The area south of where the Kei River flows into the Indian Ocean has been called many names, including ”Hinterland”, “Frontier Territory” and “Settler Country”. These names mainly refer to the tumultuous history of this area, but the area should also be recognised as the birthplace of a new people, forged through sacrifice, conflict and hardship, a people worthy of inheriting a new world. Today, the people of this region call it “the place of opportunities”. The Amatola Mountain Escape Tourist Route takes travellers through the region and to its many popular attractions. This fertile region includes a magnificent coastline, the Winterberg and Amatola Mountain Ranges and the foothills of the southern Drakensberg Mountain Range. The network of rivers, lagoons and estuaries that criss-cross the grassy plains and mountain ranges, provide visitors and inhabitants alike with adventures galore. The adventures include rock-climbing and abseiling, mountain biking, hiking, hunting, bird watching, 4×4 trails, kayaking and some of the best fishing-, swimming- (the warm Mozambique current flows here) and surfing-spots in the world. For the more culturally-minded there is the world-renowned African art collection at Fort Hare University in Alice, (alma mater of former President Nelson Mandela) as well as numerous San rock art sites and cultural villages, to visit. The picturesque little village of Hogsback, set on the edge of the misty Amatola Mountains, is said to have inspired the renowned author Tolkien, to write his famous work, “The Hobbit”. Since earliest times, the major river of the area, the Buffalo River, has played an important role in the lives of all the inhabitants. The Khoi-Khoi, relatives of the nomadic San, called the river “Ingaab ab” (buffalo) and the Xhosa tribes, who arrived later, named it Bisho, also meaning buffalo. The British Settlers translated this name into English. At the mouth of the river lies South Africa’s only river port and the city of East London; now part of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Area. Buffalo City encompasses the coastal town of East London, Bisho, the provincial capital, King William’s Town and the towns of Mdantsane and Berlin. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Amatola District Municipality but is awaiting confirmation of its status as the areas’ second Metropolitan Municipality.
“Imonti”, the Xhosa name for East London, was derived from the Dutch word “mond” (mouth) and refers to the position of the city on the mouth of the Buffalo River. In 1836, George Rex was sent to survey the river mouth area. Not long after, the Union Jack was hoisted on Signal Hill, signifying the start of a new settlement. As the years passed, more people moved to the area, including a substantial German complement. Dredging of the harbour began in 1886 and in 1935 the only double-+deck bridge in the country was built here. Today, East London is South Africa’s only river port and is home to many industries. Many products and materials, such as wood, citrus fruit and mineral ore are exported from here. East London is the gateway to the Eastern Cape hinterland with its picturesque Xhosa villages and towns of British, Dutch and German origin and equidistant between the Sunshine Coast to the west and the Wild Coast to the east. Pockets of natural vegetation are preserved within the immediate surrounds of the city and include typical indigenous trees and shrubs, as well as three distinct species of ancient cycads. The city also boasts some of […]
Fort Beaufort, in the Kat River Valley, is set in the horseshoe formed by the Kat River on the one side and the Brak River, on the other side. It was the site of one of the most effective forts set up to serve as a buffer between the Settlers and the Xhosa people during the Frontier Wars and was often used as a place of refuge. The fort was established in 1823 and named after the Duke of Beaufort, father of Lord Charles Somerset, the Governor of the Cape at that time. In 1842 a military road, known as the Queen’s Road, was built by the famous road engineer, Andrew Bain, between Fort Beaufort and Grahamstown to give British troops rapid access to the frontier. This road was the first properly-constructed road in South Africa. The present tarmac road between Fort Beaufort and Grahamstown follows the same route and the stone bridges over the Kat and Great Fish Rivers are still in use. Adventure And Sport Katberg Hiking Trail: The trail covers over 51 km of spectacular scenic terrain, forests and grass-covered hills between the Mpofu Game Reserve and the Benholm Forest Station. Water-sport: The Kat River Dam, the […]
