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Pondoland Nature and Culture Trail

from US $359 (PP Sharing)

Led by a local guide, on our 5 day/5 night Pondo-Voyager trailists will be treated to warm amaXhosa hospitality at a village homestay on the South African Wild Coast.

  • Destination
    South Africa
  • Duration
    3 Days & 4 Nights
  • Profile
  • Group Size
    Min 2 / Max 14
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  • Reviews

Led by a local guide, trailists will be treated to warm amaXhosa hospitality at a village homestay in Xolobeni (near Nyameni) on the first night of the trail. The second trail night is spent at a lodge on the gorgeous Mtentu estuary, before entering Mkambati Nature Reserve. This 7720-ha coastal reserve consists of expansive grasslands, indigenous forest patches and is flanked by the magnificent forested ravines of the Msikaba and Mtentu rivers. Hikers have a good chance of seeing large herds of grazing herbivores such as Eland, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Blesbuck and Zebra.

A number of streams run through the reserve with deep pools and cascading waterfalls inviting you to take a plunge.  The Mkambati Falls, which drop down over an arced rock terrace into the ocean below, are one of the day’s highlights.

Msikaba is the southern boundary of Mkambati reserve and the 3rd night of the trail is spent here in an East African style tented camp, nestled amongst the milkwoods overlooking the estuary. Canoes are available from the camp, and guests can finish the day with a sunset paddle up this pristine estuary –one of the deepest estuaries in South Africa.

The fourth day’s hike takes you from Msikaba to Luphuthana, passing the site of the fated Grosvenor shipwreck and the remnants of the pioneering attempts to recover her treasure. Overnighting at Luphuthana tented camp, nestled behind the dunes, hikers can enjoy sundowners whilst watching the natural spray display that is created from waves crashing up against the flat rock shelf.

The final day’s hike from Luphuthana to Mbotyi is the longest, but the renowned landmarks of Waterfall Bluff, Cathedral Rock and Mfhilo falls make for exciting exploration! Waterfall Bluff is an 80m high waterfall which plunges directly into the ocean, and the adventurous can follow the rocky ledge behind the falls. A dip in the crystal clear pools above the falls is a must for all.
The hike finishes at Mbotyi where you can enjoy a final night of luxury offered by Mbotyi River Lodge.

Traversing some of the most rugged and pristine terrain of the Wild Coast, this hike provides an eclectic route for the interested traveller. The scenery is picturesque, wild and undulating.  Settling into a homestay or two amongst the local people offers a unique and enlightening experience, whilst the stunning, isolated tented camps and an optional lick of luxury on the final night, provides hikers with a rich mix of experience. 

We utilise village homestays that are engaged through local guides who run their own businesses in the remote areas of the Wild Coast. This way we know that the homestay families are receiving income in full, and we are able to support small micro-enterprises such as Bongani Mlotywa’s “Absolute Wild Coast” guiding company. We know that this is true community based tourism, and this is a focus of Active Escapes’ Director Sarah Drew.

The Operator

Owner Sarah Drew grew up in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountain range in South Africa. Growing up in such a spectacularly diverse country, Sarah became acutely aware of the disparity that existed between South Africa’s people mounted against a background of fantastic cultural experiences and incredible beauty. Somewhat ironically, the wildest and most scenic places that Sarah travelled in were home to those who existed with very little income or resources. Her experiences on the Wild Coast in particular moved Sarah deeply, and she went on to complete a Masters in Community Based Tourism, focussed on the Pondoland area of the Wild Coast – a place very dear to her heart.

She decided that she wanted to help people seeking adventure by linking them into the wild and wonderful places that she loved, and wanted to bring business to the communities that made these places so unique.

In 2007, she formed her tour operator and set about designing many routes that wound their way through rural communities, up to high mountain tops and along inspirational coastlines. Using local guides and local businesses, community homestays and working with public tourism entities to support the South African tourism industry.

