The Eastern Cape Wild Coast runs along a rugged coast of untouched shorelines, shipwrecks and traditional Xhosa Culture. From marine safari activities to local cultural encounters and adrenaline adventures, the Wild Coast shows off with exquisite coastal scenery and outdoor excursions fit for the whole family.
Get Out And About and Explore!
Nelson Mandela Museum
Travel to Qunu, birthplace of Nelson Mandela for a guided tour of the Nelson Mandela Museum and heritage trail that follows in Mandela’s footsteps. Opened in 2000, on the 10th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Madiba insisted that the museum serve to uplift and develop the surrounding community, instead of being just a tribute to him.
The museum covers three separate locations – Bhunga, a building in Mthatha which tells the story of Madiba’s life in the leader’s own words from his book, “The Long Walk to Freedom”, the open-air museum called Mvezo, where he was born, and the Nelson Mandela Heritage and Youth Centre in the village of Qunu, where he spent his childhood.
With a clear 15km stretch of beach, natural forest, exciting outdoor adventures, cultural encounters on tap and a range of accommodations and restaurants, Chintsa is recognised as one of South Africa’s prime coastal destinations. It is the perfect chill-out hideaway for travellers of all ages. Chintsa has become one of the top ‘voluntourism’ centres in South Africa. Chintsa (formerly spelt ‘Cintsa’) lies on both flanks of the mouth of the Chintsa River in the Eastern Cape, about 40km north of East London off the N2 highway.
For many generations it has been a favoured holiday and fishing spot for both locals and visitors from further afield. There are few more attractive sights than watching a group of riders and their mounts galloping across the stretch of wide, clean beach that makes Chintsa so special. Then there is also the very pleasant sensation of chilling out in a hammock on a resort lawn overlooking the Chintsa Lagoon, sipping a cold drink, reading a book and occasionally lifting one’s eyes to the Indian Ocean for a sighting of a passing whale or a frolicking pod of bottlenose dolphins.
Areena Riverside Resort – (Abseiling, Quad Biking, Canoeing, Ziplines, Fishing, Open Air Movies, River Cruises, hiking, Sea Kayak, Paintball, Archery, Segway Safari Tour) – http://www.areenaresort.com/
Health and Wellness – http://www.pranalodge.co.za/wellness-spa/prana-lodge-wellness-spa.htm
Outreach and Volunteer – http://www.ahj.co.za/outreach.asp
Buccaneers Lodge & Backpackers – (Surfing, Beach Horse Rides, Yoga, Massages and more) https://cintsa.com/
Legendary Hole in the Wall
You have not done the Wild Coast unless you have been to the “Hole in the Wall”.
It is a rocky archway on the Wild Coast that was created millions of years ago by the relentless action of the waves crashing against the sandstone. There is a little holiday village of the same name overlooking this rocky phenomenon located at the mouth of the Mpako River in Coffee Bay. Xhosa legend holds that this is the gateway to the world of their ancestors and they refer to it as “esiKhaleni”, which means “place of thunder” or “place of sound”.
Hole in the Wall is situated roughly in the centre of the 300km stretch of Wild Coast, mid-way between Port Edward in the north, and East London in the south.
Fall for Mkambathi – Nature Reserve
Situated on the coast of north-Eastern Pondoland, the Mkambathi Nature Reserve offers 7 720ha of open grasslands, dotted with indigenous forest patches and swamp forests flanked by magnificent forested ravines of the Msikaba and Mtentu rivers.
This spectacularly scenic, authentic, coastal wilderness will take your breath away. Here the river tumbles down precipices into deep, dark rock pools, finally cascading directly into the ocean (one of only 19 waterfalls in the world – which plummets into the ocean).
You will fall for Mkambathi!
Hard to Leave Hluleka
Travellers say the more difficult the road the bigger the reward at the end of it – something spectacular, handcrafted by nature to ignite your senses and take your breath away. Lying 30 km south of Port St Johns, Hluleka Nature Reserve is one of the Wild Coast’s most rewarding experiences.
Upon your arrival at Hluleka you will be mesmerised! It is well-priced and well-equipped. The fabulous double storey wooden chalets overlook the most spectacular beach… Spend your days relaxing on the protected, pristine beach, meandering on paths through the forest and up to the hill tops, spotting the elusive blue duiker and eland and delighting in the abundant bird life and curious herd of zebra. It is not the return trip that makes it hard to leave Hluleka!
Get to Hluleka this holiday – You will never want to leave! Other magnificent provincial coastal nature reserves include Dwesa and Silaka.
