Mbotyi to Coffee Bay

Mbotyi to Coffee Bay

Our time at Mbotyi River Lodge had come to an end, and we departed after breakfast. Most of the roads on the Wild Coast take longer than anticipated, particularly those leading down to the coast. That said, once we were through Port St Johns, there were some spectacular ‘highways’ that would hold their own anywhere. It was wonderful to once again be cruising at a decent speed, as opposed to creeping along at a snail’s pace to miss potholes. 

Despite the quality of the roads, one still needs to keep an eye out for misbehaving taxis and livestock…

Our destination was Coffee Bay – primarily to view the “Hole in the Wall”. It is an incredibly beautiful feature of the Wild Coast, but (when we visited), it truly took grit and determination to get there. 

The main road bridge into Coffee Bay – completely destroyed.

On 18th February this year (a mere two weeks before we arrived) the most awful storms raged in the area – resulting in flooding and huge amounts of storm damage. The last 30km or so leading into Coffee Bay is currently SEVERELY potholed. Luckily they had managed to create a bypass road to access Coffee Bay, as the bridge on the main road had been washed away. 

Just beyond the destroyed bridge, there was a ton of debris on the road and piled up against the infrastructure…

Many of the residents were still without water at the time of our visit. Communications were also severely challenged. The reality is that this event has far-reaching implications on this little village where the tourism was just starting to recover post-Covid.

The tar from the road was literally lifted off, broken up and removed by the water.

Despite the disaster, we had a wonderful time. We checked into Geckos – a quaint little B&B that had been highly recommended. Niven Jagemann, the manager, met us at the gate with his wide smile and welcoming manner. As rain seemed imminent, we quickly unpacked and decided to pop over (about 10km) to Hole in the Wall to get some images whilst the light was still good.

Ian Georgeson with the Hole in the Wall in the background.

Located at the mouth of the Mpako River, the Hole in the Wall is a natural rock feature formed by millions of years of pounding seas. Azure skies, white clouds, black cliffs plunging into wild, deep blue seas. The warm turquoise lagoon waters contain abundant sea life and are apparently perfect for snorkelling. And against all of this, the jade hills and the emerald forests. I am of the opinion that South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with a variety of scenery that rivals any other. Standing on the hill (admittedly braving high winds on the day), absorbing the beauty and admiring this incredible feature, I was once again reminded of just how privileged we are…

The remaining cliff is located to the left of the Hole in the Wall.

The Wild Coast is steeped in history, myths and legends. The Xhosa people call Hole in the Wall “iziKhaleni”, which means “place of thunder”, referring to the thunderous sound of the waves heard during high tide. Their mythology (passed through the generations by oral tradition) tells a romantic tale of how this feature was formed (this is one of the versions). A beautiful girl, who lived in a nearby village, loved the ocean and often spent hours gazing out to sea. At this stage the lagoon was still closed off from the sea by a cliff. She was seen by one of the “sea people” (who looked like humans but had supple wrists and ankles, and flipper-like hands and feet), who became enamoured by her beauty and tried to court her. The father of the maiden took exception and forbade the union. It is a long story, but eventually the ‘sea people’ enlisted the help of a huge fish who battered its way through the wall of rock. Through this hole the sea people swept the young Xhosa maiden away. It is said that, at certain times of the year, the sea people’s music and singing can still be heard…

A view of the Hole in the Wall clearly showing the lovely indigenous ‘forest’ of trees at the base of the hill leading onto the edge of the lagoon.

“Hole in the Wall” – the English name – was originally coined by Captain Vidal of the vessel Barracouta. He was sent by the British Admiralty (in 1823) to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). Vidal managed to take his ship to within 800m of the coast. Upon seeing “where two ponderous black rocks above the water’s edge, upwards of 80 feet above its surface, exhibiting through the phenomenon of a natural archway”, he wrote it up in his log, naming it the Hole in the Wall.

Zac’s Seafood Kitchen – a wonderful little restaurant with ‘beach shack’ vibes.

After spending some time appreciating the view, we popped back to our B&B to ask Niven where we could get some decent grub that evening. He gave us two options, one of which was Zac’s Seafood Kitchen. It was in walking distance, and so we decided that was the way to go. And what a fine choice it was! 

We shared a plate of squid heads as a starter (the portions were huge), and then treated ourselves to a traditional ‘fish and chips’. 

I can honestly say that both were the best I’ve ever tasted!! The chips were hot, crispy on the outside and soft inside. Just perfect. Bianca van der Spuy was our hostess for the evening – a more friendly and efficient soul you couldn’t wish to meet. Zac (whose real name is Paul Garratt – long story, with four Pauls at varsity he became Zac) is the owner and the chef extraordinaire. 

This sign will lead your tastebuds to a little piece of heaven…

Their menu is comprehensive, the setting is cool, the portions are generous and the food is sublime. I honestly couldn’t give them a higher recommendation. If you’re in Coffee Bay, make the time for a meal at this little gem that has ‘beach shack’ vibes – you won’t be disappointed!!

The following morning we woke early, and enjoyed one of Niven’s legendary breakfasts, after which we strolled down to the bridge where all the flood damage was. 

The hot breakfast was delicious (made JUST before loadshedding kicked in), whilst the fruit salad had an amazing selection of fruit, including red plums – all bought locally!

Our visit to Coffee Bay was lovely, but other towns were calling, and we departed as we had many kilometres ahead of us that day…

Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team


Gecko’s B&B

Zac’s Seafood Restaurant:

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