Connect to PEOPLE

Pondoland, or the ‘Wild Coast’ is an amazing stretch of coastline in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Imagine rolling green hills, sheer cliffs, maize meal cream beaches, clear ocean water, hidden caves and Nguni cattle roaming the landscape…but also picture the soft turquoise, marshmallow pink and mud brown traditional huts of the amaXhosa people that have inhabited this coastline for centuries. One of the most wonderful things about the Pondo Voyager Trail is being guided by local guides such as Bongani Mlotywa who formed his own community based tourism company in 2007, as well as Nonhle Mbuthuma who, aside from being a Level 4 guide, sits on the Amadiba Crisis Committee who have been instrumental in the Save the Wild Coast Campaign. Pondoland has been the centre of mining attraction for some years now, with local communities and acitivists such as Nonhle fighting for the preservation of this incredible centre of endemism of amaXhosa culture.

Connect to NATURE

Led by a passionate local guide, hikers will be treated to warm amaXhosa hospitality at a village homestay in Xolobeni on the first night of the trail. This really is an authentic village experience, where guests sleep in the same traditional hut structures on the property of local families, and eat local fare. Part of the experience of Pondoland hiking is passing through villages, and walking past fields being cultivated with ‘mielies’ and simple vegetables, while subsistence fisherman gather seafood of all types from the shores and lagoons.

The second night is spent at a community lodge on the gorgeous Mtentu estuary, before entering Mkambati Nature Reserve - either sleeping in the reserve or continuing through to Msikaba River, where a night will be spent in an East African style tented camp, nestled amongst the milkwoods. Canoes are available from the camp, and guests can finish the day with a sunset paddle up the estuary. The fourth day's hike takes you from Msikaba to Luphuthana, passing the site of the fated Grosvenor shipwreck and the remnants of the pioneering attempts to recover her treasure. Overnighting at another tented camp, hikers can enjoy sundowners whilst watching the natural spray display that is created from waves crashing up against the flat rock shelf at Luphuthana.

Most of the accommodation on the Pondo Voyager Hiking Trail is built to fit into the environment, and use renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels. Hikers will also notice the presence of green or brown Jojo tanks, South Africa’s popular water harvesting system found in many rural and urban homes due to the South Africa’s water scarcity issues.

 Connect to LIFE

What becomes obvious to most travellers, is that people live what is considered a ‘harsh’ lifestyle in terms of finances and resources. Jobs are few and far between, hospitals are miles away, shopping for supplies inland requires days of planning and children walk over hill-and-dale to attend under resourced schools. The Wild Coast is isolated, but people are content and get by with so little in terms of material positions. Hiking through Pondoland and seeing how the communities exist really does provide a stark contrast to our often over-involved and over-stressed lifestyles, where the more material possesions we accrue, the more stressed we seem to become. Walking through beautiful landscapes, observing and interacting with amaXhosa culture, the hike provides room for quiet meditation on what one really needs to be happy.



Sustain the Wild Coast

You will have the option to donate to this project when paying for your trip:

"Development is the progress made by communities through sharing of different views on what should be done within the community to benefit the entire members of that particular community.It is a process in which a community of people strives to make it possible for all members to satisfy their fundamental human needs and improve the quality of their lives without damaging the environment or minimize the damage to the environment." (Definition agreed at a workshop of local people in the Amadiba Tribal Authority)


"This field is my bank for university fees. White people go to banks in buildings but, for us, our land is our bank. With the money I make from selling madumbies and mealies in Durban I will be able to pay for my son's university fees."

"One day the police came to my house and wanted to take me to the police station. Before I would have gone with them though I knew I had done nothing wrong and that they were going to beat me up and then let me go. I was scared but this time, because Simbhademe had taught me about the constitution and my human rights, I asked them to tell me what I had done wrong and for the arrest warrant. I could see they were surprised and shocked. They could not answer me and so got into their car and drove off. They have not come back to the village to trouble us again."

