It does not take much convincing to get adventure junkies on the road to the Wild Coast. The Transkei coastline covers roughly 250km of SA's seeminglly untouched coastline. Unlike the bustling beaches of Cape Town, the Garden Route and Durban, the Wild Coast is known for long stretches of unhindered beaches, traces of footprints here and there - those made by the roaming cattle that is.
Huts speckle the grassy hills and cliffs plunge for metres into the crashing ocean. Passing through villages, you will be greeted by enthusiastic local children asking for sweeties and frequently stopped by stray cows crossing roads that are in need of some care as they've clearly seen better days - but your reward is a true feeling of solitude, disconnected from modern civilisation.
Vistors to the idyllic towns of Coffee Bay and Port St John are most likely heading toward a hike, fishing spot, horse ride or are ready to uncover the Wild Coast's secret beaches. Whatever the adventure, you will find it in one of the most rural parts of South Africa, this is Transkei, where your tourism adventure offers the only economic outlet for some of these villagers.
So where to begin, right?
Morgan Bay in the south is a sure bet, as you are already introduced to stellar adventure experiences at the Lalapanzi adventure centre. Surrounded by zebra, giraffe, rhino, impala, blesbok, warthog and an impressive array of birds, groups visit Lalapanzi for abseiling, rock climbing, hiking, kloofing, canoeing and even raft building.
This is however just a glimpse into what the rest of the Wild Coast holds...
Hiking is a favourite pastime among visitors to the Wild Coast. Various long hikes spanning over a couple of days, or shorter overnight and single-day hikes are available. Click here for an overview on our top 5 wild coast hikes.
The Wild Coast Hike from Port St. Johns to Coffee Bay, The Wild Coast Meander from East London to Morgan Bay and The Strandloper Trail from Kei Mouth to Gonubie are long, but rewarding hikes that will test your endurance.
Hole in the Wall in Coffee Bay and the Jikileza Route are shorter options that can be enjoyed at your own relaxed pace.
ALSO SEE: Long hikes 101: Tips and trails to try in SA
2. Horse riding at Kei Mouth (and beyond)
The Wild Coast's sandy beach stretches, free from masses of holiday makers provide the perfect setting for horse riding trails or as Wild Coast Horseback Adventures explains, "the most perfect and spectacular horse riding country-side found anywhere in the world."
Wild Coast Horseback Adventures will take you on a galloping adventur exploring hidden coves, beaches and the rural Transkei lifestyle. A range of horse safaris are available including day rides in Kei Mouth and Morgan Bay, week-long rides through the Wild Coast or two-week-long customised adventures. Scholars with their eyes on a gap year can even retreat to the Wild Coast for a 12-week working 'gap year' holiday.
3. Fishing in Port St John's and surrounds
Port St John's and the Umzimvubu river mouth is known as 'the centre' of the fishing paradise that is the Wild Coast. Boats can navigate 7km inland on the river. Lighthouse Rocks is another go-to spot and Poenskop, north of Port St John's is certainly worthy of a visit.
Deep-sea and freshwater fishing are popular pastimes in this coastal town where game fish are caught in abundance and Grunter, Shad, Skipjack and Kingfish fills the Umzimvubu river mouth. The annual sardine run that takes place along SA's south and east coast in June and July is also an attraction for fishing fanatics.
Avid fishermen may launch their boats in the estuary, but aspiring fishermen can embark with one of many fishing charters. Offshore Africa, Port St John's River Lodge and the local fishing hero, John Castello, will show you the inns and outs of fishing in and around Port St Johns. Request a tour with John on 082 550 5430.
Between Port St Johns and Port Edward you will find the Mtentu river and estuary - a hot spot for canoeing the Wild Coast. Spot the beautiful Leopard Falls and marvel over an emaculate gorge where locals believe a spirit reigns.
Alternatively, the Umngazana River hosts one of the largest Red Mangroves where you will be amazed by the array of birdlife it boasts. Your tour guide, Ricky, will show you the ropes and provide a well deserved lunch. Book your two-hour trip in the afternoon early morning
5. Beach exploring
Let's not forget the Wild Coast adventure of trekking grasslands, villages and steep hills in search of its hidden beaches. Rewarding finds lurk all over the Transkei. It is easy to think that you and your company of friends are the first to see the isolated beaches of the Wild Coast, but we assure you, you are not the first or last to 'pioneer' the Wild Coast's secret beaches.
Aport from Firts and Second Beach in Port St John's, a firm favourite is Hole in the Wall near Coffee Bay. Take on the hike from Coffee Bay, or jump on the back of friendly local's bakkie. Not knowing what to expect, the first peek of this iconic Wild Coast landmark is awe inspiring. Careful not to pick up too much momentum when running or rolling down the hill to reach the beach.
Once at the bottom, experience the thrill as the tide pushes you through the hole.
Although Hole in the Wall has become synonym to the Wild Coast, we are letting the beach-roaming cattle out of the bag! There are numerous secret beaches to discover along the coast. Check them out: 7 Secret beaches on the Wild Coast.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Controversial Wild Coast Toll Road: Environment will be first priority - SANRAL
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- #LoveSA: Insider Guide to the must-visit towns of the Sunshine Coast