No time for tame: Your guide to the top attractions on the Wild Coast

2018-08-27 15:00
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(Photo: iStock)

South Africa is blessed with some of the most beautiful coastal trails that traverse across forests and mountains and along splendid beaches.

Beaches, green hills and an abundance of folk traditions proves that there is more to the Wild Coast than meets the eye.

From East London to Port Edward, the trail hugs a stretch of coastline along the former Transkei homeland, and is unspoiled and barely touched by development.

The Wild Coast offers you a true, all-round African experience. This is where you will meet some of the most authentic South Africans - nature-loving, friendly and accommodating.

It also offers rocky cliffs, dirt paths, shipwrecks, a geological phenomenon or two, hiking trails, sunbathing Nguni cows, incredible landscapes and villages dotting the route with green-blue huts, pigs, goats and chickens.

SEE: #TourismMonth2018: 7 Eastern Cape spots not to miss as Travel Week set to make exploring SA more affordable

Check out the Hole in The Wall in Coffee Bay

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The best way to go about exploring a new place is by doing it freely; with the wind in your hair, the sun on your face and the smell of fresh sea air in your nose.

A hike to the Hole in the Wall is a must for travellers - approximately 9 kilometres along the coastline of the Indian Ocean. Spot the traditional Xhosa rondavels, swim in the ocean, watch the cows stroll along the beach and enjoy a sunset picnic on the sand.

SEE: Backpacking the Wild Coast: Coffee Bay's twist on a pub hop

Take it easy in Morgan Bay

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From all the Wild Coast beaches, Morgan Bay beach with its sandy shores, lagoon and sea cliffs might be the tamest of them all. The fact that it is so easy to access makes it popular with holiday-goers from near and far. You’ll find body boards, stand-ups, surfboards and sand boards for hire in Morgan Bay.

Morgan Bay can be reached via a well-maintained tarred road that is suitable for all vehicles and is situated 90 kilometres from East London and 225 kilometres from Mthatha. Have a picnic at the Morgan Bay cliffs, go treasure hunting at Double Mouth Reserve, visit Billy Nel’s Motorcycle Museum, experience a cultural tour and go golfing, horse riding, fishing, surfing and birdwatching.

Have some fun with the Bulungula experience

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The Bulungula Lodge is an award-winning, backpackers accommodation experience of a lifetime. It is situated along the beach, with access to the forest and mountains.  The accommodation is proudly eco-friendly and runs on solar power. Guests can stay in one of ten colourful, themed huts. Owned and run by the Nquileni community and village, travellers can leave their stresses and worries behind, as it really is perfect for an escape from the city.

Guest can go and explore the village life and submerge yourself in the traditional food, lifestyle and culture. For the ladies, you can join the local women for a day of face painting, brick–making and trying your hand at the traditional cuisine. For the guys, you can learn how to fish with the locals. Throw out your nets and then make your own fishing rod.

SEE: Pondo Paradise: Explore the rugged coastlines of the Wild Coast

Forest trails, bird-watching and pristine beach fun at Dwesa

If you’re after isolated beaches then a trip to Dwesa should be on your beach list. It’s clean, safe for swimming and has a beautiful sandy stretch perfect for relaxing.

The 3500 hectare Dwesa Nature Reserve offers visitors a range of forest trails and to date 290 bird species have been recorded and there are a number of game species. It is also possible to spot whales and since it is a marine protected area fishing is only allowed in demarcated areas.

Horse around on the beach with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures

Surf and Turf Horse Riding safari is the perfect combination of beach and bush, while riding through nature with a beautiful four-legged guide host.

Suitable for all riders, you will explore a game reserve with a real difference; surrounded by giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and antelope all on horseback. This is a 7-night, 8-day trail that will allow you to explore every aspect of the rugged coast.

This beautiful equine experience will leave you wondering if you would want to explore this area in any other way. 

SEE: The hamlets, coves and corners of SA's 7 underrated coastal towns

Get away from the crowds at Hluleka

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The beach at Hluleka Nature Reserve is completely hidden from the crowds and if you find yourself on this cove with its large sandy stretch, cliffs, meandering paths and milkwood forest, it feels like you’ve just stumbled upon a private beach.

Hluleka Nature Reserve works closely with the community and they offer cultural tours; you can also go hiking through the forest, do a bit of birdwatching and try to spot the elusive Narina trogon and go fishing (not allowed in the reserve and a permit needs to be obtained). 

With a rich biodiversity, Hlukela offers visitors the opportunity to see indigenous animal species including, but not limited to, eland, zebra and the blue duiker.  

SEE: Wild Coast: The ultimate 5-day hiking guide

Check out indigenous forest, shipwrecks and a waterfall at Mkhambathi

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Mkhambathi is often referred to as the Wild Coast best kept secret and its 10 kilometre coastline covers rocky, rugged beaches set against the backdrop of an indigenous forest, two famous shipwrecks and a waterfall that plunges into the ocean.

The road to the Mkhambathi Nature Reserve is a typical Wild Coast one, a bit rough around the edges (hair-raising some would say), so a higher clearance vehicle is required. Mkhambathi is between Port Edward (30 kilometres northeast) and Port St Johns, (59 kilometres south west) and about 280 kilometres from Mthatha.

The 7720 hectare reserve offers visitors the chance to go on self-guided game drives, and there is also bird watching, canoeing, cycling, fishing, horse riding and hiking. Besides the rugged coastline, forest ravines and swamps you can also visit Waterfall Bluff which is one of only 19 waterfalls in the world that fall directly into the sea.

SEE: Find your adventure along the Wild Coast

Fishing in Port St Johns and the 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 7 kilometres 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, dhad, 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 the many fishing charters.

SEE: Wild Coast: A complete guide to Port St Johns

Get out and get canoeing

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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 immaculate 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 bird life it boasts. With untouched beaches, a turtle-filled estuary and the Mkhambathi game reserve not too far away there is more on offer should your arms tire of paddling. 

Visitors can enjoy exploring the beach on horseback, fishing in one of the many great spots, hiking up one of the many picturesque trails or just take a breather in a natural spring pool. It's all possible so enjoy.  

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