"When you've only got one lamp, the light is rather dim and so it's useless when you are walking in the dark. It was so dark I never thought there would be any sunshine but we kept moving forward with a dimmed lamp. With a paraffin lamp you need to be adding to it all the time if it's going to burn. Today we have electricity and a long-life globe. Simbhademe brought me and all of us the light. We'll be strong, keep up the good work and bring more information for the people."

"The Pondo people are born environmentalists. We do not go to school to learn to become environmentalists. We are born that way."

"The government is coming to us like someone with 'itchy armpits'. They must scratch where we are itching, not their own itchy armpits. Our roads that we have to use to get to town are mostly just cattle paths. They must close their armpits and listen to us, and fix our roads."

Purpose and Principles

SWC's purpose is to promote sustainable livelihoods that conserve, rehabilitate and protect the natural environment that provides the ecosystem services on which rural people depend. This is done by means of knowledge sharing, advocacy, research and the execution of programmes directed towards the promotion of community based insights into what action is needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of livelihoods of people who depend on the Wild Coast region.

In addition SWC acts as a 'watchdog' to identify unsustainable and harmful practices that destroy the integrity of the natural environment and threaten the life prospects of current and future generations.

    Our principles
  • Respect for equality of all life forms with none having domination over the other.
  • Respect for all cultures, honouring all as being equal.
  • Adoption of better practices towards sustainable living.
  • Recognising that education needs to take place both in a head and a heart mode in order to facilitate action.
  • Recognising the local knowledge and leadership that exists inherently in all communities.

  1. Itinerary

    from Port Edward to Mbotyi

    Day 1: Guided Hike from Wild Coast Casino – Nyameni (14km)

    Overnight: Nyameni Village homestay (simple dinner, breakfast & packed lunch provided)


    Day 2: Guided hike from Nyameni – Mtentu Lodge. (10km)

    Overnight: Mtentu River Lodge (breakfast, dinner & packed lunch)


    Day 3: Mtentu – Msikaba (approx 12-15km)

    Overnight: Msikaba Tented Camp (self-catering only)

    Canoes available for hire (R50/per double canoe) payable at the Camp


    Day 4: Msikaba – Luphuthana (16km)

    Overnight: Luphuthana Tented Camp (self-catering only)


    Day 5:  Luphuthana – Mbotyi (18km)

    Overnight: Mbotyi River Lodge (Dinner & Breakfast)


    Day 6: Transfer back to Wild Coast Casino via private Taxi Operator (approx 2.5-3hr transfer)

  2. Highlights

    Friendly amaXhosa hospitality, Mtentu Estuary, waterfalls & game viewing in Mkambati Reserve; sunset paddle up the Msikaba estuary & a visit to the Vulture Colony; excavation remains of treasure-seekers at Grosvenor, shipwrecks, golden miles of unspoilt beach, incredible spray display at Luphuthana, Waterfall Bluff, Cathedral Rock, Mfhilo Falls, natural swimming pools on the Mlambomkulu.

  • 5 Nights Accommodation (1 Night at Mtentu Lodge - with Dinner, Breakfast & Packed lunch - , 2 Nights - self-catering - in twin-bed semi-luxury tented camps with en suite bathrooms (Msikaba & Luphuthana) , 1 Night at Mbotyi River Lodge with Dinner and Breakfast)
  • Hiking Guide for entire hike (5 hike days)
  • Transfers: private transfer from Mbotyi + 3hr transfer back to Port Edward/ Wild Coast Casino
  • International flight
  • Visas
  • Insurance
  1. Joining your tour

    Our 5 day/5 night Pondo-Voyager starts  in the northern Pondoland region of the Wild Coast, at the Wild Coast Casino where you will leave your car and finishes at Mbotyi. You will be transfered back to the Wild Coast Casino.

    Wild Coast Sun is less than a two hour drive along the South Coast from King Shaka International Airport and it is 5,2 km South of Port Edward. For a map Click here.