This charming seaside village lies 75 km north-east of East London. The warm summers and sunny winters offer ideal conditions for outdoor enthusiasts. The town and its surrounding area have been declared a conservancy to protect rare indigenous species of animals, such as the Cape clawless otter and the blue duiker (a small antelope). Adventure And Sport Angling: Haga-Haga’s rocky coast has several spots where anglers can try their luck from the coast. Deep-sea fishing: Various operators in the area offer deep-sea fishing charters. Hiking and beach-combing: Try the rocky 8-km walk past Rooiwal to Cape Henderson for a start and enquire at Hibiscus Farm about other hiking trails in the vicinity. Power-boating: There are two access points from which to launch powerboats from the beach. Please remember that no vehicles other than those used to launch boats, are allowed on the beach. Water-sport: Because the Haga-Haga River is quite shallow, local water enthusiasts board-sail and paddle-ski in the surf. Canoeing is another popular activity. Art And Crafts Mtwentwe Beads: Beautiful traditional Xhosa beadwork is sold here as part of a proactive community initiative to generate an income for local inhabitants. Entertainment And Shopping Haga-Haga Farm Store: Visit the Haga-Haga […]
This village, originally called Tooi, was founded in 1857 to settle veterans of Britain’s disbanded German Legion. The name of this small seaside town on the Sunshine Coast was later changed to that of the German city Hamburg. Its position next to the ocean and on the banks of the Keiskamma River has earned it a reputation as a popular adventure tourism destination, especially for water sports. Adventure And Sport Canoeing: The Keiskamma River offers excellent angling and other water-sport opportunities, including canoeing. Cruises: Various river- and deep-sea cruises are conducted, if the weather permits. Fishing and surfing: Some of the best coastal-fishing and surfing opportunities exist along the miles of beautiful beaches. Hamburg Nature Trail: The trail offers beautiful views of the bluegum plantation, the Umtata River Mouth and the coastline. Sunset barbecues lend a special flavour to the occasion and should be arranged in advance. Mpekweni Sun Marine Resort: Nature still reigns supreme at the Mpekweni Sun Marine Resort. Guests may choose to hike along clearly-marked trails, canoe up-river or spend the day lounging in the lagoon. The endless water-sport activities, inviting golden beaches and fascinating marine- and land life make this one of the most popular destinations […]
Opinions differ as to the origin of the name of this picturesque little town, situated at the western end of the great Amatola Mountain Range and surrounded by enchanting indigenous and pine forests. Some say the town may have been named after Capt. Hogg of Fort Mitchell, the first European settlement in the area but most believe that it was named after the nearby Hogsback Mountain Range with its three distinct mountain peaks, resembling a bristled-backed wild hog. Adventure And Sport Forest walks: Various colour-coded, one-day trails are marked through the forests surrounding the town. Some lead to beautiful waterfalls with magical names such as “Madonna and Child” and “The 39 Steps”, while others continue high up the mountain to sites such as the 1 565-m-high Tor Doone Peak, from which the town and the surrounding areas can be surveyed. Hogsback Hiking Trail: Follow this 32-km, 2-day circular trail through the beautiful indigenous and pine forests of Hogsback, augmented by natural mountain fynbos vegetation. Mountain-biking: There are several well-mapped-out mountain biking trails in the vicinity of the town and the Hobbiton Mountain Bike Race is held every year. Trout-fishing: The area with its many pools and streams, is an ideal […]
