The South Coast of KwaZulu Natal stretches from Durban, south to the start of the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast. It's a charming region boasting many unique activities that you could do on your next visit. It is a 365 days a year destination with 9 months of warm summer, and a pleasant 3 months of winter. It is famed for its 120km stretch of stunning beaches, 7 of which hold Blue Flag status adhering to international standards. For golfing enthusiasts the area offers 8 of the top 30 golf courses in South Africa. For the nature lovers: a short drive from the beaches you can find breathtaking gorges, forests, and the worlds smallest desert. It is also a sporting paradise, with many National and International sporting events being hosted here. It's home to the top 2 dive sites in the world - Aliwal Shoal and Protea Banks where you can also go Shark Cage Diving.
I have complied this list of my top 10 favourite activities to do. Most of them are in the Port Edward area, the rest are a mere short drive out. So it will be a good idea to base your self in this area - this way you will be able to visit them all effortlessly. I took 6 days to do all of these, but I must admit it was a bit rushed, so to do it more at a leisurely pace be sure to add in a few extra days.
I hope after reading them, you will get excited to plan your next visit just as much as I was.
1. A visit to the Petrified Forest to view the Mzamba Fossils
I was not previously familiar with the term "petrified", and never experienced anything of the sort. It's not a forest per say, but rather refers to a series of fossilised that have fallen and become water submerged and logged along the coast line. These trees are said to have been around since the Late Triassic period about 225 million years ago.
I took a very informative 2 hour walking tour with Benny Mbotho. It's a very tricky trip to plan, as the "forest" can only be accessed at low tide, so you will have to do some careful planning. This is also not something that you can easily do on your own, I struggled to single out what I was looking for even while I was on a tour.
Along the way you will be shown fossilised ammonites that bare evidence of a 6,5 meter growth, echinoids (sea urchins), bivalve shells and a range of tree fossils. These are really cool, and on some you will still see the original bark that has become fossilised over the years. After being shown dinosaur bone fossils you will reach a series of caves along the coast line of which Benny refers to as the "White Man caves".
After your tour visit the fossil exhibition that is on display in the reception area of the Wild Coast Sun. It will really piece together everything you have just learnt.
If you are interested in booking a tour with Benny you can do so every Tuesday to Saturday. He can be reached on the following contact number +27 76 504 3969 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org and will advise you on the best tour time to ensure that you see them.
2. Hiking/Mountain Biking at Clear Water Trails
Clear Water Trails Umtamvuna River gorge is a privately owned farm which offers incredible panoramic views of the , nature walking trails, mountain biking trails, overnight accommodation and an owner run cafe. The farm is a natural divide between the KZN province and the Eastern Cape Province.
The area is incredibly scenic and tranquil, and its the perfect place for aspiring photographers to zone in on their photography skills in South Africa's natural heritage. From a few vantage points you can enjoy incredible panoramic views of the gorge, the river and the indian ocean. Many have proposed to their loved ones in this idyllic setting. So if you are looking to tie the knot this might just be the perfect place.
The walking trails don't take much effort at all, and is perfect for even the beginner hiker and family groups. They host a range of different activities including the monthly 5km trail run that takes place on the last Sunday of every month. For the mountain bikers - there are 4 MTB trails that offer a mix of different terrains and scenic views, moderate gradients or serious descents towards the river. There is something here for just about every nature lover.
The trails are open from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year, however the cafe is open from 8 - 4pm. It may be a good idea to give them a ring in advance if you are planning to arrive earlier than these times.
3. Visit the worlds smallest desert
The Red Desert in Port Edward has claimed the smallest desert in the worlds status, and is completely free to enter.
Its naked red soil bares contrast to its lush green surroundings, and is only 200 meters wide and 11 hectares in its entirety. There is not that much information available to explain this phenomena but myth has it that the desert is a result of terrestrial landings. It's a really nice area to explore if you are fascinated by geology.
The entrance to the desert can be found on Old Pont Rd, and best enjoyed on foot.
4. Cruise the Umtumvuna River
Peter and Theresa owners of the Ocean View B&B and Aston Manor in Port Edward arranged for us to go on a private cruise on the Umtumvuna River. Drinks in hand, good company, our favourite songs blurring in the background and the scenic views of forest ravines ensured I was in my element.
We stopped to take some pictures of the bridge that connects the KZN & Eastern Cape Provinces when a legavaan swam up to greet us. At first glance it appeared to look like a small crocodile, and I can honestly say I was thrilled that it wasn't and that I was admiring it from the comfort of a boat, and not swimming alongside it.
After cruising up and down the river in both directions, we arrived at the beach to take in the unspoilt seascapes of the Wild Coast.
Although we did a private cruise with one of Trevor's friends you will be able to book a spot on the “Spellbound Gambler II” or the “Sundance" at The Pont and Water Sport Resort. Here they offer some really interesting cruises including a a braai and booze cruise.
5. Horse riding along the coast
Ocean TrailsWild Coast Sun, offer a really exhilarating horse back ride along the beach. You depart from the saddle up and embark on an incredible journey on some of the Wild Coast's untouched beaches.
