The Wild Coast

The Wild Coast is truly unique. Protected for years by limited road access, this area offers a combination of rural tranquility, traditional African lifestyles and architecture, almost unbelievable scenery and fascinating flora and fauna with the opportunity to have a great beach holiday.

Hotels are spread out along the coast some are excellent, some a little run down, but all offer fantastic views and, invariably, excellent and plentiful seafood. And even the smartest of the coastal hotels does not expect you to wear shoes to dinner.

This is a great family holiday destination and almost all the hotels have family rooms, babysitting services, children’s programmes and children’s meals. There is so much to do here and so many new friends to be made that most children are pretty reluctant to leave at the end of the holiday.

Although the coastal hotels are wonderful, probably the best way of experiencing this area is to spend some time with the local people.

There is a fantastic community project on the northern Wild Coast, which offers you horse riding, hiking, canoeing and fishing from a beautiful tented camp overlooking a turquoise-blue lagoon.

The entire project is run by the local community, with marketing and management input from a non-profit, non-government organization. Here you can chat with the local people who are very proud of their magnificent home area, learn how they live and go fishing with them, or foraging for wild foodstuffs. Or, of course, you can just lie around relaxing in beautiful surroundings.

The vegetation of this area is pretty unique, as many of the biomes of South Africa come together here, so you will find some unusual plants.

The water plant, palmiet, for example, is found here and only much closer to Cape Town, so it’s a bit of an anomaly, and there are so many other plants found nowhere else, that this area has been dubbed the Pondoland Centre of Endemism. If you’re of a botanical bent, you should set aside a lot of time to explore this coast, especially the Mkambati Nature Reserve.

And, then, for a totally different cultural experience, you could explore the towns of Port St Johns or Lusikisiki, which are small but busy, and bustling with a vibrant energy.

Cofee Bay

Coffee Bay has a number of advantages over its, admittedly also fantastic, rival Wild Coast destinations. Probably the most important, especially for visitors who are not used to unpaved roads, is the fact that a tarred road leads all the way there.

Other advantages include a friendly hotel, two backpackers hostels, fantastic surf and the iconic hole in the wall. This unusual rock formation is a rocky island a few hundred metres offshore, with a hole right through the middle.

The tunnel is big enough to drive a ski boat through, but only the foolishly brave or bravely foolish would attempt to do so, as the sea crashes through there hence the local name esiKhaleni,which means place of noise.

Most people visit here for the fantastic scenery, the lovely beaches and the charm of the local people but there are some more active choices as well.

You could do an abseil right over the sea, a scenic day canoe trip on the Umtata River or an escorted walk. And, of course, once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be able to munch your way through lots of lovely seafood.

Coffee Bay is about an hours drive from the N2 on a tarred, but unfenced, road, which branches off the N2 about 20km on the East London side of Umtata. The closest airport is at Umtata – with flights only to and from Johannesburg.