Dwesa Nature Reserve is a little green gem along the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. A provincial reserve, it offers coastal forest, grasslands with wild animals, and best of all, a chance to laze on a gloriously empty beach. During the mild winter, look out for humpback whales and the incredible Sardine Run, when sardines migrate in their millions up the east coast of South Africa, followed by predators such as sharks and birds.

Did you know?

Dwesa is owned by the local community and run on their behalf by provincial conservation authorities.

Here’s a thumbnail impression of Dwesa: primordial, sweeping beaches, dense coastal forest with log cabins, and grassy uplands.

At only 3 900 hectares in size, it is really a pocket park, but within its confines are found alluring birds like the beautiful but elusive narina trogon.

The mangrove forests at the Mbashe and Nqabara river mouths are excellent places to hunt for the mangrove kingfisher.

On the grasslands, look out for the yellowbreasted longclaw, broadtailed warbler and wailing cisticola.

There are wild animals about, but nothing dangerous except for the crocodiles in the rivers and buffaloes. On the grasslands and scrubveld you’ll see red hartebeest, zebras, eland, blesbok, wildebeest, warthogs and bushbuck.

In the forests, look out for the very rare samango monkey, the equally rare blue duiker as well as the more common vervet monkeys and tree hyraxes.

But for many people, the main attraction here is the gorgeous, sweeping beach where you can feel, at times, like the last human on Earth. Not for nothing is this part of the world called the Wild Coast.

Plovers run up and down at the waves’ edge, and oystercatchers plunder the shellfish along the broad rocks.

If you’d like to take a break from nature though, there’s always the option of organising a boat trip across the Mbashe River to the Haven Hotel, one of the Wild Coast’s well-known fishing destinations.

You could also explore the Cwebe Nature Reserve. The Mbashe river separates the two reserves.

Dwesa and Cwebe are among the oldest protected areas in South Africa. They were declared state forests in the 1800s. Before then, they had been hiding places for high-ranking Xhosa chiefs during the epic Frontier Wars against the British settlers.

Accommodation at Dwesa is simple, and you bring your own food. There are 3 4-bed cabins and 4 cabins for couples, all equipped with gas stoves and fridges.

If you prefer, there are also camping facilities.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Dwesa Reservations
Tel: +27 (0) 43 701 9600
Fax: +27 (0) 43 742 5566
E-mail: reservations@ecpta.co.za

Eastern Cape Tourism Board
Umtata Booking Office
Tel: +27 (0) 47 531 5290
Fax: +27 (0) 47 531 5291

How to get here

The closest airport is at East London. From there, take the N2 north towards Idutywa, about 150km away on a good, but frequently busy road. At Iduywa, turn towards Dwesa – it is well-signposted. From here, it will take an hour or 2 to get to the reserve, depending on whether it has rained or not. Ask about the state of the road, the condition of which fluctuates over the seasons. Overall, the trip from East London should take between 3 and 4 hours.

Best time to visit

Dwesa is good in all seasons, but the drier winter months of June and July are particularly pleasant and mild. There’s also the possibility that the annual sardine migration (referred to as the Sardine Run) will take place around then, with all its attendant dolphins, game fish, seabirds and Bryde’s whales. This is also a good season to see the odd humpback whale making its way north towards Mozambique.

Around the area

If you’re feeling energetic, go to the Haven Hotel for mountain biking, fishing, canoeing or horse riding. Dwesa's sister reserve, Cwebe, is also just over the Mbashe River.

Tours to do

If you’d like a guided walk, a member of the community will take you around the park.

Get around

This is a reserve that does not really lend itself to driving about. Instead, you’ll get most places by walking. This is a place where you can truly relax.

What will it cost

A provincially-run park, Dwesa offers very good value for accommodation. Depending on the season, a cabin for 4 people will cost approx. R600 a night.

Length of stay

Two or 3 nights would be ideal, but you’ll probably leave wishing you had more time.

What to pack

A swimming costume, a hat, a sarong, food, binoculars and a beach umbrella.