Top 10 Things to Do in Coffee Bay
Here are the top 10 things to do in Coffee Bay, according to Coffee Shack Backpackers:
- Take surfing lessons.
- Go on a guided hike to Hole in the Wall.
- Make your own Djembe drum.
- Spend a homestay night in Rhini village and experience. traditional Xhosa culture.
- Go on a guided hike to Manuzi Cliffs and Caves
- Experience a village dinner – a fun night of dancing and singing with traditional Xhosa food and beer.
- Learn to play the Djembe drum.
- Horse ride on Coffee Bay Beach and in the surrounding hills.
- Lie in a hammock with a cocktail and relax.
- Take an early morning walk and watch the sun rise on Coffee Bay beach.
Coffee Bay is 200km north of East London along the N2, 80km down the coastal road to the Wild Coast
A must do Mzamba Fossils - & petrified forest trail
How about a guided tour of a petrified forest and fossil hunt at Mzamba on the most northern part of the Wild Coast?
Although called a petrified forest, the trees that formed it did not actually grow there. They were washed down the rivers. The wood got waterlogged, submerged and penetrated by marine worms. Over time the wood became silicified (converted into silica) and formed what can be seen there today.
The fossils, that form part of the Mzamba Cretaceous Deposits, can be seen under and in between almost every rock and found in deposits of sandstone and limestone in an exposed 10-metre cliff band along the beach. It is extremely rich in fossil material dating back 80-million years. Masses of marine shells – tightly coiled ammonites, echinoids (sea urchins) and bivalve shells can be found here. Look out for shark teeth.
A series of cliffs and overhangs, called White Man’s Cave, is at the furthest end of the trail. Sitting inside them and looking up at fossils in the cave roof is awe-inspiring.
Exploring this rare piece of rare natural history is a must do on every road tripper’s list.
Many of South Africa’s black leaders, including Walter Sisulu and the late Nelson Mandela come from this area. Mthatha is the home of one of the three Nelson Mandela Museums. Spread across three sites, it collects, interprets and exhibits key aspects of the story of the life and times of the late Nelson Mandela in context. The three historical sites of the museum are all in the locality at Mvezo, Qunu and the Bunga Building in Mthatha itself.
In the Bunga Building is the story of the Long Walk to Freedom and an exhibition of the many gifts received by Nelson Mandela on behalf of the South African people.
Nelson Mandela Museum – http://www.nelsonmandelamuseum.org.za/
Luchaba Nature Reserve – https://www.visiteasterncape.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Destination-Guide-2016.pdf
Lying on Route 61, just inland from the beautiful coastal villages of Port St Johns and Mbotyi, Lusikisiki is wild. The countryside is rugged, remote and untamed, and time has virtually stood still in a part of the world known as ‘God’s country’ or Pondoland. The little town gets its name from the sound of the wind moving through the grass. Here the countryside, a series of rolling hills, lush tropical forests, wide open spaces, untouched beaches and an untamed mystery supports the local people’s lifestyle that has changed little over the years.
Magwa Waterfall – http://www.wildcoastholiday.co.za/listing/the-magwa-waterfall
Wild Coast Pondo Walk – http://www.wildcoastholiday.co.za/listing/wild_coast_holiday_hiking
Port St Johns
If you are after rustic authenticity and big smiles, then Port St Johns, South Africa is the place for you. Port St Johns is renowned for its unparalleled natural beauty and relaxed lifestyle, which makes it a wonderful place to have a holiday. Port St Johns is probably named after the São João, a Portuguese ship that was wrecked off this coastline in 1552. Port St Johns is a swashbuckling village of legend on the Pondo side of the Wild Coast. It is also one of the highlights on any international backpacker’s world itinerary because of its natural setting, frontier atmosphere and appeal to more adventurous younger travelers. The village lies on the Umzimvubu River – Xhosa for ‘hippo’. The most famous hippo ever to have visited Port St Johns was Huberta who ventured south in 1931 and settled upriver for more than four months during her trek from Zululand down to the Eastern Cape.
Kei River Mouth
The lovely seaside holiday village of Kei Mouth, is situated an hours drive from East London in South Africa’s scenic Eastern Cape Wild Coast region. You will find a wide variety of Kei Mouth accommodation available in the town. Kei Mouth is popular due to its location as the southern entry point to the Transkei Wild Coast and is also the starting point for the challenging Imana Wild Ride and the Wild Run series events, which are held annually.
