Umtata, Wild Coast
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Umtata is Madiba country. Renowned as the world’s most loved ex-convict, (Nelson Mandela) this former statesman was born in the nearby town of Mvezo, spent his childhood in Qunu and today the main buildings of the Nelson Mandela Museum are in Umtata.
On the banks of the Mtata River - named after the Sneezewood (umtati) trees, famous for their wood and medicinal properties - Umtata was founded in 1879 and was originally the capital of the Transkei, homeland of the Xhosa during the Apartheid era. Transkei now forms part of the Eastern Cape and Umtata is still the centre of the region.
This part of the country remains seeped in the old traditions and women still wear ochre-coloured dresses with turbans, wire bracelets and white clay on their faces and bodies. Young boys still observe the coming-of-age ceremony called Khwetha and women carry jars of water on their heads. Domestic animals dawdle along the road sides.
Umtata is in the heart of the Nelson Mandela Route, established to give structure to the area for visitors who want to explore his history. The route starts in King Williams Town, where one can visit the grave of Steve Biko - leader of the Black Consciousness movement. The route then moves through Bisho along the N2 to Umtata and the Nelson Mandela Museum, opened 10 years to the day after he was released from prison. The museum is spread over three locations - Umtata, Qunu and Mveso.
Umtata still retains many of its earliest buildings, of the neoclassical style so popular in colonial times, including the Town Hall - a sandstone building completed in 1908. Other activities in the area include the Madiba hiking trail and a visit to the Bunga - a domed building that served as the seat of the Transkei Parliament and is now part of the Nelson Mandela Museum, containing a number of gifts given to him by other countries and nationalities whilst he was president.
The Umtata dam has some lovely picnic spots and is a hive of water sports. There are also a number of nature reserves in the area.
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"Umtata is interesting to see because it combines a rural lifestyle and modern city. It is very busy, with loads of people. The areas around it are very pretty. ..." - Fiona, Polokwane
Featured Attractions in (or near) Umtata
The two fairly small sister nature reserves of Dwesa and Cwebe lie separated only by the Mbashe River on the central wild coast, bordered on one side by the forest-fringed shores of the Indian Ocean, and on the other by the undulating hills and grasslands of the former Transkei. Dwesa and Cwebe combined ... more information
The virtually undiscovered Hluleka Nature Reserve lies roughly 20 kilometres south of Port St Johns on South Africa’s Wild Coast, a part of the world most aptly described in terms of its rugged and natural unspoiled beauty. The nature reserve lies along a particularly tranquil part of the coast, south east of Mthatha ... more information
Close to the town of Umtata, now known as Mthatha, lies the charming 460 hectare nature reserve of Luchaba. Luchaba Nature Reserve lies adjacent to the Mthatha Dam and is home to a variety of wildlife, a series of wetlands and grasslands that support a wide selection of birds, and evidence of the rare Stanley’s ... more information
Flanked on either side by the forested ravines of the Msikaba and Mtentu Rivers, Mkambati Nature Reserve is 8000 hectares of coastal reserve that consists mainly of grassland, close to the KwaZulu Natal border in north-east Pondoland. Despite being predominantly grassland, the incredible scenery is ... more information
The Museum offers visitors an inspiring journey through the life of Nelson Mandela. Known affectionately as 'Madiba', he is loved and respected world-wide for his tireless energy to bring about a better life for all. Mandela has insisted that the Museum should not be a tribute dedicated to him, but should rather ... more information
A memorable golf course situated on the magnificent Wild Coast. World-renowned golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, has used the dramatic coastal setting to maximum effect, designing an interesting and challenging course with some unforgettable features. Since it was opened in 1983, the Wild Coast ... more information
Things To Do in Umtata