03 July 2014 by Lynnette Johns

Backpacking along the Wild Coast

One of the best and most popular ways to enjoy the Wild Coast is to backpack, with many establishments geared towards backpacker travellers.

The Wild Coast's Hole in the Wall is a popular destination. Image courtesy of Mark Turner

Every Wednesday at 7pm, South Africa's travel fundis meet in the Twitterverse (#TravelChatSA) to chat about South African travel. Last night's topic was all about backpacking – how to find great backpacking accommodation, how to get there and tips for backpacking. (Last week's #SATravelChat was about family travel. Click here to read more about it.)

Wednesday night's conversation delved into:

  • Why South Africa is a great backpacking destination
  • Tips for backpacking through South Africa
  • The most important thing to look for in a hostel
  • How to get around South Africa when backpacking

The informative conversation revealed a thriving backpacking industry, with many establishments surpassing guest expectations, as confirmed by Jessy Lipperts (‏@jessystravel) in response to why South Africa is a great backpacking destination: 'High standards, suitable for families as well, very good value and mostly free Wi-Fi, unlike expensive hotels #TravelChatSA.'

@HISouthAfrica said: 'We have 40 hostels in SA all with a global @hostelling standard #TravelChatSA', while travel writer and photographer Vicki Brown (‏@LaNomadita) had a great tip: 'The bottom bunk! But seriously ... a central location, and staff that can help you discover a place like a local.'

Christine Bernard's tweet about Sugarloaf Backpackers on the Wild Coast illustrates the healthy state of the industry:

Here are a few backpacker lodges along the Wild Coast, including Sugarloaf, that will give you a new perspective on South Africa and what it has to offer.

The Wild Coast, as the name suggests, is an untamed strip of coastline in the Eastern Cape. It stretches from East London to the mouth of the Mtamvuna River, and is increasingly popular with tourists.

Most of the coastline remains undeveloped, giving visitors a feeling of being transported back in time.

A number of shipwrecks litter the coastline, a reminder of how unpredictable the ocean and weather can be, while the warm Indian Ocean hugs the shore, creating a mecca for water sport lovers and creating an income for people who live off the sea. It is a year-round destination

The coast has some of the best surfing spots in South Africa, wildlife abounds, and the hospitality is legendary. Rural villages can be found by following gravel roads, which fork off the N2 national road.

One of the best and most popular ways to enjoy the Wild Coast is to backpack, with many establishments geared towards backpacker travellers.

Learn to surf in Coffee Bay. Image courtesy of the Coffee Shack

While you can traverse the coast by car, if you’re backpacking, one of the easiest ways of travelling is to use a hop-on, hop-off service like that provided by the Baz Bus

Buy a Port Elizabeth-Durban ticket and make your way along the Wild Coast at your leisure, going from one backpackers’ establishment to another as you tour the area.

The Baz Bus makes its rounds at a number of backpacker lodges in the area, throughout the week, to drop off and collect travellers.

Here are a few places worth looking into:

At Mdumbi Backpackers you can sleep in traditional Xhosa huts. It is practically on the shore, and you can use it as a base from which to go surfing, fishing, horse riding and kayaking. You can cook for yourself using the spacious shared kitchen, or you can take your meals at the Mdumbi Café.

Amapondo Backpackers is in the laid-back town of Port St Johns. Amapondo overlooks a beach, but if you want to do more than laze around in a hammock enjoying the view, guides will take you canoeing, cycling or hiking. You could also volunteer to help with projects in the local community.

Sugarloaf Backpackers Lodge in Coffee Bay is next to the Mnenga River mouth. Watch the sun rise over the bay as surfers slice the waves. You can use Sugarloaf as your base from which to go fishing, horse riding, kayaking, swimming and surfing.

Coffee Shack, on the Bomvu River, offers a wide range of activities, including a stunning coastal hike to Hole in the Wall, a rocky archway in the ocean created millions of years ago by water being battered against sandstone and shale. You can also try your hand at rock climbing, cliff jumping and abseiling. You can choose to sleep in dorms, private rooms, thatched huts or camp.

Surrounded by kilometres of unspoiled coastline, the Hole in the Wall Hotel and Holiday Village has amazing scenery. There is a swimming pool, bar, a play area for children and a volleyball court.

There unspoilt beauty of the Wild Coast offers so much for backpackers. So get packed and on your way, and discover South Africa's fabulous Wild Coast.

The unspoilt Wild Coast. Image courtesy of Coda

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Category: Adventure, Attractions, Culture & History, Routes & Trails, Wildlife

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