The Wild Coast is where you’ll meet your soul, emerging from the urban debris, awakening to the bounty of unspoilt nature. Go there and find peace.
If you love being in nature, surrounded by ocean waves, isolated beaches, secluded forests and rolling hills, the Wild Coast is your kind of destination. There are hundreds of accommodation options on the Wild Coast, which stretches along the Eastern Cape Coastline, from the border of KZN in the north to East London in the south. Two choice spots that lie off the beaten track, just south of Port St Johns, are Mngazana and Hluleka.
It’s quite a trek from anywhere to the Wild Coast so we recommend you get yourself prepared for your road trip with a BOOXE Boot Box in which you can store your emergency kit or everyday essentials. Keep your interior carpets clean with BOOXE anti-slip rubber Floor and Boot Mats tailor-made for each vehicle so they fit perfectly.
We spent a week in July at a private cottage (there are several available on Airbnb) on the top of a bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean on one side and the Mngazana River estuary on the other, with easy access to both on foot.
Early mornings are reserved for fishing at one of the nearby points, Mpande, Brazen Head and others renowned for their plentiful catches, so the drill consists of freshening up, grabbing a flask of coffee and a bag of rusks and heading out before sunrise, usually in a 4×4, but sometimes on foot to the nearby points along the beach. Watching the horizon as the sun rises, seemingly from below the ocean, is a celebration of the new day, so distinctly different from the next, yet each a masterpiece in itself. A mug of steaming coffee and a rusk in hand, there’s no moment more perfect than this. Thereafter comes the waiting game, though it’s not long before fish such as Shad, Garrick, Silver Salmon, or Bronze Bream are plucked from the waves, and for the more adventurous anglers, big sharks – Hammerhead, Spinner, Grey and Bull to name a few. Arriving ravenous back at the cottage to the delicious aroma of bacon and eggs, cooked by the teenagers, is a treat and we all sit down to eat and talk about the morning’s marine action and plans for the rest of the day.
One morning I happened to take my coffee to a bench on the edge of the bluff overlooking the sea about 100 metres below. As I sat down I noticed there was unusual activity in the waves and as I focussed I realised this was caused by a pod of about 1000 dolphins swimming past. With tears of joy, I summoned the others and we all watched, incredulous at this extraordinary sighting (not uncommon in July when the annual sardine migration makes its way up the east coast), so stirring it will live in my memory forever.
As the weather at this time of year is calm and warm, the conditions are ideal for hiking the coastline on foot paths that hug the hillsides, or on the beaches and over rocks, and filling our pockets with cowrie shells or smooth pebbles in myriad shades of grey. We always carry water, fruit and snacks so an impromptu picnic on the beach and a swim in the warm Indian ocean is mandatory; and afterwards, a lovely laze on the beach in the winter sun, watching the surf action before heading home. Although there are no shark nets in the waters along the Wild Coast, some of the braver, devoted surfers cannot resist the exhilaration of catching waves at the superb points found on this stretch of coastline, be it at their own peril.
We relished a quiet, relaxing hour or two canoeing on the Mngazana estuary, which is host to a large Red Mangrove forest and thus abundant with birdlife. Slowly sculling this magnificent stretch of water, discovering hidden creeks, spying on African Fish Eagles and other rare birds, and simply being quiet in nature, brings pure peace of mind.
Late afternoons back at the cottage mean gathering on the deck with sundowners, soaking up the last rays of sun before it sinks behind the estuary, hearing the calls of eagles punctuating the twilight silence, and tucking into the first course of a seafood feast – shad sashimi and freshly shucked oysters. Thereafter platters of crayfish and freshly cooked salmon, accompanied by crispy potato wedges and salads, are soon demolished appreciably by the hungry mob. There’s something gratifying about feasting off the ocean, of being responsible for catching our own sustenance.
In October we visited Hluleka Nature Reserve, a pristinely maintained resort consisting of several comfy 4-sleeper chalets, offering sea views and almost-tame zebras as neighbours.
Our days kept a similar rhythm to those spent at Mngazana, early morning fishing expeditions and hearty breakfasts, followed by hikes along the coast to Strachan’s Bay and Banana Bay, picnicking, swimming and sunbathing on the beach and early dinners featuring seafood aplenty.
The difference at Hluleka is the 770ha reserve, comprising the Congwane Mtombo and Ndabeni Hluleka Forests, which adds to the diversity of natural inhabitants and we came across several species of buck, zebra and a rich bird-life. For the mountain-biking adventurers, there’s a plethora of cattle tracks by which to explore the area. Hiking up one of the numerous high bluffs south of Hluleka we were in awe of the large number of passing Humpback whales breaching out to sea, another memorable sight to treasure.
The Wild Coast is one of the last unspoilt regions in South Africa – don’t miss out!
- There are six nature reserves spread along the Wild Coast all offering accommodation options. https://www.wildcoast.co.za/nature-reserves
- The Wild Coast has approximately 50 000 ha of indigenous forest, much of which is under threat from over-utilization.
- The Wild Coast encompasses two of a small handful of the earth’s waterfalls that spill directly into the sea.
- The Wild Coast derives its name partly from its wilderness character but primarily from the wild, stormy conditions of the sea that have been the cause of many shipwrecks over the centuries.
- Don’t miss Hole-in-the-wall – a natural archway in an island formed by waves piercing a wall of shale and sandstone.
- A must for families – Canoeing through the Mangrove forests on the Mngazana and Mgazi Rivers.
- Treats for everyone – Feasting on the plethora of seafood available in these waters.
- For the energetic – Hiking the coastline for spectacular views of this untamed area.