There are several sandy beaches, warm hospitality, good fishing and many activities to offer. Kei Mouth has a 9-hole links golf course and country club, two horse riding operators, a game reserve just outside of town, several easy coastal hikes, a popular surf spot, ski-boat launch site and bird watching spots. Kei Mouth is also home to the ‘Pont’, one of South Africa’s two remaining car-transporting pontoon river ferry services. The Pont carries vehicles, passengers and livestock across the Great Kei on a daily basis and the trip is an unforgettable experience.
For more info: email@example.com
Fishing – http://www.keimouth.co.za/activities/Fishing.htm
Strandloper Hiking Trail – http://www.strandlopertrails.org.za/
Horse Riding – http://www.wildcoasthorsebackadventures.com/
Township Tour – http://www.keimouth.co.za/townshiptours/
Trevor’s Trail – https://www.trennerys.co.za/trevors-trails/
The peaceful seaside holiday village of Morgan Bay is located less than an hour from East London on the Wild Coast. Morgan Bay is blessed with a mile-long beach, safe swimming lagoon and picturesque sea cliffs. Activities on offer in the area include horse riding, golf, game drives, hiking trails and fishing.
Morgan Bay has been a favourite holiday destination with generations of South African families, who are lured back there year after year. It is not hard to see why. Far from the stresses of city life, it is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy some well-earned relaxation, breathe in the fresh sea air and forge fond memories and strong friendships. There are lots of things to keep the young ones entertained, particularly on Morgan Bays’ excellent beach, which is patrolled by lifeguards during the festive season, and shallow swimming lagoon.
During the day you can gaze at passing ships on the horizon, relax on the beach with a book, play a round of golf in Kei Mouth, or take a walk along the beach and picturesque cliffs / krantzes. There are several good fishing spots in the area and ski-boats can be launched from the mouth of the nearby Kei River. The more adventurous may enjoy a canter along the Morgans Bay beach with Mkulu Kei Horse Trails, or a game drive at Endalweni Private Game Reserve, while those in need of some pampering can enjoy spa treatments at the Morgan Bay Hotel.
Slightly further afield and only a short drive over the cliffs from Morgan’s Bay, is Double Mouth Nature Reserve and the ever popular Bead Beach (Treasure Beach), site of a 16th century Portuguese shipwreck, where Carnelian Beads, Money Cowries and shards of broken Ming Porcelain lie scattered amongst the shells.
Many good times have been enjoyed by families and friends who meet, every evening in summer, for sundowners on the Morgan Bay cliffs. It is the perfect way to reflect on the day and forget your troubles.
At night you can lie relaxed in comfortable accommodation while being lulled by the ocean, glorious stars and the intermittent beam of the Cape Morgan Lighthouse across the bay.
Camping @ Double Mouth – https://www.visiteasterncape.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Destination-Guide-2016.pdf
Hiking and Walking Trails – http://www.morganbayhotel.co.za/activities/walks.pdf
Horse Riding – http://www.wildcoasthorsebackadventures.com/
Township Tours – http://www.keimouth.co.za/townshiptours/
Rock Climbing and Abseiling – http://www.morganbayhotel.co.za/activities/
Golf – http://www.morganbayhotel.co.za/activities/
Endalweni Private Game Reserve – http://www.endalweni.co.za/
Morganville Motorcycle Museum – http://www.morganbayhotel.co.za/activities/
Fishing, Golf, Surfing, Canoeing – http://www.morganbayhotel.co.za/activities/
The Magwa waterfall is truly a remarkable sight. Unlike many other waterfalls along the rugged Wild Coast, it is easily accessible to visitors. Most waterfalls in this region require arduous efforts to reach, making them rarely seen except by the most adventurous travelers. With a drop of 144 meters, the curtain of water plunges into a narrow canyon that was formed by seismic movement. This movement could have been a sudden shift of the earth’s crust along geologic faults or the result of volcanic activity. Although much smaller in scale, the Magwa falls have been compared to the majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
A short 8-kilometer drive takes you to the falls, and it is well worth it. Witnessing the river cascade over the precipice and tumble down into the gorge below, where the bottom is obscured in certain places, is a captivating experience.
In close proximity to the falls lies Magwa Volunteers, a small permaculture project. This is an ideal opportunity for individuals seeking a volunteer gap year to learn about sustainable living. Initially established as a tour company, Magwa Volunteers has evolved into a center for permaculture and community projects with the goal of promoting sustainability through tourism.
Located just north of Port St Johns, the trading town of Lusikisiki derives its name from the soothing sound of wind rustling through reeds, a common occurrence along the area’s rivers. The coastal stretch between Lusikisiki, Msikaba, and Mbotyi offers an abundance of natural wonders and waterfalls to explore.
