Wild Coast, Umtata Attractions
The Wild Coast, as the 280km/175mi stretch of coast between Qolora Mouth in the south and Port Edward in the north is called, is an enchanting succession of quiet inlets and lagoons, bizarre rock formations and caves and beaches of magical beauty.
It is called the Wild Coast not for the rugged beauty of the scenery but because of the numerous ships that have come to grief on this stretch of coast with its rocks and shallows.Along the Wild Coast there are numbers of modest hotels, as well as establishments offering high standards of comfort and amenity (mainly in Coffee Bay and Port St John's). The climate is agreeable all year round, and sea bathing is possible even in winter.The various holiday areas along the coast are not linked by a coast road but are reached on tracks, mostly unsurfaced, running down to the coast from N 2 through beautiful scenery, in which evergreen rain forests and mangrove swamps alternate with wide expanses of hilly grassland strewn with the round huts of the Xhosa.Driving at night in the former Transkei is to be avoided.
Mkambati Nature Reserve
One sight not to be missed is the Mkambati Nature Reserve, near the north end of the Wild Coast; it can be reached from Port St John's or Flagstaff. Here, within a small area, can be found all the various landscape variations of this stretch of coast - dense forests, mangrove swamps, expanses of grassland and lonely sandy beaches. Within the reserve is an impressive gorge on the Msikaba River, best explored in a canoe (which can be hired). There is a camping site and a shop in the reserve.
Dwesa Nature Reserve
The Dwesa Nature Reserve, an area of unspoiled natural beauty, is reached on a road which branches off N 2 at Idutywa. Rhinos, buffaloes and zebras have been reintroduced here, and there are also crocodiles. The real attractions of the reserve, however, are the tropical coastal forest and the lonely coast, on which shell-collectors will gather a rich harvest. There is accommodation for visitors in holiday cottages and on a camping site.
Hole in the Wall
The famous Hole in the Wall, an offshore rock 8km/5mi south of Coffee Bay through which erosion has carved a hole, can be reached either by road or on a delightful footpath.
Coffee Bay, South Africa
The charming holiday village of Coffee Bay is reached on an asphalted road which branches off N 2 18km/11mi south of Umtata. There are a number of hotels with views of the spectacular coastal scenery. A sheltered lagoon offers safe bathing.The origin of the name Coffee Bay is not entirely clear. One story has it that a ship ran aground here and lost its cargo of coffee beans. These, it is said, were washed ashore and some of them took root, but the coffee bushes which grew soon died off.
Port St John's, South Africa
The largest town and most popular resort on the Wild Coast is Port St John's, 95km/59mi east of Umtata. Situated at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River, which here forms a very beautiful lagoon, it is surrounded by lush subtropical vegetation. There are a number of hotels offering a variety of sports facilities. Numbers of artists and craftsmen who have settled in the town, attracted by the paradisiac scenery, offer their work for sale.
Butterworth, South Africa
South of Umtata on N 2 is Butterworth, the oldest town in the former Transkei (founded in 1827 as a mission station) and now its second largest town, with a population of 60,000. It is an industrial and commercial center, a rather depressing town of huts with corrugated iron roofs.
From Butterworth a road runs down by way of Kentani to Mazeppa Bay. Many deep-sea anglers come here in August to fish for shark. Other holidaymakers are attracted by the long sandy beaches. A small offshore island is linked with the mainland by a suspension bridge from which there are magnificent views of the coastal scenery.
Wild Coast Hiking Trail
A 280km/175mi long hiking trail runs along the whole length of the Wild Coast. Sections of this can be followed in - to 6-day walks; particularly attractive is the 60km/37mi walk between Port St John's and Coffee Bay (which involves wading or swimming over various rivers and carrying your own provisions).
Hluleka Nature Reserve
At Libode, on the road between Umtata and Port St John's, a side road goes off to the Hluleka Nature Reserve. Here evergreen coastal forests surround the lagoon at the mouth of the Mnenu River.
At the south end of the Wild Coast is Qolora Bay, a holiday resort which draws many visitors with its subtropical vegetation and endlessly long beaches of fine sand.
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