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3 or 5 Night Self-Catered Hiking Trail - Northern Wild Coast

The northern Pondoland section of the Wild Coast stretches from Mtamvuna River in the north (Port Edward) to the mighty Umzimvubu in the south (Port St John's) and is arguably the most rugged and breathtakingly pristine section of Wild Coast.

On the self-catered Pondo-Explorer Trail, you will overnight in East African style tented camps, all in unsurpassed locations. Each tented camp sleeps up to 24 persons in 12 twin bedded units with their own ensuite bathroom and hot water shower. There is a central dining and kitchen boma which is well equipped for self-catering so you need only worry about your food on this self-catered trail. Porters can easily be arranged if you don’t feel like the schlep of carrying a heavy backpack. The third night of the trail is spent at Mbotyi River Lodge (with dinner & breakfast inclusive) – a welcome bit of pampering along the trail.

Trail Description

We offer a 3 or 5 night hiking package, both starting from Msikaba and either finishing at Mbotyi (3 Night Trail) or in Port St John’s (the 5 Night trail). Highlights of this trail include the deepest estuary in South Africa (Msikaba), the ocean spray spectacular at Luphuthana, waterfalls which plunge directly into the ocean (including the 80 metre high waterfall at Waterfall Bluff), Cathedral Rock, friendly Pondo villages and sweeping vistas. During the annual sardine run (June-July), the ocean is a-frenzy with game fish, dolphins, sharks and myriad seabirds. Enquire with Active Escapes


Trip Duration Standard Package: 3 or 5 Night Hike Options
* Customised Trails can be offered on request.
Daily Distances Day 1: 16km    Day 2: 18.5km    Day 3: 11km
Day 4: 10km    Day 5: 13km
Trail Grading  
Physical Fitness Grade 3 – easy gradient for first 2 days but higher daily distances. More gradient ascent (steeper hill climbs) on Day’s 3 & 4
Technicality Grade 2 – limited scrambling, some sheer sections for viewpoints (optional)
Trail Terrain Coastal Trail - traversing grasslands with deep forest ravines & gorges, rocky headlands, sandy beaches & passing through friendly Pondo villages.
Accommodation 1 Night DBB at Mbotyi River Lodge (family hotel)

Semi-Luxury Tented Camps - twin bedded safari tents on wooden platforms under thatch boma's (to keep cool) - with ensuite ablutions & hot water gas shower. Central kitchen & dining boma - fully equipped for self-catering

* On this self-catered trail an extra day/night can be spent at any of the trail camps (avail permitting) for an extra R360/day.

Logistic Support This is a self-catered trail (except for Mbotyi night) BUT porters can be pre-booked to 'lighten your load'.
Porters Cost: R150/porter/per day
Hiking Guide: incl on the 3N trail. Incl for grps of 6 or more on the 5N trail or budget R250/day (Basic Maps will be supplied)
Tour Highlights Sunset paddle up the Msikaba estuary & a visit to the Vulture Colony; excavation remains from 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, friendly Pondo villages, enjoying a cold Black Label quart, diverse sea & birdlife. Breathtaking views.
Other Activities Canoeing on Msikaba & Manteku Estuaries, excellent rock & surf fishing, birding, ocean swimming & snorkelling opportunities
Fauna & Flora The Pondoland Centre of Endemism stretches from the Mtumvuna River at Port Edward, to the Kei River. It 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 - i.e. only found growing naturally here. As a comparison, the Kruger National Park only has 1400 flora species, as does the whole of the United Kingdom.
Climate Mild sub-tropical climate with small seasonal temperature variation. Summer months (Nov - Feb), average max daily temperatures of around 27-29 degrees C, whilst winter months (June - Aug) average 21 degrees C. Night temps seldom drops below 10 degree C in winter and average around 15 degrees C in summer. The Wild Coast is a high rainfall area (approx 1000mm annually) with most rain received from summer thunderstorms (avg of 150mm/month in Nov - Feb), whilst the driest months, June-Aug produce an average of 40mm/month.
Seasonality & Best Time Year 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.
Availability: Is generally not a problem OUTSIDE of school/public holidays. If you are a family group or teachers – we will try our best to accommodate you during school holidays but Dec & April school holidays are particularly busy.
Group Size Minimum 2 persons & Tented Camps can accommodate a maximum of 24 persons
Price / PP 5 Night Pondo-Explorer

2-3 Persons - R4100/ pp
4 -6 Persons - R3800/ pp
11 or more - R3300/ pp
Children 12 years or under -R600 discount on above

3 Night Pondo-Explorer

2-3 Persons - R 3500/ pp
4 -6 Persons - R 3200/ pp
11 or more - R 2600/ pp
Children 12 years or under - R400 discount on above

Price Includes
  • Transfer from Port St John's (or Mbotyi) to Msikaba trail head
  • Inclusive Meals: Dinner & Breakfast at Mbotyi River Lodge
  • Local Guide: incl for grps of 6 or more on 5N option. Included in 3N option
  • Full catering facilities available at the tented camps - gas plates, cookware & cutlery
  • Reserve Permits & Trail Fees
  • Emergency Support Service
  • Pre-booking of guides & porters
Optional Extras:
Porter Fee: R150/per day
Extra day self-catered at tented camp: R360/pp
Extra day at Grosvenor Inn (splits first hike day into 2) - R1000/pp
sandy beaches and lagoon swimming, Msikaba - Wild Coast

Like the idea of this hike, but prefer someone else to do the catering...why not consider the 'slackpacking' version of this trail: the Pondo-Hopper?

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Hikers look down to Cathedral Rock on Day 2 of the Pondo-Explore Hiking Trail
hikers on the pondo-explore trail enjoy a rest stop at this deep pool just beyond Cathedral Rock