Occasionally emerging into nature can be
freeing and therapeutic, especially now amid the pandemic. We took a drive down to
the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape,
the titleholder of the most unspoiled
area in South Africa.
The lengthy road trip from Johannesburg took us via the N3/N2, which allowed us to experience a breath-taking sunrise over the KwaZulu-Natal horizon. We stopped at a fuel station, ordered coffee, and admired the beautiful creation as the sunlight stretched beyond the Indian Ocean while the sun made its way out. Our first official stop was at Port Edward, a small resort town north of Mtamvuna Gorge between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. We then visited the Red Desert, which is known to be the world’s smallest desert. Only 200 metres in diameter and 11 hectares in its entirety, it is a miniature version of the Arizona Desert. No matter how long you live in South Africa, you will always stumble on something weird and new. This is a testament to that.
When crossing CH Mitchell bridge, you are in the Eastern Cape. The drive to Coffee Bay was lengthy due to the narrow gravel roads, livestock roaming freely and potholes. Coffee Bay is largely rural, with great camping sites and a few resort hotels. We camped at Coffee Shack backpackers and surf school with our camping tents facing the Indian Ocean. Every morning was magical waking up to the sounds of the waves crashing loudly against the dark shiny rocks. We watched the sunrise up the hill from our campsite and went on a 10-kilometre hike from the campsite to Hole in the Wall. This was a guided hike offering information about the history, community and culture of Coffee Bay. The views are picturesque and the words of Alice Walker would resonate with you: ‘In nature, nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect.’ Contorted trees, eroded rocks and slight sandy beaches interrupted by rocky shores and livestock roaming carefree on the beach create an oasis of serenity amidst the bustle of South Africa. The best-enjoyed sandwich is always while hiking, and this one was even more satisfying while looking at the beautiful Hole in the Wall.
Coffee Bay has many ways to get you involved in nature-loving activities. Here we went surfing, kayaking and conversed with locals and backpackers. All COVID-19 regulations were adhered to.
The journey to the Wild Coast took us to Mbotyi River Lodge, a family hotel and holiday resort with a campsite for avid campers. This hotel is the perfect place for a peaceful, tranquil holiday or for the more adventurous traveller wanting to experience the many amazing natural treasures this coast has to offer. One of the most intriguing activities is the 28-kilometre hike from Mbotyi to Waterfall Bluff and back. The hiking trail runs between Port St Johns and the Mkambati Nature Reserve. It is not that easy to reach; one cannot simply drive to a clearly marked lookout point and gaze at it. This is one of the many reasons why we had a guide and chose the most scenic hike.
At Waterfall Bluff is one of only 19 waterfalls worldwide that fall directly into the sea. Apparently there are only two such waterfalls in Africa. If you are careful, you can make your way all the way down and swim in the Indian Ocean right where the waterfall drops. We were lucky that the tides were low this time of the year and we could walk on the shore.
A few kilometres’ walk from the bluff heading back to Mbotyi is another geographical phenomenon: a vertical rock known as Cathedral Rock with its own ‘hole in the wall’. If your guide is worth their salt, they will include the undisclosed Mfhihlelo Falls (another waterfall falling directly into the ocean) a few kilometres from Waterfall Bluff.
We drove to the Magwa tree plantation and visited the impressive Magwa Falls, one of the waterfalls on the Wild Coast that is easily accessible. Magwa Falls is said to resemble Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
We didn’t explore the entire area, but on the next visit we are sure to explore Mkambati Nature Reserve, Ntsubane Forest and Lupatana Nature Reserve.
Exploring the Wild Coast was a lovely idea and the itinerary quite ambitious. I enjoyed every moment and was awed by nature’s exquisiteness. This is a journey I’d embark on again, whether with friends or family.
Priscilla Yango Khoza CA(SA)