The Xhosa heartland is a stunning landscape of rugged coastline, rolling hills dotted with thatch rondavels, magnificent hiking trails and interesting glimpses into a culture far removed from the stresses of modern life. We point out seven reasons not to miss it!
1. See Cows on the Beach
A much loved quirk typical of the Transkei is the frequent sightings of cows on the beaches. Even though there is no grass or drinking water, herds of indigenous Nguni cattle love coming down to the beach to sleep and relax. The cows are easily approachable and make great photographic subjects. There is also an unwritten law in the region that states that all herders with their cattle and goats have right of way on the roads.
2. Experience Xhosa Culture
The Transkei is the only part of the country still governed by tribal authorities and most of the region's inhabitants maintain a traditional lifestyle. The huts are without running water or electricity and personal wealth is still measured primarily by the number of cows a man owns. Youngsters undergo ritual initiation into manhood and Xhosa Mamas sit together handcrafting intricate beadwork to sell to visiting tourists. Cultural tours are the best way to see how the Xhosa people live. A local guide will take you into his village where you can experience it all first-hand. Consult a sangoma, visit the local shebeen, enjoy a traditional lunch and wash it down with umquomboti (traditional African beer).
“There are barely any western-style houses and sweeping views of postcard-perfect village scenes cascade over the countryside.”
3. Meet World Travellers
The Transkei is especially geared for eco-friendly and adventure-hungry tourists who wish to escape the crowds and explore the many beautiful and secluded hills and bays. Beachside villages like Port St John’s and Coffee Bay attract travellers from all over the world and are most popular amongst the backpacking crowd and surfers, although families and couples can also enjoy a wonderful and often romantic retreat. If you want to visit a place where your top priority is to rest, relax and take it all in - then this is where you want to go.
4. Lap Up Beautiful Scenery
There are barely any western-style houses and sweeping views of postcard-perfect village scenes cascade over the countryside. Picture smiling local faces lining dirt roads, colourful thatched huts on the hillside, friendly children with hands held open for sweets, patterned Nguni cows and tribesmen in traditional gear. Deserted beaches are often filled only with cows, and cattle paths lead you on beautiful hikes over pastured hills, through clear rivers and along unspoilt beaches where you may be lucky enough to spot schools of dolphins surfing in the swell.
5. Activities Galore for Nature Lovers
An idyllic place to rest, walk, swim, fish, surf and explore! Enjoy a world class surf spot that offers classic beach breaks and waves to suit all levels (lessons are available). Or go fishing! River, lagoon, rock or ocean. Deep sea trips can also be arranged. Hiking opportunities are endless with an abundance of trails and guided hikes too. Explore the village on horseback or go for a beach ride and enjoy the scenery! Visit the beautiful fresh water pools of the Mdumbi River. Spend the day swimming and sunning in a secluded and peaceful environment. Hire a boat or canoe…or just simply relax.
6. Visit Hole in the Wall
This wonder of Mother Nature is a landmark of the Wild Coast and something that every visitor should see! A geological masterpiece - the iconic Hole in the Wall is where the sea has pounded an impressive tunnel through a huge rock formation in the sea. Locals call it esiKhaleni - the place of the sound - as stormy weather drives waves through the opening with an almighty roar. It has also tempted many foolish people to their deaths. Although some have swum through, gone through in boats and climbed to the top of it, there have been many injuries and fatalities. It is strongly advised not to tempt fate and to simply admire this splendid rock formation from the quiet little beach ahead of it.
7. Get Back to Basics
The Transkei is rural South Africa at its ultimate and can sometimes seem like a land lost in time. It is also one of South Africa's most remote stretches of shoreline. Here, you can forget about TV, your cell phone and email. Evenings will be spent discussing the day’s activities and explorations, swapping stories with the locals, and laughing together over a beer at the bar before being lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean.