While hardly busy or commercial at any time of the year, the lazy lagoons, rugged coastlines and footprint-free beaches of South Africa’s unspoiled Wild Coast hold a wealth of secret locations where it’s easy to find freedom in solitude. Here is the inside scope on some of Transkei’s elusive treasures.
This pristine little piece of land lies in the far north of the Wild Coast, between Port Edward and Port St Johns. It is home to the picturesque Mkambati Falls, one of the few in the world that cascades directly into the ocean. It also offers marine-filled rock pools and a lovely, natural beach pool. The secluded strip of beach evokes feelings of being lost in paradise, and those that make the effort to get there find the visit highly rewarding.
Secluded and pristine, Waterfall Bluff has to rank as one of the most spectacular places in the world to take a dip, made even more amazing by the fact that the river plunges down cliffs and goes straight into the ocean. As with most of the treasures that the Wild Coast holds, this gem takes some effort to reach, however, it is one of only 19 waterfalls in the world that plunge directly into the ocean. A few kilometres from the bluff, one will find the vertical and free-standing Cathedral Rock, another natural phenomenon.
Evergreen forests blanket the landscape of this stunning natural reserve that hums with birdlife and the sound of the ocean. There are numerous walking trails to follow, featuring breezy grasslands, fabulous forests and dramatic stretches of coastline. The reserve is also alive with flora and wildlife, where exotic lilies and orchards bloom on the forest floor and zebras, blesbucks and wildebeests graze the verdant plains.
For untouched perfection, look no further than Mapuzi, one of the most secluded locations along the Wild Coast. Located at the Mapuzi River mouth, this secret spot beckons with crystal clear water and solitude, where visitors can swim, free dive, fish and simply relax. Follow the edges of the Mapuzi cliffs to discover a hidden cave and natural jacuzzi. Those that dare can jump from the cliffs, but with their highest point standing at 14 metres up, this is only for the brave.
Bulungula Beach is another hidden bay where your freedom can be enjoyed, surrounded by indigenous forests and a sparkling lagoon. It is also known for some of the best night skies in Wild Coast, with stars that literally light up an inky heaven. Sheltered by jade-hued hills punctuated by turquoise traditional homesteads, the area is a feast for the eyes and food for the soul. Activities to keep visitors busy include swimming, surfing, hiking, fishing, cycling and canoeing.
Rural and exquisitely remote, Mdumbi Beach is characterised by ethnic mud huts dotted along the grasslands and secluded, yet wild, beaches. Here, the power of the ocean is a force of note and swimming is therefore not recommended, although experienced surfers sometimes arrive to test their skills against the powerful waves. The resident Pondo people are always welcoming and ready to share their culture with visitors, while the beach is sheltered by indigenous milkwood trees, giving it a surreal and mystical feel.
Umngazi River Bungalows is an award-winning resort that adds pampering and luxury to the wild side of the Transkei coast. It is the ideal location for those who prefer not to rough it, as all the natural beauty of the area can be experienced and absorbed without making life uncomfortable. Enjoy fishing, river cruises, nature walks and fabulous views of the Umngazi River mouth meeting up with the ocean before ending your day with a seafood dinner and shower under the stars.
Tranquil and splendid, the rich diversity and numerous eco-systems of Hluleka are well worth a day or two of contemplation. The all-encompassing terrain holds seashore, lagoons, grassy hilltops, and quiet forests filled with beautiful indigenous trees that shelter bushbucks, duikers and numerous other varieties of animal life. Staying in the reserve gives visitors access to unlimited hiking trails and golden beaches with gas stoves and solar heating to keep you cosy at night.
Although this unique feature is hardly hidden, it does take some time to get to and is a must-see attraction on the Wild Coast. From Coffee Bay, it’s possible to drive to the Hole in the Wall in a 4×4 vehicle, but if you really want to appreciate the magnificence and beauty of the region, opt for a hike. Approximately three hours through rolling green hills and craggy cliffs will get you to your final destination for a day of wild solitude and awe.
Knowing every stone, trail, and most of the local people makes a well-versed local guide an invaluable gem to any adventure along the Wild Coast. A good guide will lead you into the remote wilderness where roads seem to end, only to cross a stream and continue on a footpath on the other side. They know the legends and myths of the region, where to find the best sights and will amaze you with their wealth of knowledge and intimate attention to detail.