Umtata, set on the banks of the Umtata River, was the capital of the former homeland of Transkei. The town was established in the 1860s as a so-called “white buffer zone” between two warring Xhosa tribes, the Thembu and Mpondo and white settlers were encouraged to live along the Umtata River. Today, Umtata retains much of its historic charm despite being a modern town, boasting a university, several hotels and a casino.
Adventure And Sport
Golf: Enjoy a relaxing game of golf at the Umtata Golf Course.
Madiba Hiking Trail: The trail is named after President Nelson Mandela’s clan (a branch of the Thembu Royal Family). The trail leads hikers through areas of natural beauty on their way to places of historical interest such as his place of birth in Qunu. Water sport: Enjoy boat rides and picnicking at the Umtata Dam.
Fauna And Flora
Nduli Game Reserve: The reserve is a peaceful refuge within the city limits with picnic sites and an attractive indigenous garden setting where zebra, blue wildebeest, eland and springbok graze.
Luchaba Nature Reserve: This reserve, situated approximately 5 km out of town, was established to protect local plant-and bird life, especially the rare Stanley’s bustard and the longtailed widow. Picnics, fishing and boat rides are possible at the nearby Umtata Dam.
History And Architecture
Anglican Cathedral: Do take the time to have a look at Umtata’s impressive, stone cathedral.
Bunga Building: For more than half a century this graceful domed building served as the seat of the now-abolished Transkeian Parliament. Today it houses the Nelson Mandela Museum.
Dick King Cairn: This monument commemorates Dick King’s historic horseback ride in 1842 from Port Natal (Durban) to Grahamstown to get help from the British garrison there when Port Natal was besieged by the Boers. It is situated next to the road near the small village of Mqanduli, about 45 km from Umtata on the road to Coffee Bay and Hole-in-the Wall.
Nelson Mandela Museum: The museum is spread across three historical sites: the Mvezo site, the Qunu site and the Umtata site. The open-air Mvezo site (approximately 67 km from Umtata), birthplace of Nelson Mandela, has been developed as a minimal interpretation facility, a place of pilgrimage where intervention was kept to the minimum to protect the natural and cultural environment of the site. The Qunu site (approximately 32 km from Umtata), the area where Mandela grew up, is the location of The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre, which is aimed at teaching young people about topics such as leadership qualities and personal and indigenous cultural values. The Bunga Building in Umtata will house the “Gift to the Nation” exhibition of personal gifts and awards presented to Nelson Mandela in recognition of the role he played in the struggle for peace, freedom and democracy. On receiving these gifts and awards he indicated that he did so on behalf of all the people of South Africa. However, the core exhibition of the museum will be the story of Nelson Mandela’s life as expressed in his autobiography, “Long Walk To Freedom”.
Town Hall: Umtata’s graceful, sandstone Town Hall, set in beautiful gardens, was completed in 1908 and is well worth a visit.
Umtata Museum: The museum depicts the cultural and natural history of the area and its people.