Wild Coast

by Peter Baxter  

wild-coast.jpg

The Wild Coast, situated in the Eastern Cape, is a rare stretch of sparsely developed coastline larglely held in trust for the use of the people.

The Wild Coast is something of a departure from the travel norm in South Africa. This becomes most starkly evident when the region is approached from KwaZulu/Natal, at which point the landscape changes abruptly from the highly developed suburban aspects of KNZ to a much more traditional, African style social backdrop that seems to belong in a different part of Africa altogether.

Traditional African Life

viilage_wild_coast.jpgIn fact it is surprising to many visitors the degree to which traditional life is alive and well in South Africa. Since the established touring routes of the country tend to focus on the richly textures areas of white domination, they tend also to gloss over, and at times ignore completely the rural identity of a significant portion of the country.

On the Wild Coast, and within the hill country of the Transkei interior, almost no accommodation is made for modernity. The area is a jewel of southern African coastal ecology, softly overlain by the simple accoutrements of African village life, and fiercely protected by all its inhabitants.

Two hundred kilometres of undeveloped, unspoilt beaches and estuaries are there to be discovered, with a handful of tour operators to help, and a comprehensive selection of accommodation options to make your trip comfortable.

Conservation

The region is, of course, under constant threat from the same over development suffered by the KNZ South Coast. It is such a beautiful area, and so completely untouched by capitalists and property developers, that it does, and always has represented a terrible temptation for many in positions of wealth and power. The battle to keep the Wild Coast wild, therefore, is ongoing.

What To Do

surf-fishing.jpgActivities on the coast range from hiking a variety of routes, with the possibility, if well guided, to hike the entire length of Wild Coast. Several village based tour operations host such activities and estuary kayaking, nature walks, horse riding and fishing. There are also many village tours and cultural exchanges which allow you to meet and interact with local people. The local coastal ecology is largely intact allowing for excellent bird watching and nature trails, particularly in the estuaries, rivers and riparian forests.

Climate

The Wild Coast shares its climatic characteristics with the coast of KwaZulu/Natal. There are perhaps some accommodations made to the proximity of the temperate regions, but the area is part of the summer rainfall region and generally enjoys warm to humid, sub tropical conditions.

Annual summer rainfall regularly exceeds 1000mm, with summer temperatures between late November and March averaging highs of 28°C to 32°C (82°F-90°F). Average winter highs between June and late September reaching a very agreeable 23°C to 25°C (73°F-77°F).

More information about South African weather

When To Go

Winter is the most comfortable time to visit the Wild Coast, particularly as most of the village based or communal camps and accommodations are not air conditioned, but summer is the best time to enjoy the diverse ecology, and in particular the butterflies and birdlife, not to mention local succulents and wildflowers. The December school holidays are a very busy time for the South Coast, and for most vacation destinations in the country, so advance bookings and enquiries are a good idea then.

Travel Warnings

Crime: The Wild Coast shares the same general dangers of street crime and muggings as the rest of South Africa. Muggings are frequent, and long and lonely beach walks at any time are definitely not advisable.

While long distance beach hiking is one of the most enjoyable activities on the coast, these days the risks of robbery and muggings are just too high for independent excisions, so contact a tour operator or make arrangements through your lodge or hotel.

On the whole walking around during the day, and in busy areas, and being generally out and about, is not dangerous, but avoid walking around at night, and definitely do not venture out on the beach alone after dark. Seek and follow local advice on the matter of crime and general safety wherever and with whomever you go.

  • Leave important documents in a safe place. All hotels, lodges and hostels offer safe lock up facilities
  • Seek safety advice from you hospitality establishment wherever you are
  • Avoid walking anywhere after dark, particularly in urban areas, and particularly in the CBD of any of the larger cities and towns
  • Don’t leave anything of value in your car overnight
  • Incidences of car hijackings in South Africa are high. Always be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night
  • Don’t stop on any of the freeways for more than a few minutes, and in the instance of a breakdown, call for help

Health

AIDS: Any kind of casual sexual encounter in South Africa, as with anywhere in the world these days, is to be discouraged. South Africa has one of the highest infection rates on the planet, about 1 in 4 of the population, so obviously extra caution is necessary when visiting any destination on the sub-continent.

In most of South Africa tropical diseases are rare. Although the South Coast enjoys a sub-tropical climate, incidences of malaria are rare, however there lots of mosquitoes about and so repellent is a must. As a matter of policy a course of anti-malarial drugs is advisable in the province, particularly if you intend travelling further north up the coast to Maputaland.

Travel Doctor clinics are to be found in all the major centres where you can get health advice on malaria, yellow-fever, AIDS and any other tropical diseases, and acquire all the vaccinations and prophylactics necessary for your extended journey.

Tap water is usually safe to drink.

Sunburn risks are high so hats, long sleeved T-shirts and sun screen are a must.

Image: Thanks flickr – Ivan Cheng

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