The secret beaches and hidden coves of South Africa’s most beautiful coastline can only be reached by foot or bicycle – and for the adventurous, this opens up an epic new way to explore the Wild Coast.
Last year I tested out a new way of exploring the Wild Coast, on a mountain bike modified with extra-wide, beach-friendly tyres – a fatbike. Over five days, I cruised along miles of pristine beach, followed a twisting single track through indigenous coastal forests, and sped headlong down long grassy bluffs, with beautiful accommodation, delicious meals and great company all the way. Curious? Scroll down for a glimpse of what it looks like.
Ride the Wild Coast in 2017
For our January 2017 issue, Chris Davies joined Detour Trails on a five-day fatbiking adventure along the Wild Coast, cycling 140km from Morgan Bay to Hole in the Wall.
More trips are planned from May to August this year so grab a copy of our latest issue for the full story, or book your place directly by clicking the button below.
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Need convincing? Have a look at the photos below.
Day 1: the tour begins at Morgan Bay and we set out before dawn to make the most of the low tide and beautiful riding conditions.
We crossed the Great Kei River just after sunrise and found miles of pristine beach all to ourselves.
Well, not entirely all to ourselves – there’s a fair bit of cow-dodging when cycling the Wild Coast.
And it’s not all gentle cruising on flat beaches either. Be prepared for a bit of hoisting and carrying too.
…and river crossings. Getting the tides right is crucial to cycling the Wild Coast. Get it wrong and rivers like this require more than just wading.
Day 1 ends at Wavecrest Hotel and Spa which offers guests free sunset cruises up the Nxaxo River. This is SA’s southern-most mangrove estuary and offers excellent birding, including the crowned cranes from which the resort gets its name.
Day 2: stepping out my bedroom the next morning I was greeted with one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen.
We had coffee and breakfast on the deck and contemplated the day’s riding ahead…
…before ferrying our fatbikes across the Nxaxo River.
There’s a special sound a fatbike tyre makes as it zips across a hard-packed beach at low tide. That sound, in that scenery, can’t not make you happy.
There’s no road access for long stretches of this coastline.
Miles and miles are accessible only to hikers, bikers and the occasional cowboy.
LEFT: A local mama displays her catch of shellfish and red bait. Foraging is illegal, but subsistence continues off the rock pools. RIGHT: Very welcome beers at Mazeppa Bay Hotel, our lunch stop on day two.
James, the local ferryman, rows us across the Qora River, asking only R12 a trip.
Day 3: dawn at Kob Inn. After a huge breakfast we hit the trail again for the longest day of the tour: 40km to The Haven Hotel.
The day sees plenty of wading and walking as the trail climbs over grassy bluffs and through sparkling streams.
At Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve we climb up from the beach and follow the single track along grassy cliffs.
Short sections of the Dwesa trail are overgrown, forcing us to bash our way through tall grass and reeds.
Soft sand makes the final few kilometres to The Haven Hotel the toughest of the tour. But it’s not a race. Pushing is allowed!
Day 4: beautiful single track starts the day as we leave the beach for a bit and weave our way through the indigenous forest.
Back at the coast we stop for lunch as a pod of dolphins – about 50-strong – cruise through the waves in front of us.
Our day-four destination is Bulungula Lodge, one of SA’s top responsible tourism initiatives, which provides income for nearby Nqileni Village.
Day 5: dawn breaks over Nqileni Village as we mount up for the final day’s riding to Hole in the Wall.
Day 5 keeps mostly to the clifftops, with occasional steep descents, and equally steep climbs back up again.
Cresting the bluff we get our first sight of Hole in the Wall. Nobody wants this journey to end so we take our time, enjoying the view, before the final freewheel down.
After over 30 crossings it feels strange wading the Mpako River knowing that there is no next river to come – just a final ride past Hole the Wall to complete an incredible adventure.
Read the full story in the January 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.
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Our January issue features a bucket list of 45 experiences to have at least once in South Africa, a classic motorbike ride through the Karoo, and a beautiful beach holiday in Sri Lanka.