Discover South Africa's Wild Coast
The Wild Coast is one of South Africa's most remote stretches of shoreline. Stretching
from East London in the Eastern Cape all the way north to Port Edward and the
southern border of KwaZulu-Natal, the region is home to some of the most beautiful
coastal scenery in the world.
It is a place of steep green hills atop which sit clusters of traditional Xhosa mud huts;
a land of windswept cliffs, deserted white-beaches, forests, untamable waves – and
It is also the birthplace of two former South African presidents – Nelson Mandela and
Thabo Mbeki – and the historical home to the Xhosa nation.
Before 1994, the Wild Coast formed part of the Transkei, an independent homeland
politically and economically independent of apartheid South Africa.
The area is still somewhat lost in time – a place where hippies, surfers and Xhosa
people live side by side, with little in the way of possessions and much in the way of
While not nearly as glamorous as South Africa's many popular beach destinations,
every year adventurous and eco-loving locals and foreigners travel into the depths of
the Wild Coast.
Hikers, surfers, nature lovers and cyclists navigate the coastline, bathing in the warm
waters of the Indian Ocean, which on a "busy" day, may usually have one or two
locals and a few Nguni cows at the most.
The Wild Coast has also attracted some famous adventurers. Most notably, the United
Kingdom's Prince Harry and Prince William explored portions of the Wild Coast on
motorcycles back in 2008 as part of a 1 000-mile charity trek across South Africa.
How to do it
Whether you are up for a week-long hike or just want to drop in on one of the main
coastal villages for a few days, the Wild Coast will leave an impression.
Some visitors choose to self-drive and navigate dirt roads, goats and cattle, while
others prefer to
join scheduled activity-based tours like hiking, horse riding and
mountain bike tours.
Bungalows, backpackers, beach lodges and modest hotels comprise the majority of
accommodation in the Wild Coast's populated areas. Accommodation is cheap in
comparison to South Africa's main tourist cities, but the remoteness of the area
means that some pre-trip planning is necessary.
East London region
Just north of East London, Kei Mouth, Morgan Bay, and Haga Haga are popular and
convenient destinations on the Wild Coast.
A 1.5-kilometre long pristine beach, forested dunes and tumbling dolerite cliffs are
just some of Morgan Bay's scenic charms. There are horse trails to explore, dolphin
and whale watching trips to take and a tranquil lagoon to enjoy.
Haga Haga is a small remote seaside village with a safe swimming beach.
Kei Mouth has a wide range of accommodation and a long list of activities including
deep-sea fishing to golf. It is also the start of the popular Strandloper
Trail – a hiking trail that runs from Kei Mouth, through Morgan Bay, Haga Haga and
the Jikeleza Route villages before terminating at Gonubie. The trail is roughly 60km
long and takes four days to complete.
Only 45km from East London, Chintsa (or Cintsa) is a small seaside paradise set
against a tranquil lagoon. Chintsa is surrounded by forested dunes and blessed with
many perfect beaches. It is also home to one of South Africa's most respected
backpacker lodges, Buccanneer's
Activities abound at Chintsa and include: horse riding, fishing, canoeing, hiking,
surfing lessons, canyoning, and cultural village tours. The Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve
(Xhosa for "under the stars") is located close by, and guests can organize game drives
into the reserve.
Located in the heart of
the Wild Coast, Coffee Bay is regarded as one of South Africa's
most beautiful beach destinations. The village's unusual name stems from a ship that
was wrecked here in the 19th century, losing its cargo of coffee beans. The coffee
beans washed ashore, and Coffee Bay was named.
The undulating hills dotted with traditional Xhosa huts provide a calm contrast to the
striking cliffs and thrashing waves of Coffee Bay.
There is also an incredible natural wonder here called the Hole in the Wall. The huge
detached rock formation has a large arch-like opening eroded into its side and, due to
the constant rumbling noise coming from its belly, was named "esiKhaleni" (Xhosa for
"place of sound") by locals.
Abseiling, quad biking, spear fishing, horse riding and village tours are just some of
the activities on offer in Coffee Bay.
Port St Johns
One of the Wild Coast's most popular seaside destinations, Port St Johns is set against
Umzimvubu River mouth and surrounded by subtropical rainforest and cliff faces.
A set of twin mountains, named Thesiger and Sullivan, create a dramatic looking
entrance on either side of the river mouth.
Six kilometres south of town, the beautiful Silaka Nature Reserve is a popular hiking
and birding spot. Activities at Port St Johns include surfing, boat-based dolphin and
whale watching, horse-riding and quad-biking.
This is an edited version of an article first published by Fifa.com
Reviewed: October 2013