I had taken a bus to Mthatha, capital of the Transkei region in South Africa. This area is a part of South Africa that was important in Apartheid history. It was a so-called Bantustan, set aside for black South African people of Xhosa heritage and therefore, it is less influenced by European influences today. I wanted so see a traditional Xhosa village and beautiful scenery at the same time. So, the Wild Coast in the Transkei was the place to go. To get there, I would have to spend the night in Mthatha and take a shuttle towards the coast early the next morning. Easier said than done. When I arrive at the hostel I planned to stay at, I am turned away. I was warned by many local people when I told them I was passing through Mthatha, but I didn’t listen and now I am stranded in a city, where my taxi driver refuses to take me anywhere besides the indoor shopping mall, because he is worried for my safety, and I have no place to sleep. But South Africa would not be South Africa without the helpful people that always show up out of nowhere when you think it’s all over. As I walk away from the hostel, trying to think of what to do next, a staff member comes running after me. She puts me up in her friend’s B&B down the street and accompanies me there to make sure I arrive safely. I love these people.
The next morning, I jump on a backpacker-shuttle and head to the very hip Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast.
The Wild Coast is a picture book! You look over rolling hills strewn with donkeys, horses, goats, chickens and adorable little pigs and the colorful, traditional, round Xhosa houses. In the distance you can see the ocean and if you’re lucky, a humpback whale might wave his at you with his fin.
From Coffee Bay, I catch a ride to Tshani. Tshani is a more secluded, traditional Xhosa village further up the coast. The locally owned hostel I am staying at has a nice surfer-hippie vibe, is eco-friendly and incorporates the Xhosa community around it. They run a volunteer program to establish a good school and a clinic in the village and offer interest-free loans allowing the people to establish their own small businesses while teaching sustainable development like permaculture, eco-friendly garbage disposal and sewage. All people respect and care for each other, regardless if local or tourist, it is peaceful and quiet, there are cows hanging out on the beach and donkeys greeting you at your bedroom door.
Early in the morning I wake up looking out the window and see the first pink shimmer of the sunrise. So I throw on some clothes and run towards the beach to watch the sun come up. On the way, I meet a stray dog, who will become my friendly companion for the day. As I gaze over the sea, I can see some dolphins hunting in the distance.
Dog and I climb down to the beach, wade through rock pools full of anemones and sea urchins, and up the Mdumbi River to explore the mangroves during low tide, taking great care not to step on their delicate aerial roots, called pneumatophores. Mangroves are incredibly important ecosystems in that they function as nurseries for many fish species. Not to mention their super-powers as carbon sinks and flood preventers.
I discover many fascinating tiny creatures doing crazy things like a male fiddler crab waving his one oversized claw around to impress the other crabs, a water snail that uses its wide, flat foot (the squishy part that is not its head) in a wave-like motion to burrow into the sand, and I even meet a baby pufferfish, who changes its colours as it tries to figure out what I am exactly. I avoid direct contact, as many pufferfish species are toxic.
Dog and I climb a cliff once more and watch a pod of dolphins, really close this time, surfing in the waves.
In the evening I climb a wooden tower in the hostel’s yard from where I can look over the village to one side and the sea to the other. The sky is giving me one of Africa’s finest dramatic sunsets behind the Xhosa houses on the hill. I turn around and in the fading light I see a humpback whale waving at me from far out in the ocean. I have found paradise.
- Malu Antrobus-Thorweihe
- : Malu is an ecologist, conservationist and activist. She works in environmental education and has a blog on which she writes about the fascinating and often underrated gems of the natural world and gives advice on budget sustainable lifestyle choices.
- : https://sustainaplot.com/
- : https://www.instagram.com/sustainaplot/
- : I found that, if you love the planet, you can easily get depressed and paralyzed reading about everything that is going wrong with it. So I decided to add some positivity and write about the beautiful and ingenious facets of the natural world and about what you personally can do to care for the planet.
- : adult_(19_and_over_as_of_31st_december_2019)
- : This is the first time this story has been published.