Activities / Eastern Cape

10 reasons to head to South Africa’s Wild Coast

Updated Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, as its name suggests, is one of South Africa’s least spoilt areas stretching from just beyond East London to Port Edward.

In between are a series of remote, wild, ragged cliff-lined beaches (the real thing), valleys, coastal forests, seaside villages and great expanses of undeveloped wilderness.

Cintsa, Wild Coast

The Wild Coast gets wilder the further you travel. At its start, places like Cintsa are beautiful, but they can get seasonally inundated.

Head up as far as Coffee Bay, Bulungula and Mdumbi, and both the people and the wildlife begin to represent a part of Africa missing from more commercial centres; a part of Africa not experienced in quite the same way anywhere else in the country.

The Wild Coast is about hours spent on beaches, ambles along white sand, meeting cows at river mouths, Xhosa huts, coffee out of tin mugs, pot-holed dirt roads, cliff hikes, river canoeing, horseback rides and surfing. Most of all, it’s about getting away from everything.

The Wild Coast, Eastern Cape

Here are 10 reasons to visit the Wild Coast…

Ride on the back of an elephant at Inkwenkwezi, Cintsa

Only five minutes’ drive from the beaches and you’re in a big five reserve. Riding elephants here is more than simply using them as transport. You get up close and personal with these gentle giants with a lot of one-on-one interaction.

Escape to Haga Haga Beach

A beach without the crowds. Haga Haga is a small seaside village with a secluded and sheltered beach perfect for swimming and canoeing. There are also plenty of hikes in the area.

Hike the coastal trail to Hole in The Wall

A hike that starts at the beautiful Coffee Bay beach and meanders along the coastline, passing Baby Hole and the Hlungwane Watefall. Your destination – Hole in The Wall – is a natural rock feature formed after millions of years of pounding sea. The lagoon here is lovely to swim in.

Tea Plantations

Experience a village homestay at Bulungula

Close to the town of Mthatha, a stay at Bulungula is as close to rural Transkei living as you are going to find. Women fetch water from the river in groups whilst children run barefoot to school. Travellers are invited to join this authentic village (there is nothing pre-meditated or rehearsed about any activities) for a while. The community run the project with a café that makes excellent and reasonably priced meals. Head down to the deserted beach to swim, or take a chilled nap in your hut. Stay at least three nights for its magic to work.

Canoe the Ntafufu River

Khululeka Retreat at Mtambalala, Port St Johns offers you the chance to canoe up the river for about 6km. Along the way explore the mangrove swamps. Silent, beautiful.

Visit Coffee Bay Beach

Coffee Bay is a real backpacker destination, hence there is quite a vibe. But the beach is simply spectacular, spreading from Nenga River Mouth and up against a backdrop of black-faced cliffs. All around are white sands, mountains and green hills. You won’t want to miss it.

Take the ferry to Long Beach and Agate Terrace, Port St Johns

Follow the path next to the local library to the ferry, which will take you across to the other side of the Mzimvubu River. This beach is known as Long Beach and deserves a walk as it’s 4.5km long. Agate Terrace is almost in the middle of Long beach. Take the path to the top and along the hills to yet another splendid beach known as Poenskop (hornless cow’s head). It doesn’t get much wilder than this…

Wild Coast

Fly fish at Port St Johns

Learn to flyfish on Mzimvubu River, one of Africa’s major rivers that brings months of good fish once autumn arrives and the November through April muddy churning of the river slows to clear. Catch grunter and kob. And in September and October, garrick.

Visit Magwa Waterfall

There are many waterfalls along the Wild Coast, few of them accessible. Magwa Falls is one of them. Bang in the middle of Magwa tea plantation, just outside the town of Lusikisiki, the curtain of water is pretty impressive, falling 144 metres into a narrow canyon below.

Wakeboard at Port Edward

Learn to wakeboard in warm, flat water behind a Mastercraft X-star with personal instruction from a pro wakeboarder. The area is not crowded, and promises to be the most fun you can have this side of the Wild Coast.

Wild Coast Trip Planning