Hiking Pondoland Wild Coast’s Waterfall Wonderland

The natural beauty of the rocky shores of Pondoland is unparalleled. Backed by grasslands and indigenous forests, it is punctuated with secret waterfalls that drop straight into the heaving ocean below.

Truly one of nature’s finest masterpieces.

Lines of barrelling waves peel off along a wild coastline. Each roars like thunder as they crash into the rocks, creating sequences of huge sprays and fleeting rainbows.

Pondoland Wild Coast

The long, jagged coastline is littered with shipwrecks. The Pondoland Wild Coast is one of the few places in the world which experiences true freak waves.

Huge and powerful breakers form here. All these thanks to the howling south-westerly winds colliding with the south-streaming Agulhas current. These mutants have swallowed and chewed up many ships. Then spat them out onto menacing, spikey rocks.

Hikers walking along a track in a Pondoland Wild Coast grassland.
Hikers walking along a track in a grassland.

The coast of Pondoland is the wildest part of the Wild Coast. It is largely inaccessible by vehicle. The only way to fully experience the wealth of this untouched utopia is on foot.

How to Get to Pondoland

Map of Pondoland

This natural paradise is located in the coastal belt of the Eastern Cape.

Pondoland’s history is marked by the incursions of European Colonialism and protracted border conflicts in the mid 1800’s. However, Pondoland has somehow escaped urban development.

It is flanked by the Mtamvuma River in the north and the Mthatha River in the south. Amazingly, there are a whopping 109 river mouths along this 311 kilometre stretch of coastline. Yes, there is a river mouth on average every 2.6 kilometres!

Pondoland Marine Protected Area

Large numbers of whales and dolphins can be spotted in the Pondoland Marine Protected Area. This is especially true during the annual winter sardine run. Juvenile hammerhead sharks also cluster together here. In the summer, large shoals of giant kingfish form daisy chains at the surface of the Mtentu estuary.

Pondoland Tours: A Slackpacking Experience

Slackpacking through Pondoland should be on every hiker’s bucket list. The sooner it is ticked off the list, the better because you will want to go back and do it again!

Wild Child Africa and Dirty Boots offer excellent Pondoland tours. Both are built around slackpacking packages. These range between three and five night hikes. They come with both full catering or self-catering options. Both operators’ trail packages follow a similar route. However, there can be slight variances in individual itineraries.

Hikers on a Pondoland hiking trail
HIkers on the Pondo Trail.

Things to do at Pondoland

One of the highlights of The Pondo Trail is the fresh seafood. Staff catches and cooks these along the way for guests to feast on.

Imagine, all the fresh crayfish, oysters, game fish or mussels you can eat.

Day one kicks off with a short swim across the Mtentu River to the Mkambathi Nature Reserve. This is where grassy plains and a range of antelope like red hartebeest and eland colour the landscape. A picnic lunch is then enjoyed under a waterfall. A 15 kilometre journey to Msikaba Pondo Camp follows. The day ends with sundowners overlooking the Msikaba estuary.

Pondoland Hiking Trails

The early bird catches the worm.

Day two begins with a sunrise paddle up the Msikaba estuary for coffee. Guests then return for a delicious breakfast at the camp. The 18 kilometre hike, south to Luphatana Pondo Camp, passes the famous Grosvenor shipwreck. This is where guests enjoy lunch on a protected beach. Afterward, you will be led towards Champagne Mile and the famous Wild Coast salt-water shower.

Waterfall Bluff, Bessie’s Cave and Cathedral Rock highlights Day three. With their picturesque views and lofty landmarks, it’s perhaps the most breathtaking day.

Furthermore, there are many opportunities to harvest seafood along the way. You can later have these for a lunch-time braai at a secret pool. The 17 kilometre stage ends at Mbotyi River Lodge.

A woman stands at the top of a Pondoland waterfall that drops into the ocean below.
A woman stands at the top of a waterfall that drops into the ocean below.

Walking Trails and Pondoland Beach Camps

Pondoland’s walking trails comprise of a scenic ten kilometre walk across five secluded beaches. These are linked by secret cattle paths only. They mark the final stage from Mbotyi to Manteku Pondo Camp.

There are no roads to and no human footprints on these classic Wild Coast beaches. A herd of Nguni cattle loitering on the beach sketches a typical Pondoland vista. This can make for a unique photographic opportunity.

A short but steep climb up to a viewpoint reveals a magical view over Manteku’s private beach and estuary. The afternoon can be spent fishing and paddling in the estuary. Finally, a seafood feast fit for kings is served to celebrate conquering the mighty Pondo Trail.

Pondoland Accommodations

Wild Child Africa’s Pondo Trail’s guided four-night, 100 kilometre adventure includes accommodation and bedding. These include all meals and refreshments including alcoholic beverages. There’s also vehicle support and transport of luggage to overnight stops. Kayaks, snorkelling and fishing equipment are provided as well.

At Mbotyi River Lodge, guests have a choice of resting their heads at the lodge or a private beach cottage.

Best time to Go to Pondoland

The best time of year to embark on this epic hike is from May to August when the Pondoland weather is drier. Summer months are more challenging as they bring high temperatures and thunderstorms.



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