The Wild Coast, formerly known as the Transkei, is quite often overlooked as travellers work their way up the Garden Route on the Eastern coast of South Africa. This route eventually ends in Port Elizabeth where most people either head back down to Cape Town or race ahead to Durban. However in between Port Elizabeth and Durban is a land of real natural beauty that has so far been unspoilt by any urban development. If you go to South Africa looking for an ‘African’ experience then the Wild Coast is a perfect place to start.
Endless rolling hills and vast open grasslands lead to some of the most picturesque coastal areas that South Africa has to offer. Secluded beaches pave the way into a far less travelled area of this country, a stark contrast to the often very touristy places dotted along the Garden Route. The region officially stretches from East London to the border of KwaZulu-Natal in the north and is also well known for being the birthplace of Nelson Mandela.
The first small bit of paradise you can encounter is at Chintsa. Sitting on top of a hill, this small village overlooks a beautiful lagoon leading to the sea as it meanders its way through sand dunes and trees. The obvious attraction here is its beach, as its pristine sand and blue sea draws you in for hours. Like most places along this coastline the beach is very secluded with only a few locals surfing or enjoying a walk in sight. No stay here would be complete without either having a go at surfing yourself, or for those who prefer to stay on dry land, exploring the surrounding area by foot. Also nearby is Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve, a great opportunity to get up close to the big five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros).
Bulungula is a small rural village that offers travellers a taste of Africa. It is a great opportunity to experience a local Xhosa community and spend a day in the lives of a typical African community. Everything here remains very traditional and provides a unique insight into how the locals live. Located on a headland above the Xhora River this village can boast a host of activities for you to get involved in, whether it’s tubing down the river, taking a horse ride along the beach or helping locals collect firewood and catch fish. If you embrace all that Bulungula has to offer it could turn out to be a life changing experience.
Coffee Bay is situated at the heart of the Wild Coast and is probably its most popular stop. Fast becoming known due to its party hostel ‘The Coffee Shack,’ many come here in search for a combination of big parties and spending hours on the beach. Like all of the Wild Coast it is also home to a fantastic beach as you walk over hills and through rivers to see stunning view after stunning view. Also you can’t miss the picturesque walk to Hole In The Wall which was formed from waves crashing into this piece of rock and eroding a hole through the centre which makes for an impressive sight. Many people get caught up in Coffee Bay’s idyllic location and the local’s perfect way of life, most travellers few days here soon become a few weeks.
The very vibrant Port St Johns has a two street town centre with a mix of colonial and African buildings, providing travellers with a good opportunity to stock up on a few essentials. Again this town offers a host of things to do in the local area and boasts some very picturesque walks to waterfalls and other remote villages. It is known as the jewel of the Wild Coast due to its great location and impressive scenery.
For a very different experience of the Wild Coast then head to Mthatha. This bustling city is very different to the beautiful villages along the coastline you may become accustomed to, as pristine beaches are replaced by dirty and crowded streets. The only real reason to come here is to see one of the three museums devoted to Nelson Mandela. This city was home to many of South Africa’s greatest leaders, with Madiba being the most well-known. His current house is in his home village of Qunu, just south of Mthatha.
Be aware when travelling to the Wild Coast that you will need longer than you may have originally planned. Days can turn into weeks as people get caught up in this part of South Africa, which really does offer a little insight into paradise, as you re-discover the country’s roots and get caught up in their laid back approach to life.