East London to Port St Johns – a Wild Coast route
Did you know?
Mazeppa Bay was named after a ship that ran aground there in 1842.
South Africa’s Wild Coast is for those with a love of life, an independent spirit of travel and a yen for surprise.
Start your special Eastern Cape Wild Coast trip just outside East London at a legendary backpacker village called Buccaneers, in Chintsa (also known as Cintsa) West. Have a drink at the lively bar, followed by lunch at the poolside café and discuss your itinerary for the week – independent travellers can take on the Wild Coast in many different ways.
The birders can then hive off to the Buccaneers bird hide while the rest of you ride down the beach on horseback. What makes Buccaneers so beloved within the backpacker fraternity the world over is its laid-back attitude, its many services, and its beautiful setting on 8ha of coastal forest.
The next morning, meet up with a guide, perhaps Velile Ndlumbane from Imonti Tours, and go to a local village to meet the cultural icon of the area, Mama Tofu. Spend an hour in the company of this wise old Xhosa granny and you’ll gain an insight into Eastern Cape life and legend that you’ll treasure for many years to come.
Using the bustling N2 as your ‘spine route’ and tapping off it to all the coastal spots, make your way to Morgan Bay and check in at the Morgan Bay Hotel. You’re now in ‘Morgs’, which has been a family holiday destination for as long as anyone can remember.
After a restful night in this little seaside village, meet your guide, grab your daypacks and head off north along the beach for an exhilarating 14km walk to the next overnight stop, Trennerys Hotel at Qolora Mouth.
Some of you will fall in with loveable local rogues at the Anchor Bar in the hotel, while others will play a furious game of snooker. The fishermen will be off in the surf and the active sporty types will be on hired mountain bikes, exploring the area. There is something for everyone at these traditional old Wild Coast hotels.
There’s more hiking, fishing and socialising at the next stop, the Mazeppa Bay Hotel. The snooker gang can continue its fierce competitions while others go walking in the Manubi Forest, or over the suspension bridge to the island off Mazeppa Bay beach, or for a longer walk to the unspoilt lagoon and Mile Beach or beyond.
At Dwesa Nature Reserve the next day, the twitchers among you come into their own, with the prospect of sighting more than 290 species of birds.
The next night you’re in a backpackers' establishment again, and this time it’s the Coffee Shack in Coffee Bay. The couples in the party can have their own rooms while the rest of you bunk down in the dorm.
Do you want to go home and tell everyone you’re a surfer now? Well, here in Coffee Bay they’ll teach you to surf. The rest of you can take free lessons in something called ‘hammock-riding’.
Finally, you chug into Port St Johns, where you meet up with historian-hotelier-photographer John Costello at the Safari Inn, who will reveal the Wild Coast to you like no-one else.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)43 734 3012
Wild Coast Jikeleza Festival
Cell: +27 (0)86 572 7661
How to get here
Fly to East London and go north on the N2 from there.
Best time to visit
The Wild Coast is a year-round destination.
Around the area
Visit Qunu, the village where Nelson Mandela grew up, approx. 40km south of Mthatha.
Tours to do
There are many Wild Coast tours available – check the listed websites.
Hire a car in East London, buy a good map and guidebook, and head into the Wild Coast.
What will it cost
The family hotels and backpacker establishments along the Wild Coast offer very reasonable rates.
Length of stay
Set aside at least seven days and nights for this journey, and add another three for your stay in Port St Johns if you can.
What to pack
Pack informally: beachwear, bar-wear and walk-wear. Kikhois (African cloths that can double as skirts, scarves or towels) and strong hiking boots are recommended.
Where to stay
Besides the places mentioned, the Wild Coast has a wide range of accommodation. Check the listed Wild Coast website for details.
What to eat
Check with the hotels and local fishermen for their catch of the day – there’s nothing quite so good.
Cultural events and village festivals take place from time to time – check the listed websites for details.
Find crafts sold along the roadside on the route between Port St Johns and Lusikisiki.