitude of the ocean.
Xhosa mythology tells a far more romantic tale of the sea people of the Wild Coast, semi deities who look like humans but have supple wrists and ankles and flipperlike hands and feet. A beautiful girl living on the Wild Coast, in a village near a lagoon, cut off from the sea by a mighty cliff, was seen by one of the sea people who became overwhelmed by her beauty and tried to woo her. To cut a long story short: in dealing with the wrath of her father, the sea people enlisted the help of a huge fish who battered its way headfirst through the wall of rock. Through this hole spilled the sea people who swept the young Xhosa maiden away.
8. Zac's Seafood Kitchen
For the best seafood available in Coffee Bay, head on out to Zac's Seafood Kitchen. A casual dining experience with tables on a patio overlooking Coffee Bay's main road. Also serving great burgers, steaks & pizzas for those who don't like seafood.
9. Canoe down the Xhora River
The Xhora is one of many rivers that gracefully wind their way down to the Wild Coast, through the hill and past the clay huts, it goes, supporting the local fisherman and providing much needed nourishment to the livestock of the land.
Canoeing is one of the many activities offered by community driven backpacker lodge, Bulungula.
10. Experience a rocker shower
I rate this as a must-have experience, even though I couldn't even seem to master it myself. A "rocket-shower"is an environmentally-friendly shower at one of the backpackers that uses paraffin to heat the chimney pipe which in turn heats the water and … you have hot water! That's if you can manage to get it working.
There is a 7-step guide on how to start the shower and these are placed all around the ablution facilities at Bulungula Lodge for ease of reference. It lasts for about 7 minutes, apparently.
Mastering the art of hot water or not, trying to figure out how to get this working with a couple of friends was one of the funniest experiences I had along this coastline.
Try Xhosa bread. Even better if it's toasted with cheese and tomato or with a thick layer of butter. Thank me later.