Falling in Love in (with) Coffee Bay
Often, the thing that makes a destination so very special for us is the memories that it invokes; the special meaning it has to us personally. Coffee Bay, on the Transkei coastline, is one of those places. In fact, it is where I fell in love with the man I’ve been married to for eight years now, and will always give me a bit of the “warm and fuzzy”.
A lot has changed since that December holiday in 2003, but the vibe of Coffee Bay and its unspoilt beauty remains. Rolling emerald hills end in dramatic cliff faces of black rock that plunge into the turquoise sea waters below. White beaches stretch on until they curve into a private little bay, just secluded enough for honeymooning couple to enjoy the tranquillity of the Wild Coast together, or the slate face of another towering cliff.
The culture of Coffee Bay is another romantic lure that continues to enchant visitors. Locals sing and dance in informal and formal performances, and the children are always willing to put on some sort of show in exchange for sweets and other treats.
In 2003, we stayed in the municipal camping grounds. At the time, they resembled a forest; alive with unique animals and plenty of holiday-makers. It had a tangible fairytale feel that made it all the more romantic. Sadly, it seems to have been neglected over the years and, on our return in 2010, was quite run down. However, it remains the most budget-friendly option and is guaranteed to give you a very real experience of camping in the Transkei.
It is very green and lush, and each spacious camping site is quite secluded by the foliage. They are equipped with braai areas and most have a table of sorts. The ablutions are basic but have flushing toilets (with a curtain instead of a door) and showers (sans hot water). The most alluring part of the camping site is that it is situated right on the shore. Wake up when the sun rises, get the fire started and head to the beach for a quick dip. Have a cold shower and get back to the camp site just in time to make coffee and a massive fry-up on the white-hot coals. This is the Wild Coast life.
Of course, if camping isn’t an appealing prospect, there are a number of hotels and backpackers in the area. The Ocean View Hotel is situated right on the sands of one of the Coffee Bay beaches and provides ideal accommodation for couples, groups of friends or families. The facilities are all-inclusive and include a stunning swimming pool, bar and restaurant.
Papazela’s is situated on the steep incline of one of the hills that tumble into the sea below and offers one of the best pizzas I’ve ever sampled. This remains one of the favourite Coffee Bay institutions. Don’t miss their home-made chilli sauce, infused with almost equal amounts of chopped garlic and chunks of green chilli.
Activities in Coffee Bay are focused on the outdoors. They include surfing, swimming, hiking, 4 x 4 trails, cycling, drumming, and fishing. Hole in the Wall is less than 10 kilometres from Coffee Bay. The gravel road leading there is tricky in places, but is still suitable for any kind of vehicle (although a 4 x 4 is always easiest). Don’t forget your snorkel and flippers!
Surfers and swimmers are reminded that this is a wild part of the South African coastline. The waters are unpredictable and caution must always be taken when heading out to the beach.