Most motorists regard this little town only as the place where one turns off the N2 main road to reach the Dwesa Nature Reserve, Kobb Inn and Mazeppa Bay. However, the town has several hotels, sporting facilities and a camping site. It is also famous for hosting the ”Abakhwetha” dances that form part of the initiation ceremony of young Xhosa boys. Willowvale, not far from Idutywa, is the traditional seat of the paramount chief of the Gcaleka. This picturesque little town gets it name from the wild willow trees that once grew in the valleys along the rivers. The road through Willowvale leads to Qora Mouth and Nqabara Point on the Wild Coast. Adventure And Sport Golf: Idutywa has its own golf course. Wild Coast Horse and Hiking Trail: The Dwesa/Cwebe Trail passes through the Dwesa and Cwebe Nature Reserves, a special area enclosing large tracts of indigenous forest, coastal grasslands, rivers and estuaries and abundant game and birds. The trail allows meetings with the local inhabitants and other community-and cultural-based activities. Activities such as birding, canoeing, whale-and dolphin-watching and scuba-diving are possible in certain areas. Fauna And Flora Cwebe Nature Reserve: The 2 140-ha Cwebe Nature Reserve encloses forest, […]
The village of Kei Mouth was founded during the Frontier Wars to serve as a staging post. The Great Kei River is up to 200 m wide in places and flows into the Indian Ocean. The pontoon at Kei Mouth ferries vehicles across the Great Kei River to the road leading to the Kentani and Willowvale beach resorts. Today, the village boasts numerous hotels, bungalows, caravan sites as well as several shops and a library, indicating its increasing popularity as tourism destination. Adventure And Sport Golf: The village has a pleasant nine-hole golf course. Water sport: Ample opportunities exist to swim, fish, do some river boating and other water sport activities. History And Architecture Hazel Jeffries Shell Museum: The museum houses a collection of more than 2 500 shells from all over the world.
Keiskammahoek lies in a curve of the Keiskamma River, protected by the Amatola Mountains and Hills. The town has several charming Victorian and German Settler buildings and various other buildings of national historical interest. A modern hospital takes pride of place, albeit in stark contrast to the ruined but still impressive stone Keiskammahoek Post, an extensive military complex. Adventure And Sport Amatola Hiking Trail: The challenging Amatola to Hogsback Trail starts at Maden Dam, is 160 km long and takes six days with five overnight stops. This trail is one of the most popular and demanding trails in the country. It winds through plantations and primeval forests, over grasslands and up into some of the higher peaks of the Amatola Mountains. Piri/Evelyn Hike: This two-day hike through the beautiful Piri Forest and Amatola Mountain area is ideal for the less experienced hiker. Enjoy an overnight stay at Evelyn Hut, a farmhouse. For the very inexperienced there is a 4-hour, 9-kilometre walk through the Piri Forest, following the route of an old railway line built in 1910 to transport logs from the forest. Sandile Walk: The less strenuous Sandile Walk starting from Maden Dam is suitable for day visitors and will […]
King William’s Town
After the London Missionary Society’s mission station on the banks of the Buffalo River had been destroyed, the Governor, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, wanted to rebuild it and establish a town named after King William IV of Britain. When the British Government turned down his application to extend the territory of the Cape, the land was returned to the Xhosa nation. However, the mission station was subsequently rebuilt, local traders soon started meeting around the station and a town eventually developed. The town boasts a large number of historical buildings. Today, King William’s Town is part of the greater Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. Adventure And Sport Hiking: Several hiking trails traverse the countryside. Trout- and bass-fishing. International trout-fishing competitions are often hosted at the Maden Dam. Bass-fishing, sail-boating and board-sailing can be enjoyed at the Rooikrantz Dam. Fauna And Flora Botanical Gardens: King William’s Town is justifiably proud of its botanical gardens and its nature reserve where many species of indigenous flora grow unhindered. History And Architecture Amatole Museum: The Amatole Museum, formerly the Kaffrarian Museum, was founded in 1884 by the local naturalist society. The second largest collection of mammals in South Africa, 40 000 in total, can be seen […]