While in the area, be sure to visit Mkambati Nature Reserve, Ntsubane Forest, and Lupatana Nature Reserve to further immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.
Trevor’s Trails offers 4 different guided tours; The Gate Trail, visit a traditional Xhosa home, 4×4 trail to Gxara Falls and a sundowner cruise up the Qolora River. Trevor’s Trails are based at Trennerys Hotel.
The Gate Trail: The trip is a three-hour outing by boat and on foot and will take you about 1,5km up the Qolora River from the river mouth through a gorge and to a waterfall with a deep pool. Here a tempting high jump awaits the brave of heart. Trevor and Carlos lead you through the riverine forest, stopping occasionally to point out medicinal trees and plants, whilst boulder hopping across the river to another pool. You will be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a morning or afternoon on this little patch of paradise at Qolora Mouth.
For more information visit: https://www.wildcoastholiday.co.za/listing/trevors-trails_20_2017
Bulungula Homestay Experience
In the heart of the exquisite rural area of the Eastern Cape lies Bulungula, where children walk home from school barefoot and women fetch water from the river in groups, laughing and catching up on village news. The Bulungula Homestay initiative invites travellers to immerse themselves into traditional Xhosa life, even if only for a short while.
This project is about creating an authentic experience, though. Therefore, unlike other visits to traditional villages, there are no rehearsed performances and faked celebrations. Rather, visitors staying at the homestead are privy to whatever events and celebrations would normally take place at a particular time. For instance, should you be staying there at a time in which someone gets married, you will be privileged enough to join in the celebrations.
Nearby activities include horse riding, canoeing, fishing, bird-watching, enjoying a massage, or visiting a traditional herbalist. Within the village, tourists are encouraged to get to know the locals and to experience the parties for which shebeens (informal African taverns) are well known. Learn the clicks of the Xhosa language and the history behind their many customs and cultural events.
Where?: Nqileni (closest town is Mthatha), Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, South Africa
When? Booking is essential.
How? Call Khuselo on +27 (0)47 577-8908 (8am to 6pm) or +27 (0)78 536-3938 (after 6pm).
Waterfall Bluff and Trail
Prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey to witness the awe-inspiring Waterfall Bluff as it gracefully plunges into the Indian Ocean. While this adventure requires some effort, the rewards that await are truly immense. Considered one of the most exhilarating treks for experienced hikers, it promises an experience like no other.
Starting from Mbotyi, your coastal walk begins along grassy banks and pristine beaches, spanning approximately 3.5 km until you reach the picturesque Drewe’s Camp. Along this stretch lies the magnificent Mkhosi River mouth, followed by two untouched, crystal-clear streams. Be captivated by the serene beauty of a breathtaking waterfall cascading into a tranquil pool. As you continue, the path veers away from the beach, leading you to ascend Sugarloaf Hill’s backside, revealing a stunning plateau. Your knowledgeable guide will point out the fascinating Eggossa fault, and you’ll encounter the first deep valley as you proceed.
During your expedition, you’ll pass by two huts occasionally utilized by herders, guiding their cattle to graze on these traditional lands. En route, keep an eye out for the endemic Mkambati palms, which flourish in this remarkable region. As you walk along the cliff edges, overlooking the Indian Ocean’s vast expanse where whales and dolphins frolic, an iconic landmark known as Cathedral Rock will greet you. Notice the rock cairns left behind by daring climbers who dared to conquer its heights.
After crossing the pristine pools of the Mlambomkulu River, the trail will guide you back to the coast, revealing the grandeur of Waterfall Bluff. Marvel at the enormous overhanging cave, aptly named Grotto Cave, offering respite and shade for a delightful packed lunch. As you retrace your steps slightly inland on the return journey, don’t miss the opportunity to refresh yourself with a swim in the inviting pools along the way.
Immerse yourself in nature’s magnificence as you embark on this extraordinary adventure. For more information visit: https://www.wildcoastholiday.co.za/listing/waterfall-bluffandtrail
The Wild Coast Jikeleza
Experience the Wild Coast Jikeleza: A Journey of Discovery
Indulge in the enchanting allure of the Wild Coast Jikeleza Route, where we invite you to take a leisurely drive and immerse yourself in the wealth of natural wonders, artistic treasures, unique boutiques, and captivating attractions that await your exploration. Extend your stay and uncover the hidden gems that define this remarkable region.
