For once, turn your back on the warm Indian Ocean, and you’ll gaze upon the lush landscapes with its farmland and villages that make up the hinterland, the more remote areas away from the coast. It is here, in the hinterland, that you will discover new and fascinating places with stories seeped in history and intriguing cultures.
From formidable Shaka Zulu, to the intrepid pioneers, missionaries, mariners and soldiers, to smugglers, entrepreneurs, freedom fighters and traders… you’ll find their journeys intermingled with your own as you discover more than what lies on the surface. The best way to explore the hinterland is with a local guide that can unlock its mysteries and accompany you in what is still largely traditional land with unique customs you don’t want to unwittingly offend.
Here are some hidden gems to give you a taste of what lies only a short trip away:
The KwaXolo Caves, near Port Edward, take a guided walk to a recently discovered range of caves with San paintings that are more than 100 000 years old. A brand-new walkway improves access to the caves. The scenic beauty and authentic rural village in the area creates added interest. The KwaNzimakwe starts at the WowZulu Welcome Centre in KwaNzimakwe, near Port Edward. From here visitors go on a guided walk to a scenic viewing site, visit a cattle kraal, an organic garden and a sangoma, or traditional healer. Hear stories of the area, watch crafters at work and learn to weave, drum or do a traditional dance. At the Welcome Centre, buy colourful arts and crafts. With the Nyandezulu Experience visitors start off at the Mfihlo Guest House for a guided drive or walk, with stopovers along the way. Take a short climb up the holy uMdlungwana mountain, for great views of the beautiful Nyandezulu waterfall and an outdoor Shembe Church. Follow this with an audience with a sangoma or visit a local tavern on the way for some welcome refreshment.
Another hidden treasure that is off the beaten track is the Red Desert just outside Port Edward. It is reputed to be the smallest desert in the world, being barely 200 metres in diameter. Its man-high hills and valleys of naked red soil are in stark contrast to the surrounding lush and tropical vegetation. This peculiar phenomenon is surrounded by myth and legend including stories that this is the site of an alien landing, though more likely a Zulu tribe in the 1800s, with vast cattle herds stolen from the Pondo’s severely over-grazed the area which was subsequently eroded by wind leading to the desertification.
What to do In The South Coast
DID YOU know?
There is a petrified fossil forest in the Port Edward area, officially known as the Mzamba Cretaceous Deposits – it is a set of famous marine fossil beds exposed in a 10-metre-high cliff south of the Mtamvuna River. The Mzamba Cretaceous Deposits have long been a protected locality, and fossil hunting and removal at this site are strictly prohibited.