If you would like to book you can give them a ring: +27833347711
6. Chasing waterfalls
This area boasts incredible waterfalls all over the place, most of which are on private farms, or can be accessed on foot on some of the hiking trails. I have a deep seeded fascination for waterfalls and have committed the last 2 years of my life to "chasing them" around the world. I didn't mange to cover many on this trip, but I am hoping to revisit in the rainy season with South Coast & Eastern Cape Tourism later on this year.
Here are a few that I have rated definitely worth visiting:
The spectacular Waterfall Bluff near the Mkambathi Nature Reserve is one of 19 waterfalls around the world that fall directly into the ocean. You can only access the falls on foot but I think its well worth the effort. Some trails lead you all the way behind the falls, while others lead you to breathtaking panoramic scenic views. I will be back here in September so will fill you in then on how the hike is.
I got this incredible shot of Waterfall Bluff off www.wildcoast.co.za. I wish I knew the photographer who shot this I could have credited him!
The Magwa Waterfall is one of South Africa's most impressive and highest of all waterfalls. It lies in the middle of the 1 800 hectare Magwa tea plantation and is one of the very few waterfalls that can be accessed along the rugged Wild Coast. The 144 meters high falls that drop into a narrow canyon is said to resemble that of Victoria Falls. Amapond backpacker Lodge offers a really amazing day tour to these falls if you are interested.
A spectacular shot of the falls found on Amapond backpackers website.
7. "Crop to cup" coffee tour at Beaver Creek
Take a 45 minute coffee tour at the southernmost part of the world where coffee grows. Beaver Creek have spent 3 decades perfecting their speciality coffees. Established in 1984 with only 4 trees, they have grown to over 60 000 trees. The tour costs R55 and you will learn about all the processes involved in creating the perfect cup.
Jeff made me this incredible cappuccino with the african lion on. He didn't use any stencils, which indicates his ability to perfect the art. He will be competing in the International Coffee making competition later on this year.
The tour starts at 12:00pm daily, and they have an awesome cafe where you can relax over a cuppa and have some brunch. I recommend booking a spot, as they get really busy especially over weekends and in the holiday season. They also have a farm store, where you can buy their own blends as well as some International favourites.
8. Wild Swing at Oribi Gorge
Wild 5 adventures offer the highest swing of its kind in the world. Every time I am in the area I have this inherent need to do it again, and once I have done it, I do it again. Usually twice in the same day. To date I have racked up 10 certificates. There is just something so exciting about standing at the edge of a waterfall and plunging downwards into a 165 meter gorge at speeds of up to 120km per hour. Every time I do it it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I feel like to have succeeded in over coming my own personal boundaries.
Maybe this isn't for everyone, but definitely for the like minded adventure traveler. Don't worry, they definitely offer something that will tickle your fantasy. Why not walk across their 84 meter suspension bridge that hoovers 100m above the gorge, try out abseiling, go white river rafting, or lock in your love at lock lane. Here you can purchase a lock, make a wish and throw the key into the gorge forever.
What ever it may be, visit Wild Adventures at the Oribi gorge hotel on your next visit.
This is leopard rock in Oribi Gorge. It's a stunning spot to take in the sunset.
Have a look at this video of me to give you an idea of what to expect.
9. Yoga & Reiki Session at Gods Window
Gods Window KZN should not be confused with Gods window in the Mpumalanga Province. This one refers to a space that the owner - Marcel Lottering has turned into a nature retreat. The establishment has been around for the past 3 years, and Marcel is currently busy completing his Yoga studio set in the middle of the forest. Its an amazing place to unwind in the depths of nature. The studio should be complete in a few months time, but in the meantime, he is offering some reiki and yoga classes. Weekend retreats are on the cards to.
You can also spend a couple of nights. He offers 4 kinds of accommodation options - a tented bush camp, a self catering cottage, a three bedroom house and the Gods Window flatlet. Collectively he can comfortably accommodate up to 16 people. It's a great place for perfect seclusion away from the busyness of your every day.
I spent some time here, and fell in love with the space, and cant wait to be back here for a retreat.
10. Hiking in Umtamvuna Nature Reserve
This 3,257 reserve is the hikers best kept secret in KZN. The trail starts alongside the Umtamvuna River, and hikers can walk through indigenous forests, grasslands, stare at sandstone cliff faces (some 240meters high), rest at river stops, and enjoy panoramic views into the river gorge. There is an abundance of wildlife and flora and fauna to be seen here to, including the Cape Vulture colony that is said to nest in the cliffs. Samango monkeys, bushbaby's, baboon, blue duikers, bushbuck and leopard are home to the reserve. There is also over 250 bird species.
There are 3 trails that you can explore, each ranging in difficulty levels. The Kingfisher trail will take 30 minutes, the Loerie Trail 2 hours and the Fish Eagle Trail 4 hours.
I was so excited to do at least one of them but never ended up finishing or in fact getting very far from the start. I was under prepared by not having enough drinking water, and closed shoes, and I had an encounter with Black Natal snake who gracefully slid over my exposed toes. Realising that this was the land of the black mamba, I decided to call it a day, and return better prepared with hiking boots next time.
The trail is 8km from Port Edward and you access it on Izingolweni Road and the R61, South Coast. They are open daily from sunrise to sunset, however winter and summer opening and closing times vary. There is a minimal fee payable on entrance.
All images on the site have been taken by Chantelle Flores (Unless otherwise stipulated), and remain the property of 51 Countries & Counting and Kzara Visual Concepts.