Things To Do in Port St JohnsPondo-Explore Hiking Trail
Where? Start in Msikaba and finish in Mbotyi or Port St Johns on the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, South Africa
When? Booking is essential.
How? Call We recommend Active Escapes: +27 (0)33 329-5259
How much? Price on request
Finish: Mbotyi or Port St Johns
Duration: 3-5 nights; 45-68 km
Fitness: the first couple of days the gradient is easy but you need a lot of stamina to manage the distances; days 3 and 4 are the most taxing; sheer climbs are optional
Our tip: summer, although sticky, is best for bird life, whilst winter has less chance of rain and milder temperatures; book ahead, particularly if going during school holidays.
The northerly reaches of the Wild Coast are the coast's most rugged, least accessible and scenically beautiful. The Wild Coast is named such as much for its incredible beauty as for its treacherous river mouths, rocks, powerful waves and whipping wind.
Any walk, hike or bike route for all its beauty, also comes with its fair share of challenges.
The pristine section of the coastline for this hike is known as Pondoland. It stretches between the Mzamba River, and the Umzimvubu at Port St Johns and provides the hiker, biker or visitor with a land of plunging waterfalls, kilometres of truly pristine and undisturbed beach, indigenous forests, plummeting gorges, ragged cliffsides and the tracks of wild cattle who roam the coast.
Pondoland is protected as the Pondoland Marine Protected Area – the country's largest marine reserve that conserves a rich ocean life protecting 90 km along the coast and between 10 km and 15 km offshore. It includes the Mkhambathi Nature Reserve.
One of the only ways to explore this naked coastline is to walk it.
Outdoor adventure providers, Active Escapes, provide a three to five day hiking package, with the option of doing the hike as a backpacker (Pondo-Explorer) or slackpacker (Pondo-Hopper) experience.
Either way your nights are relatively comfortable, spent in semi-luxury East African-style tented camps with twin bedded safari tents on wooden platforms under thatch bomas with a central kitchen and dining boma and ensuite ablutions. There is even hot water for your showers. One of the evenings is at a lodge en route.
You have the added option of a guide, or porters (although this is different from the slackpacker version of the hike).
Day one: drive to Port St Johns and transfer to Msikaba. In the afternoon canoe up the Msikaba estuary and visit the Cape griffon vulture colony or the waterfalls in the Mkambathi Nature Reserve.
Day two: 16 km Msikaba – Luphuthana
Day three: 14 km Luphuthana – Mbotyi
Day four: 10 km Mbotyi – Manteku (the gradient starts to increase from day four, which explains the shorter daily distances)
Day five: 9 km Manteku – Ntafufu
Day six: 11.5 km Ntatfufu – Port St Johns