I’m researching a “mini” thru-hike of the wild coast roughly from Port Edward to Port Alfred. I am aware there are guided tour/slack-packing options for certain sections of the coastline, but am interested in a self-supported trip rather. I have a few questions for anyone who has done sections of this coastline:
- Safety: Does anyone have recent info on any safety precautions that can be taken while hiking in this area, especially as a woman.
- Route Maps: Does anyone have access to existing route maps (I would generally plan to follow the coast and/or cattle tracks in the more rocky/cliff type sections
- River crossings: I am hoping I could some of the river crossings, but would love more info from people who’ve been recently - for example is it quite common to be able to pay someone to ferry me across? Paddle across with my gear in a watertight bag and hope the sharks are elsewhere?
- Resupply: There are a number of small towns/spaza shops/community stores, but if anyone has done this and has tips on where to resupply along the way, that would be helpful
- Has anyone on the forum done this stretch in chunks or all in one go before? I’d love to chat.
Thanks so much,
Hi Claire, I am not an expert on the area but have done the Port Edward to Port St Johns twice and the Port St Johns to Coffee Bay twice. It was quite a few years ago so do not know the current safety in the area. I generally prefer to hike without a guide so we did take tents and did our own thing. It is one of my favourite parts of the country and would do the hike in a heartbeat again. We did not resupply as we did it as 5-day hikes so carried everything with us but you should be able to resupply in places like Port St Johns and Coffee Bay etc on the basics. They won’t have hikes specific foods. Hope this helps in some way. If you have more specific questions welcome to send me a message.
Hi Douwe, thanks so much for getting back to me. I am also quite keen to go without a guide and take a tent and plan some resupplies along the way. I think the safety aspect is my main concern, but I’m thinking of calling some of the local guides to get some info so I can get a better picture of how things are currently. I’ve only heard amazing things about this stretch of coast line, but have only hiked short sections, so would love to string it all together. Out of interest, did you just follow the coast and/or cattle trails or did you have an actual route to follow for both sections?
Definitely not a formal route. It is mainly along the coast and cattle tracks. Here and there you have to go inland due to cliff sections but still quite easy to navigate. The main reason for wanting a map is to see where to sleep as there are amazing caves and places to find where the rivers etc comes in. Also some breathtaking waterfalls if you have time to wander inland a bit along the rivers.
i’m familiar with most of the Transkei and my wife and i often visit and spend time there.
i live in east london and port edward to Slummies is on my bucket list. it will have to wait as i’m only 60 and i have too many Mtb, trail runs and kayaking to do in the meantime.
i’ve done parts where i’ve walked and run parts of it.
safety, no one can say it’s safe or unsafe. that’s life.
as for route maps, i would advise Slingsbys map of the Kei.
if you have a Garmin, there are many rides, runs and hikes that have been done and the routes are there to upload, but basically you would follow the coast, cutting inland around some of the big cliffs where the rivers cut through.
any river that has to be waded normally has a ferryman. ask the locals for directions and ask about a ferryman.
resupply should not be a problem. you can get provisions at all the hotels as well as spaza shops. port edward is only 100km from port st johns. so basically a 5 dayer, but Mbotyi is at a little over half way.
i will say one thing that while walking with a local guide is not for everyone, you do miss out a lot by not having a guide.
last thought is i feel no one should hike alone especially through unknown territory.
anything can go wrong from stupid things like a snake bite or burns or a twisted ankle.
you’re welcome to whatsapp or call me for any info you need.
hopefully you’ll stay over with Mandi and i when you’re in Slummies.
Slingsby map is absolutely excellent. Details are spot on. Not specifically a hiking map but will be useful.
Not to drive fear, just sharing info…
Typical river mouth shark is the bull (zambezi) shark. Loves murky waters. They can also travel up river with an ability to store salt/brine in their livers, kidneys and bum.
Thus I’d additionally advise you obtain a tidal calender and try time your crossings when it’s low. Ferryman abounding as stated by @mikewsmit.
On our last trip Jan 2020 we all got tick bite fever. Tiny tiny glossy red-gold critters. Smaller than a pin head. Sore lymphs at first. Headaches and vivid nightmarish dreams follow soon. Be aware of these symptoms.
Magic mushrooms can be found in cow patties. ID properly and play with your ID.
I have always found the locals to be super friendly and proud.
Thanks so much Douwe.
I’ve contacted two guys who are currently actually walking from Mozambique to Port Nolloth along the coast (https://www.instagram.com/walkingthezacoast/), they are actually on the Wild Coast now somewhere near Coffee Bay. They are happy to chat to me once they are through this section. They are doing some BIG days - up to 48km!
I also saw there was someone quite a few years back who walked the coast of South Africa (Grant Christie - he’s on Instagram as well) and I might reach out to him as well.
Thanks again for your help,
thanks so much for responding to this thread. I am pleased to hear about the ferryman at most river crossing (helpful if there are sharks in the mouth, or tides are high etc). I do have a Garmin, so can definitely check some routes that have already been recorded there. I do have a big question mark about hiking alone, but will look into the option of hiring a guide on different sections and/or roping in some friends to hike various sections with me. Still very much in a the research/planning phase and obviously want to be as sensible as possible. Thanks so much for sharing the info and your contact details - that’s very kind!
Thanks for the tips - Slingsby map sounds super helpful. The sharks on the other hand, do NOT sound helpful! ha! Will definitely be looking at tidal calendars and/or hiring a ferryman. Tick bite fever is awful - thanks for the heads-up on that as well.
Hello, Douweg! Me and my girlfriend are going to spend a couple of weeks this March in South Africa and just explore the shoreline with our backpacks.
So our questions are…
Can we do this hike unguided? As far as I get it, most of the hikes in SA can only be done with local guides which is a little off for the two of us (We are kinda experienced hikers).
Can we do wild camping with our own tent? It seems to me that in the national park this is forbidden, but I am still not so sure about this.
Can you share the route schedule? Or maybe you got your GPS points?
What is the situation with drinking water on the route?
Anything else what we need to know before the hike?
Which trail do you think is more beautiful? Port Edward to Port St Johns OR Port St Johns to Coffee Bay?