Did you know?
Giant earthworms live around Mngqesha, making the soil particularly fertile.
The Mngqesha Great Place Project lies in the foothills of the Amathole Mountains, in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.
Thickly covered in rare yellowwood trees, these mountains have long held a deep cultural and spiritual significance for the Xhosa people.
It is also here that King Sandile, one of the greatest leaders of the Xhosa nation, was buried after his death during the War of the Axe in the 1840s.
Mngqesha village, not far from King William’s Town, is the headquarters of the modern-day King Sandile’s royal house, known as the Rharhabe Kingdom. The Mngqesha Great Place Project includes the king’s home, the Sandile Memorial and graves of his forefathers, as well as the Ubukhosi village and conference centre.
On the insistence of the modern King Sandile (now deceased), the tourism facilities were established to help to uplift the surrounding communities through skills transfer, jobs and income.
The area lies on the edge of the biologically rich Amathole Mountains. Five distinct plant ecosystems converge here: Afro-montane, grassland, Nama Karoo, fynbos, and Pondoland coastal flora. Parts of it look like a land straight out of Lord of the Rings, and some say author JRR Tolkien’s son travelled here and wrote to him of it.
King Sandile threw his support behind a conservation initiative to protect this wildly scenic biodiversity by creating a 100 000-hectare Amathole Mountain Biosphere Reserve.
Plans are also being made to introduce antelope species into the area around the Mngqesha Great Place, and a cultural walking trail is being established to take visitors to the Sandile Memorial. Conservation is critical here – this is where the great Buffalo River rises in a sensitive catchment habitat.
Walk here with a guide to appreciate the indigenous vegetation and then, atop a hill with a magnificent view of the Amathole Mountains and the villages below, you will find the memorial with a life-sized lion, the totem animal of the late King Sandile.
A multipurpose centre including a museum is being developed on site by the King Sandile Development Trust. The museum will chronicle the history of the Kingdom and the frontier wars fought in an area where colonialism was first resisted.
Memorials to historical clashes are immortalised at Elands Post, Fort Glanmorgan, Fort Murray, Fort Cox and Fort Hare, while memorials of the Battle of Amalinda and Boomah Pass Ambush may also be seen here.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Mngqesha Great Place
Tel: +27 (0) 40 635 0244
Cell: +27 (0) 82 897 1727
How to get here
Mngqesha village, where the Great Place Project is found, is about 20 minutes' drive from King William's Town, which is about two hours away from East London (your closest airport) on good roads.
Best time to visit
Any time, but summer is lovely with its thunderstorms and green vegetation.
Around the area
The Amathole Museum complex in King William's Town is well worth a leisurely visit. And while you're there, you could see the house where anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko once stayed. A short drive away is the peaceful, scenic Great Fish River Nature Reserve.
You can walk around Mngqesha and enjoy nearby hiking trails. You'll need a vehicle for more far-flung attractions, like the Great Fish River Nature Reserve.
Length of stay
About one or two nights, depending on how much you're planning to do in the area.
Where to stay
Ubukhosi Village, within the Mngqesha Great Place Project, is the natural choice.