One of the high points of the legendary Wild Coast Hiking Trail is a stop-over at Waterfall Bluff near the Mkambathi Nature Reserve. Next to it stands the pyramid-shaped Cathedral Rock. Hikers on this trail sometimes witness the incredible Sardine Run, dubbed by a filmmaker as ‘the greatest shoal on Earth’.

Did you know?

Waterfall Bluff is one of the Gondwana ‘tear-away’ spots that once connected us to Antarctica.

A bird’s-eye view of Waterfall Bluff south of the Mkambathi Nature Reserve along the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape would reveal one of Africa’s greatest coastal rock formations.

One minute you would be flying past seaside developments that make up the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, the next you’re on the Wild Coast as deep green lands spread out below you.

Your fly-over takes you on a marvellous game drive: eland, blesbuck, blue wildebeest and red hartebeest canter lazily away down there. The grasslands are studded with wild banana outcrops.

You hover briefly over a particularly lovely tannin-stained river – the Mkhambathi – that descends in a series of waterfalls directly into the Indian Ocean. There are very few places in the world where you find such waterfall formations.

The rivers that empty into the waters beyond the Wild Coast rise in the Drakensberg. In the northern areas, these flows are met with rocky crags.

The most rewarding way to see Waterful Bluff, however, is on a Wild Coast hike. The length of the whole trail is 280km (most people only do shorter chunks of it) and will take a seasoned hiker 25 days to complete.

Right next to Waterfall Bluff is the free-standing, pyramid-shaped Cathedral Rock, rising out of the sea.

The geography you hike through consists of a series of secluded, pristine beaches, deep coastal forests, rocky shores and estuaries. You will also see the miniature coconut palm called the Mkambathi palm – a drift-in from another continent.

Offshore, there’s a sliver of cold water pushing its way north in the winter, bearing a great migration of sardines, pursued by gannets, sharks and dolphins. It has been dubbed ‘the greatest shoal on Earth’.

In this 8 000ha reserve, birdwatchers should look out for the red-shouldered widow, the yellow-throated longclaw, the croaking cisticola, Gurney’s sugarbird, and the tiny, yet dazzlingly beautiful double-collared sunbird.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency
Tel: +27 (0)43 705 4400

How to get here

Waterfall Bluff is best-accessed via the Mkambathi Nature Reserve.

Best time to visit

The change of seasons are prime times: April-May (autumn) and September-October (spring).

Tours to do

There are also horseback trails in the area.

Get around

A heavy terrain vehicle (4X2 at least) is needed to negotiate some of the roads in the area, but it's likely you'll get around on foot (hiking) mostly.

Length of stay

Most hikers to the Wild Coast spend at least a week in the area.

What to pack

Take local advice on what hiking gear and supplies to pack.

Where to stay

Stay at Mkambathi Nature Reserve or in Port St Johns, in which case you will need guided transport to the Waterfall Bluff area.

Related articles