Covering a stunning 350-kilometer section of Indian Ocean shoreline in the Eastern Cape, South Africa’s appropriately named Wild Coast is home to remote beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and the Xhosa people. Here are 10 reasons to visit.
Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo on the Mbashe River, but spent most of his childhood in the village of Qunu, where he is buried. The village is 31 kilometers south of Umtata and there is a museum and memorial to Mandela.
During the apartheid era the Wild Coast was a homeland known as the Transkei. It played an integral role in South African’s independence struggle and gave birth not only to Mandela but also to Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki.
Some argue this is the most beautiful beach in the region. And it is pretty spectacular — a long white sand crescent of unspoiled beach with two small, attractive-looking villages in the hills on either side. There are a good lodging options and decent surfing.
There’s not much to do in Coffee Bay except worship the sun, play in the surf and relax. If this is up your alley, head to this tiny village where the hostels are big on responsible tourism – both environmental and cultural. Coffee Bay’s beaches are excellent and except for locals fishing on rocks, mostly deserted. High-rise hotels or package tourists won’t be found here. There are numerous hikes in the area as well as opportunities to ride horses along the surf.
There are a number of stunning walking trails around Coffee Bay and none is more spectacular than Hole in the Wall, an awesome natural hole that has been cut in a cliff-front rock formation by the tide’s endless pounding. Surf splashes through the hole, which is particularly impressive during high tide.
The deliciously traditional Port St. Johns is a magnet for hippies, both young and old. This idyllic little town at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River has tropical vegetation, dramatic cliffs, great beaches, a relaxed atmosphere and no traffic lights. It is about as close as you’ll come to the new rural South Africa, with a dominant black population in town.
Lace up the boots and hike the four-day, 57-kilometer Strandloper Hiking Trail between Kei Mouth and Gonubie, which is just outside East London. The trail itself is fairly easy and there are three overnight huts to sleep in along the way. Book in advance to hike this trail at www.strandlopertrails.org
Industrious families in the rambling Mtumbane township on the outskirts of Port St. Johns offer overnight stays in their homes. It’s a unique experience that most find incredibly rewarding.
There are two good nature reserves between Coffee Bay and Port St. Johns, Hluleka and Silaka Nature Reserve. Both offer the chance to walk through dense forests along jagged cliff-strewn coastline and by tidal pools.
Continue heading northeast on the N2 from Port St. Johns and you enter truly wild country of unspoiled, round green hills, brightly colored local houses and lots of dirt roads leading down into dense old-growth forest before finally hitting the sea. Head towards Mbotyi off Route 61 to really understand the meaning behind the Wild Coast name.
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