The Wild Coast
Travel guide to the Wild Coast region of South Africa's Eastern Cape province.
The Wild Coast, known also as the Transkei, is a 250 kilometre long stretch of rugged and unspoiled coastline that stretches north of East London along sweeping bays, footprint-free beaches, lazy lagoons and rocky headlands. Originally encompassing the rural Transkei region only, today the Wild Coast includes the pretty seaside villages of the Jikeleza Route that run south along the coastline between the Kei River and East London.
The Transkei section of the Wild Coast is rural South Africa at its best and the roads to the coast lead the visitor through the Xhosa heartland, a stunning landscape of rolling green hills dotted with thatched rondavels, offering interesting glimpses into a culture far removed from the stresses of modern life.
Apart from Port St Johns and Coffee Bay, most villages north of the Kei River are made up of only a handful of fisherman's cottages, the occasional backpacker hostel and the odd hotel. There is a wealth of comfortable Wild Coast accommodation for the visitor, making it an ideal destination for peaceful, laid-back holidays away from the tourist hoards.
The Wild Coast is well known for its magnificent hiking trails, including the easy-going Strandloper Trail, which begins near Kei Mouth and passes through the Jikeleza Route villages, before terminating at Gonubie. Wrecks along this stretch of rugged coastline will stir the imagination and intrepid explorers will be thrilled by the pontoon adventure, as vehicles and passengers are ferried across the river at Kei Mouth. Famous landmarks include "the Gates" at Port St Johns, Hole in the Wall, Magwa Falls, Waterfall Bluff, the Jacaranda shipwreck, Nongqawuse's pools and the Morgan Bay cliffs.
The Wild Coast is blessed with fine weather during the winter months, when the Sardine Run attracts a frenzy of activity from gannets, seals, dolphins and predatory fish as it moves slowly north along the coast. High vantage points along the coastline make great lookout points for dolphin and whale watching. Humpback and Southern Right Whales migrate from the Antarctic to the shores of South Africa to calve and are often seen from the coast.
The area is also a firm favourite with anglers, offering excellent fishing grounds both at the coast and in the estuaries, particularly at the mouths of the larger rivers like the Kei and Mzimvubu which are navigable for several kilometres upstream. Launching a ski boat for a day of deep-sea fishing is an exhilarating start to a wonderful day out at sea with magnificent views of the coast. Other Wild Coast activities include golf, fly fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, abseiling, surfing, canoeing, horse riding, game viewing and bird watching.
A unique and much loved quirk of the Transkei is the frequent sightings visitors have of cows on the beaches. Even though beaches have no grass or drinking water, herds of cattle still love coming down to the beach to sleep, relax and chew the cud. They are easily approachable and make great photographic subjects.
From its people, to its unforgettable beaches, waterfalls and famous landmarks, the Transkei Wild Coast offers a wealth of things to see and experience. This coupled with a great climate, hot summers and mild dry winters, makes it an ideal tourist destination.
Whether you're a young adventure-seeking globetrotter, a family looking for a new and exciting holiday or a couple planning a romantic weekend, the Wild Coast offers everything you need.
The sensitive Wild Coast eco-system is being threatened by the planned construction of multi-lane toll-road highway, as well as proposed open-cast titanium mining in the Xolobeni dunes.
A coalition of organisations and individuals who are concerned about these developments and hope to press for ecologically sensitive economic solutions for the Wild Coast region, have formed the Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) campaign.
If you would like to support the campaign, join the mailing list, or learn more, then please visit their website for more information: www.swc.org.za