This small town, just 16 km from Kei Mouth, is situated on the banks of the Ntshala River. The bay boasts a landscape of dramatic high cliffs and “kranzes”, a lovely lagoon, some 200 species of bird and fascinating indigenous flora. The town and its neighbour, Cape Morgan, both take their name from AF Morgan, master of the Barracouta, the ship that was used for a survey of the coastline in 1822. Adventure And Sport Hiking: Various hiking routes are demarcated in the area. Routes include the coast between Morgan’s Bay and Kei Mouth; from Kob Inn to Morgan’s Bay (the 6-day Wild Coast Meander); from Qolora, north of the Kei River to Glen Garriff in the south (Wild Coast Amble) and along the northern Pondoland Coast (Wild Coast Pondo Walk) as well as further inland through indigenous forest valleys. Ultimately you can tackle the renowned 5-day Strandloper Hiking Trail from Cape Morgan/Kei Mouth to Gonubie/East London. Mountaineering: Scaling the high cliffs is a dangerous activity and is recommended only for very experienced climbers. Strandloper Hiking Trail: This 5-day hiking trail, the ultimate coastal adventure, starts at the Strandloper Ecotourism Centre at Cape Morgan and ends at Gonubie. The route […]
The historic little town of Peddie lies 50 km south-west of Bisho, on the Grahamstown road. In 1835, during the Sixth Frontier War, a fort was built at this spot and named after Colonel John Peddie of the Seaforth Highlanders. A village developed around the fort, which was built to protect the British and their allies, the Mfengo Tribe, against the indigenous Xhosa tribes. A road through the nearby Double Drift Game Reserve, now part of the Great Fish River Complex, links Peddie with the town of Alice. History And Architecture Anglican Rectory: The building was once used as a military hospital and mortuary during the Frontier Wars. The Church itself was formerly part of the original earthwork fort. Cavalry and Infantry Barracks: The old cavalry barracks is now the residence of the magistrate of the town and the old infantry barracks have been converted into the town’s courthouse. Resettlement Memorial: A bronze plaque on a milkwood tree commemorates the resettlement of the Xhosa tribe, the Mfengo, who cooperated with the British during all nine Frontier Wars. Each year, on May 14, Mfingo descendants visit this site, honoring their ancestors. Watchtower: The old watchtower on its hilltop was built in […]
This little town, situated beneath the slopes of the Katberg and Elandsberg Mountain Ranges was built in 1862 and started off as a military outpost called – 133 Elands Post. It was later named after Colonel James Seymour, the private secretary to the Governor of the Cape. A small village soon developed around the fort. Today, the village lies close to the Kat River Dam and is the terminus of a branch line from Fort Beaufort. History And Architecture Colonial Hotel: The ornamental colonial hotel building was built as an Officer’s Mess for the British Troops. Elands Post: A fort, built in defence of the colony in 1846, is still intact. History of Afrikaans: Seymour and the Kat River Valley are closely associated with the history of the development of the Afrikaans language. A Seymour magistrate, Louis Henri Meurant, wrote one of the earliest published works in Afrikaans. Also, the renowned “Kaatje Kekkelbek from Kat River”, the character created by Andrew G Bain and John Rex in their humorous song, instantly became a household name and her fame lives on to this day.
The historic little town of Stutterheim, situated in a scenic setting encompassing mountains, rivers and woodlands, is a strong reminder of the German Settler influence in the region. It was named after Major General Baron Richard von Stutterheim, Commander of Britain’s disbanded German Legion, which had fought in the Crimean war. In 1857, after the war, the General and his men settled near the Bethal Mission Station, established 20 years previously by Pastor JL Dohne. The eccentric General immediately set about building himself a castle (it subsequently blew down during a storm). After returning to Germany, he squandered the family fortunes and later committed suicide. Adventure And Sport Boating, yachting, wind-surfing and angling: Enjoy a picnic and some boating (not motor), yachting and wind-surfing at the Gubu Dam, west of town. Angling and trout-fishing are allowed. International trout-fishing competitions are hosted here every year. The trout-fishing season extends from September to May. Kologha Hiking Trail: This two-day, 34,5-km trail takes hikers to areas of breathtaking natural beauty in the Kologha State Forest at the eastern end of the Amatola Mountains. Day visitors have a choice of several delightful short walks through the forest. Walks are colour-coded and all start at […]