Local Getaway

5 cool things you probably didn't know about the Wild Coast

This section of the Eastern Cape coast offers no shortage of charm

24 November 2019 - 00:00
The spectacular Hole In The Wall near Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape.
The spectacular Hole In The Wall near Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape.
Image: 123RF/christroch

1. IT REALLY IS WILD

Plenty of ships and sailors have come to grief on this part of the coast. The first recorded wreck was the Portuguese merchantman Sao Joao, which went aground near Port Edward in June 1552. Of the 600 people aboard, 500 survived the sinking but only 21 survived the brutal trek up the coast to what is now Mozambique.

The most famous wreck was the Grosvenor, a British East Indiaman which sank near the Umzimvubu River mouth. Its cargo of bullion - and, allegedly, the (looted) peacock throne of Persia - has never been recovered, despite vast sums of money spent on the job.

2. THERE REALLY WAS COFFEE AT COFFEE BAY

Coffee bushes once grew wild here, the progeny of beans washed ashore - or dropped when salvors looted the wreck of a ship carrying coffee from the East in 1862. Generally, the climate here is better for growing more potent stimulants than coffee.

3. IT HAS RARE WATERFALLS

There are only 20 waterfalls in the world that empty straight into the sea and two of them are here, mere kilometres apart, according to Africa Geographic.

One is at Waterfall Bluff, where the Mkhosi River makes a spectacular 80m dive into the sea. The other is known as "Secret Waterfall" - naturally, because apparently no-one except the people who live there know about it.

4. FLAGSTAFF ... IS NAMED AFTER A FLAGPOLE

Two traders - ZG Bowls and G Owen - had a general store here in 1875 and, according to historian TV Bulpin, "did a roaring business, but found it difficult to keep customers away when they closed on Sundays or holidays". The solution was a flagpole from which they flew a white flag when the store was closed.

5. THERE'S CATTLE ON THE BEACHES

Reports from sailors suggest cattle have been hanging out on the sand since at least the 16th century. Photographer Christopher Rimmer, whose shots of bulls on the beach have been shown around the world, once told The Guardian, "I spent a long time observing these animals and . could come to no other conclusion than that they visit the beach simply because they enjoy being there."