Wild Coast South Africa

Overview Wild Coast South Africa

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  Western Cape

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Eastern Cape

Wild Coast

Kwazulu Natal


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The Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape Province, stretches for roughly 200 km between the coastal towns of East London and Port Edward. Midway along its length is its largest town, Port St Johns, situated on the mouth of the Mzimvubu River between the steep sandstone cliffs and dense forest.


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What Makes the Wild Coast ‘Wild’?

Because of its rugged scenery, with dozens of lively rivers cutting through rocky cliffs and gorges, road access to the Wild Coast has remained limited, which is why the scenery is so undisturbed.

Another reason for its name is that storms, underwater topography and currents sometimes conspire to create freakishly large waves, the demise of many ships through the years.

But the wildness also refers to the nature of the Wild Coast. The coastline is made up mostly of precipitous cliffs where waterfalls tumble straight into the sea, dense forests and rolling grasslands, home to hundreds of species that occur only there.

Pondoland (the northern part of the Wild Coast) is one of the main areas of plant diversity in the world, with Conservation International having designated it a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’.

Cows on Beaches

One of the signature sights along the Wild Coast remains cows on the beach, usually accompanied by a herd boy. The cattle raised by the local Xhosa tribes seem to derive particular comfort and pleasure from ruminating on their cud while lying contentedly on the world-class beaches. Further inland, you’ll find many tiny villages on rolling hillsides, thatched huts painted in sea green, pale blue, white, pink and apricot.

The Wild Coast also has a number of small game reserves, where you may see eland, antelope, wildebeest or zebra strolling along within sight of the waves.

Timeless Traditions

Except for the large Wild Coast Sun Hotel and Casino, all the hotels along this stretch of coastline are family-owned, and most of their visitors are regulars that have been coming there for generations.

These hotels offer simple food (typically table d’hote, and centred on seafood) and are extremely child-friendly. Every morning, teams of cheerful nannies arrive and take the kids off the parents’ hands for the day. The grateful moms and pops go fishing, snorkelling, walking, reading and chilling out in this setting of sea, sand and sky.

The Wild Coast is unsophisticated and timeless, and in the little hotel shop you’ll find all the beach props from your own childhood holiday memories:  postcards, fishing nets, bright buckets (yes, with spades) packs of playing cards, colouring books and sandals in silly colours.

Walking the Wild Coast

One of the best ways to see the Wild Coast is on foot, to go ‘hotel-hopping’ along the beach as part of a walking tour. Porters carry all the heavy gear, and you walk with an informative guide as you explore the beach, tidal pools and swim in the warm seas. Each night, you’ll have good food, a hot shower, cold beer and a comfortable bed.

The Wild Coast Meander takes you over 5 nights from Kob Inn to Morgan Bay, and the Wild Coast Amble, also 5 nights, from Qolora to Glen Garriff in the south. More routes are opening up all the time, and you could just do a day walk to the next hotel, if you’d prefer.

Encounters and Activities

Many of South Africa’s most notable leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, came from areas close to the Wild Coast. You could organise a tour to Nelson Mandela’s former village, Qunu, or you could enquire about a cultural visit from your hotel or backpacker lodge. The local tribes (broadly split into Xhosa and Pondo) are friendly and have fascinating customs. Ask about local crafts, which include beadwork, fine wooden carvings and woven baskets.

Other activities include fishing (including some very fine fly-fishing around Mtentu Gorge), horse-riding, snorkelling, and bird watching (there are 320 species). And in mid-winter, the sardine migration northwards attracts pods of dolphins 30 000 strong, as well as innumerable seabirds, sharks and whales.

Information supplied by SA Tourism

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Wild Coast South Africa