Exploring the Wild Coast of South Africa on foot: From Port St John’s to Coffee Bay
The Wild Coast of South Africa boasts incredible scenery, solitude and the villages along the way give an insight into the lives of the Khosa people. One of the best ways of exploring this part of the world and meeting it’s inhabitants is on foot.
The hike is a total of 61km and at a leisurely pace takes five days. For the most part the trail hugs the coast, occasionally skipping inland to find over night village accommodation.
The terrain is undulating so be prepared for a bit of up, up, down and up. We hired a guide through www.wildcoasthikes.com but other companies also operate in the area. It is possible to do the hike without a guide but there are four river crossing where a boat taxi is necessary. If you don’t have a local guide to pre-book this you may find yourself waiting a while at the shore for someone to come along.
Dinner, breakfast and accommodation were included in our package so all we had to do was provide lunch each day – for us this consisted mainly of nuts, dried fruit and biltong. There are spazas (small local shops) along the way where you are guaranteed to find cold beer and tinned food.
We were well cared for by our local hosts with a variety of quality home cooked meals and met many friendly faces along the way. Each night was spent in a rondarval in a Khosa village. Clean bedding was provided and we had a warm shower three of the four nights.
We walked on average six to eight hours a day and were greeted with spectacular scenery throughout. We walked through both Silaka and Hluleka Nature Reserves. In most villages you can buy shell or seed bracelets to support the locals. This is more favourable than just giving money or sweets to the children as this creates a begging culture and there are no dental facilities close by.
We did this trip in December, the height of South African summer and it’s rainy season. The ocean breeze kept the heat down and we were fortunate to only have a few afternoon downpours when we were safely undercover at our homestay. On one afternoon we shared the kitchen with four local construction workers, also seeking shelter from the rain. We spent several hours playing dominos, sharing stories and drinking tea with them whilst our host cooked fresh crayfish over the stove. This was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.
From Coffee Bay private shuttles can be arranged back to Port St John’s. We opted for the more traditional experience and took local taxis with the help of our guide. This was an experience all on it’s own!
The Wild Coast is certainly one of South Africa’s hidden gems and I would highly recommend this hike to anyone who has a love for natural beauty and African culture.
What to bring:
I packed very little and only carried a 25L bag but would recommend the following:
small first aid kit
cap, sunglasses and suncream
water purifying tablets
pack of playing cards
extra set of clothes
slops to give your feet a rest at the end of a long day hiking
phone and charger
cash for buying locally made items and tipping hosts and guide