  2. Accommodation and Meals

    Accommodation and Meals:

    This is a partially catered trail. On Day 3 and 4, you will be accommodated in a Self Catering tented camps. You will have to carry the ingredients for your meals there. There are only a few "spaza" shops (very small local convenience shack/stores) on this hiking trail deep in the wilderness, and they cannot be relied on.

    The semi luxury tented camps provide all cooking facilities – gas plates, fridge, cutlery,crockery & pots & pans for cooking.

    Single Supplement: 

    All of our group tours are planned and operated on a twin-share basis, meaning that the standard cost is based either on individual travellers sharing accommodation with another group member of the same sex, or people who book together sharing accommodation. 
    When a Single Supplement is available it is included in the Prices tab. Depending on the Experience chosen, all accommodations may not have the capacity to offer single accommodation. 
    The Single Room supplement also applies to the third person in a party of three that will be accommodated in a single room. 

  3. Important Information


    It is a condition of booking with Gaia Conscious Travel that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on travel, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit, which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for domestic travel.

  4. Preparing your Experience

    Logistic support: 

    Guiding & Portering:

    Guided all the way. Porters can potentially be arranged for small groups on request but unfortunately it is not an easy hike to accommodate porters. 

    Climate and Seasonality: 

    Mild sub-tropical climate with small seasonal temperature variation. Summer months (Nov – Feb), avg max daily temperatures of around 27-29 %u25E6C, whilst winter months (June – Aug) avg 21 %u25E6C. Night temps seldom drops below 10  %u25E6C in winter and average around 15 %u25E6C in summer. Most rain is received from summer thunderstorms (avg of 150mm/month in Nov – Feb), whilst the driest months, June-Aug produce an average of 40mm/month. 

    Due to its temperate climate, Pondoland is good for hiking all year round. Whilst summer days can be quite sweaty, a refreshing swim in the ocean or river enroute becomes all the more inviting. Summer rainfall is usually in the form of quick thundershowers which pass quickly. Summer is also best for birdlife.  The mild weather, sunny days & low probability of rain during winter also make this an excellent time (& a welcome retreat from the biting cold of an interior winter). Spring & Autumn months generally combine the best of all conditions. 

    Summer months tend to be hot and humid. Winters are mild and dry. Humpback whales can be seen off the coast from June to Dec. Nov to early March is turtle nesting season and also the best time of year for waders.  The months of Dec – Jan/Feb are particularly hot and humid so it is better to hike outside of these months.

    Fauna and Flora:

    The Pondoland Centre of Endemism is one of the most important centres of plant diversity & endemism in Africa with over 2 253 recorded flora species, 196 of which are endemic to the region.

    Technical Information:

    Daily Distances

    Day 1: 14km    Day 2: 10km    Day 3: 12-15km

    Day 4: 16km    Day 5: 18.5km 

    Physical Fitness

    Grade 2-3 –easy gradient but some longer daily distances 


    Grade 2 – little scrambling, some optional steep sections for look-out points & natural attractions


    Trail Terrain

    Coastal Trail – traversing grasslands with deep forest ravines & gorges, rocky headlands, sandy beaches & friendly Pondo-villages.

  5. Budgeting your Experience

    All costs are included during the trail. You may need some extra money to cover optional activities. You will most certainly need to budget for a few more days in this amazing region. If you need assistance with your car rental or your stay before or after the trail, please let us know.


    Tipping is customary in South Africa. 10 to 15% is expected to be added to bills in restaurants. Tipping is a common token of appreciation for the guides and other staff members. 

    Foreign Exchange: 

    Bureau de Change are available at Johannesburg or Durban airports. ATMs are widely available at commerces, petrol stations and even in smaller towns. 

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Accommodation Options

    There are no extra accommodation options for this Experience. Please contact us for accommodation options before and after your trip

Optional Activities

    There are no optional activities features for this Experience. Please contact us if you would like us to enquire further

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Departure Dates Status Price (PP Sharing) Excluding Flights Single Supplement Child Notes  
(Year Round)
(per person sharing)
(upon request)
(upon request)
recommended march to november
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