Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsHluleka Marine Protected Area
Where? Reach the MPA and nature reserve along the road between Umtata and Port St Johns. At Libode, turn right, travelling through to Ntibane. Follow signs to the reserve.
The aim of a marine protected area is to conserve marine life. They take the form of a collaboration between civil society, communities and government that promote conservation and safeguard threatened marine species and important habitats.
The Hluleka Marine Protected Area runs alongside the 772 hectare Hluleka Nature Reserve, midway between Coffee Bay and Port St Johns, protecting 4 km of the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast, south west of Port St Johns.
These waters protect the southern right whale between April and December, the humpback whale all year round, and the humpback dolphin and the bottlenose dolphin, whilst the adjacent reserve includes a unique swamp forest, the Cape parrot and the green coucal.
The nature reserve, described as a piece of heaven on earth, is a rough drive from Umtata, but worth it for the unspoilt location. The views across the Hluleka Marine Protected Area from the reserve are incredible (spot humpback whales from your balcony), as the chalets lie perched upon the cliffside.
Hluleka Marine Protected Area lies on the coast 87 kilometres south east of Umtata and 20 km south of Port St Johns; a collection of beautiful secluded beach coves. It extends six nautical miles (a nautical mile is 1 852 metres) out to sea, protecting a shore line of rocky shores, a river mouth and sandy beaches. The offshore reef and clear waters are perfect for snorkelling, kayaking and diving, whilst hiking trails along the beach provide great bird and wildlife viewing.
The entire Hluleka Marine Protected Area is a no-take zone, although difficult to manage as there is no permanent reserve manager. Things are made doubly challenging by the resistance amongst the local community, many of whom were not included in any communication process when the MPA was implemented, and many of whom are fishers whose existence depends on the catches they make at sea.
Hluleka is also an incredibly narrow Marine Protected Area. It is difficult to know whether or not you are within the boundaries of the reserve or not, when on a boat offshore.