Unveil the rich maritime heritage of the area as you navigate the new Wild Coast Jikeleza Shipwreck Route, tracing the breathtaking shoreline. Your journey commences just outside Beacon Bay, an East London suburb, and winds its way along the T1 Road (also known as Schafli or the East Coast Resorts Road), concluding approximately 30km away on the N2. Along this picturesque route, you’ll encounter well-maintained trunk roads, clearly marked and surfaced, ranging from the T2 to the T10.
Immerse yourself in a malaria-free haven, a coastal paradise adorned with temperate climates and unparalleled natural beauty. The Wild Coast Jikeleza Route warmly welcomes families, ensuring there is something delightful for each and every visitor. Whether you’re seeking tranquility, adventure, or cultural experiences, this journey promises to captivate your senses and leave you with cherished memories.
The word “Jikeleza” derives from the local isiXhosa language, inviting you to wander and meander at your own pace. Embrace the spirit of exploration as you embark on this captivating voyage, allowing your curiosity to guide you towards unforgettable encounters.
Discover the allure of the Wild Coast Jikeleza. Start your journey today and experience the wonders that await. For more information visit: https://www.wildcoastholiday.co.za/listing/the_wild_coast_jikeleza
Unveiling the Wild Coast’s Maritime Legacy
The name “Wild Coast” not only pays homage to its untamed wilderness but also to the thundering waves and turbulent seas that dominate during stormy conditions. Throughout history, this stretch of the Eastern Cape coast has become the final resting place for numerous ships, with skeletal remains, artifacts, and structures serving as silent testaments to the lives and vessels lost.
Many of these shipwrecks have vanished beneath the ocean’s depths, forgotten except for the occasional treasure discovered by beachcombers. Some still lie as decaying hulks in shallow waters, like the Jacaranda at Qolora Mouth or the Idomene at Qora Mouth. Others have left a lasting legacy, such as the origins of Coffee Bay’s name, which supposedly stems from a shipwreck that spilled coffee beans into the bay. It is said that these beans sprouted into short-lived coffee bushes, giving the bay its unique name.
Certain wrecks have even left their mark on place names. Port St Johns is believed to derive its name from the wreck of the Portuguese ship São João in the sixteenth century. Mazeppa Bay owes its name to one of the few ships that successfully navigated these treacherous waters—the British ship Mazeppa, which frequently sought refuge in the bay and lived to tell the tale. However, the most renowned wreck of all is that of the English ship Grosvenor.
Tragedy befell the Grosvenor on August 4th, 1782, during its return journey from India. Stranded and subsequently sinking in a deep gully off a rocky cove known as Lwambazi, it claimed the lives of only 14 out of the 150 people on board. Merely six sailors managed to find safety at a frontier farm near Port Elizabeth. The news of this disaster prompted a rescue expedition by the colonial government, but they could only locate 12 survivors. For years, rumors circulated of other ‘unfound’ survivors living among local tribes, and an expedition in 1790 discovered a community of approximately 400 non-African descendants residing near a tributary of the Mngazi River. They were the sombre remnants of various shipwrecks along the coastline.
Although the Grosvenor remained elusive to the expedition, a different legend emerged—a belief that the ship carried a fortune in bullion and silver. One rumour even suggested that the fabled Peacock Throne of Persia, a magnificent golden chair adorned with precious stones and looted during that time, was smuggled on board.
What followed were futile and costly attempts to recover the supposed treasure. Steam-powered cranes, suction dredgers, undersea tunnels, boulder breakwaters, high-pressure water jets, explosives, and even a group of spiritualists led by a ghost were deployed, all in vain. Only two cannons and a handful of gold and silver coins have ever been salvaged from the Grosvenor’s wreckage. It rests undisturbed in its perilous gully, its secrets hidden by treacherous currents and shifting sands. What treasures lie within and how to retrieve them remains a mystery.
At Mkambati, two notable shipwrecks add historical importance and intrigue for tourists—the São Bento (1554) near the mouth of the Msikaba River and the Grosvenor (1782) resting in Lambasi Bay. These remnants stand as reminders of the Wild Coast’s captivating maritime history. For more information visit: https://www.wildcoast.co.za/ships-wrecked
Isinuka Mud Caves and Sulphur Pools
For a unique cultural and outdoor experience, visit the natural sulphur springs; a traditional healing site to locals. Immerse yourself in the tradition by smothering yourself in the mud. Dry in the glorious sun and visit the sulphur pools afterwards to rinse off. Finally, bathe in the river to complete your healing.
Image credit: SafariNow