Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsPondoland Centre of Endemism
Where? Visit Mkambati, Oribi Gorge or Umtamvuna Nature Reserve to experience the Pondoland Centre of Endemism.
Between Port St Johns, on the Wild Coast, and the Msikaba formation sandstone gorges of Oribi Gorge, in KwaZulu-Natal, stretches a biological hotspot filled with forests, grassland, and incised river valleys. It has been described as 'a wonderland' and 'one of the most fascinating areas of botanical study in the world'.
The small area is only about 180 000 hectares, but it is host to at least 1 800 plants, many of them endemic.
Not only is it the second richest floristic region in southern Africa (after the Cape Floristic Region (fynbos)), but it unites four centres of endemism – Maputaland, Pondoland, Albany and Sneeuberg, and six of the country's eight biomes.
This makes this stretch of coastline the second richest floristic region in Africa for its size.
It has a string of accolades, unique to the hotspot:
• a type of forest with at least 598 different tree species
• three types of endemic subtropical thicket
• six types of bushveld
• five types of grasslands
• coastal waters that contain three of the country's six marine bioregions and a significant diversity of marine species
As a result of its importance, several organisations are working together to map and record inventories of the area, using what is called the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory system (ATBI). They're also working with local communities to make sure eco tourism and livelihood activities in the area are sustainable.
The flowers on this coast are incredible. Important endemic plants include the Pondo coconut, the Pondoland ghost bush, Pondoland conebush, Pondo poison pea and Pondo Khat.
But it is not all sunshine and roses. The proposed N2 Wild Coast toll road will mow its way right through the middle of this centre of endemism (the road has got the go-ahead, despite environmental concerns); an area that includes three nature reserves, a few small forest reserves, hidden valleys, numerous river streams, waterfalls, cliffs overlooking pounding seas and an array of rare and common plants.
Where to experience the centre? Visit Mkambati, Oribi Gorge or Umtamvuna Nature Reserve.