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IIf you’re going to visit Chintsa on South Africa’s Wild Coast – and you really owe it to yourself, if you want the holiday of a lifetime – you should first learn to pronounce the name. ‘Chintsa’ is an isiXhosa word meaning ‘river of crumbling banks’, and it is pronounced with a very specific click at the start of the word.
Here’s the easiest way to master it: tut your tongue against your teeth, in the universal ‘Tch!’ sound, as if you’d just spotted a small child doing something disappointing or an incontinent puppy. Then simply add ‘intsa’ onto the end, and voilà – you’ll impress the locals no end.
Once you arrive here, at the southern end of the Wild Coast with the Indian Ocean beckoning, you’ll discover that learning the different clicks of isiXhosa is part of the fun of discovering this region.
Chintsa (formerly spelt ‘Cintsa’) lies on both banks of the mouth of the Chintsa River in Eastern Cape province, about 40km north of East London off the N2 highway. For many generations it has been a favoured holiday and fishing spot for both locals and visitors from further afield.
There are few more attractive sights than watching a group of riders and their mounts galloping across the stretch of wide, clean beach that makes Chintsa so special.
Then there’s also the very pleasant sensation of chilling out in a hammock on a resort lawn overlooking the Chintsa Lagoon, sipping a cold drink, reading a book and occasionally lifting one’s eyes to the ocean to watch a passing whale or a frolicking pod of bottlenose dolphins.
Ask Chintsa regulars why they keep coming back here, and they’ll tell you about their favourite hotel, resort or backpackers’ establishment, and how their parents used to take them there as children. Now they take their own families to the same spots.
They’ll also tell you that Chintsa has the ‘best weather in the world’. That’s a bit partisan, perhaps, but it is true that the subtropical climate around Chintsa makes for mild year-round temperatures.
Naturally speaking, the Chintsa area has high dunes, indigenous forests full of birds and plants and, of course, that great beach.
Culturally, there is Mama Tofu down the road. A legendary raconteur and expert in Xhosa rituals and women’s rights, Mama Tofu is a favourite among the visitors who come to Chintsa. An afternoon spent at her village is not easily forgotten.
When you’re not riding horses on the beach, chewing the fat with Mama Tofu, fishing for something fresh from the sea, hiding in that hammock, or walking along the beach, you’ll be dining in 1 of Chintsa’s welcoming restaurants. And wondering why you’ve never been here before...
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Wild Coast Jikeleza
Tel: +27 (0)43 737 0005
Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)43 734 3234
Tel: +27 (0)83 459 6646 / (0)83 309 6963
How to get here
About 40km north from East London on the N2, take the turn-off to Chintsa.
Best time to visit
Chintsa prides itself on being a year-round destination because of its mild subtropical climate.
Around the area
Visit the nearby Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, a 4 000-hectare property that holds more than 40 species of game, including buffalo and lion.
Tours to do
There are many tours and packages available for travelling up and down the Wild Coast. See the listed Wild Coast website for options.
You’re at the southern gateway to the Wild Coast. It's best to have your own transport in this area to explore its attractions in full.
Length of stay
Spend 2 days or more if you can in Chintsa.
What to pack
Pack outdoor gear for Chintsa: beachwear, basic riding clothes, good walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
Where to stay
There are plenty of good places to stay in Chintsa – see the listed websites for details.
At the end of July Chintsa holds the Wild Coast Wet ’n Wild Festival, a 2-day affair packed with marathon runs, mountain-biking events, and races with inflatable boats and quad bikes.
Somewhere on the Wild Coast you will have a chance to purchase a traditional Pondo smoking pipe.