The Pondoland Marine Protected Area conserves a remarkable seascape along the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast. This is where subtropical reefs and their attendant species lie, where pristine estuaries are nurseries to young fish, and where waterfalls drop directly into the sea. The Pondoland MPA sprawls over and includes the delightful Mkhambathi Nature Reserve.

Did you know?

‘Linefish' is a distinctly South African term meaning inshore fish, usually caught by fishing rod.

There aren’t too many coastal zones or estuaries in the world that can be called near-pristine, but the Pondoland Marine Protected Area is surely one of them.

It’s found on South Africa’s eastern coastline, south of Durban and north of Port St Johns, within the area most South Africans call the Wild Coast.

The Pondoland MPA is named for the people who live in this region – the Pondo. The protected area stretches for 90km between the Mzamba River in the north and the Umzimvubu River in the south, extending more than 10km out to sea. Within its boundaries lies the beautiful Mkhambathi Nature Reserve with all its waterfalls.

This inland area is also referred to with some reverence by botanists as the Pondoland Centre of Endemism, a biodiversity hotspot of unique plants – some of which are so rare there are literally only one or two specimens.

The marine ecosystem here is a transition zone between sub-tropical and warm, temperate zones, and protection here makes a world of difference to overexploited linefish, like the red steenbras and the black musselcracker. The MPA has differing zones – some are ‘no take’ while others allow limited harvests.

Of course, none of the above tells you how extraordinary, how breathtakingly beautiful this area of the Wild Coast is.

Offshore, whales and dolphins course through the blue seas. When the annual Sardine Run (migration) happens, they are joined by dozens of different bird species and other ocean predators. The coast, with its high cliffs, soft, sandy shores and subtidal reefs, is home to dozens of species that are found nowhere else.

There are two notable ways to explore this incredible, diverse seascape. You could book into Mkhambathi Nature Reserve and relax into the rhythm of the waves, exploring the beach and rock pools. Or you can do something a little more strenuous, like the Wild Coast Pondo Walk, a 5-day walking trail exploring this remarkable area.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Wild Coast Holidays
Tel: +27 (0) 43 743 6181

Best time to visit

This area is wonderful any time of year, but if you're here during June or July, you may witness the incredible Sardine Run, a migration of these small fish that attracts pelagic birds and predators like dolphins, Bryde whales, gamefish and sharks.

Get around

If you're staying at Mkhambathi Nature Reserve, you can walk or take yourself for game drives.

Length of stay

Bear in mind that no matter how much time you assign, you'll probably want more. Set aside at least three days.

What to pack

Beach gear: thongs, a beach wrap, maybe a fishing rod.

Where to stay

Mbotyi has lovely wooden cabins where you'll be based if you decide to do the Pondo Walk for five days. Otherwise there are simple self-catering accommodation options within Mkhambathi Nature Reserve.