Pondo Exploring

The northern Pondoland section of the Wild Coast stretches from Mtamvuna River in the north (Port Edward) to the mighty Umzimvubu in the south (Port St John's) and is arguably the most rugged and breathtakingly pristine section of Wild Coast.

On the self-catered Pondo-Explorer Trail (3 or 5 nights), you will overnight in East African style tented camps, all in unsurpassed locations. There is a central dining and kitchen boma which is well equipped for self-catering, so you need only worry about your food on this self-catered trail. Porters can easily be arranged if you don’t feel like the schlep of carrying a heavy backpack. The third night of the trail is spent at Mbotyi River Lodge (with dinner & breakfast inclusive) – a welcome bit of pampering along the trail.

  • Trip Duration3 or 5 Night Std Hike Options* Extra rest days possible
  • Daily DistancesDay 1: 16km Day 2: 18km Day 3: 11km Day 4: 10km Day 5: 13km
  • Trail Grading3 / 5 - Fitness. Easy gradient for first 2 days but higher daily distances. More hills on Day’s 3 & 4.2 / 5 - Technicality. Limited scrambling. Some sheer sections for viewpoints (optional).
  • Trail TerrainCoastal Trail - traversing grasslands with deep forest ravines and gorges, rocky headlands, sandy beaches and passing through friendly Pondo villages.
  • AccommodationTented Camps - twin bedded safari tents with ensuite ablutions and hot shower. Central kitchen & dining boma - fully equipped for self-catering.1 Night DBB at Mbotyi River Lodge
  • Logistic SupportThis is a self-catered trail (except for Mbotyi night) but porters can be arranged to lighten your loadGuide included on all trails* Optional: Porter-support
  • Group SizeMin 2 pax and max 24 pax per camp
  • PricingOn a group of 4 - 6 persons: R5,600/pp for the 5 Night Explorer
At a Glance

We offer a 3 or 5 night hiking package, both starting from Msikaba and either finishing at Mbotyi (3 Night Trail) or in Port St John’s (the 5 Night trail).

Highlights of this trail include the deepest estuary in South Africa (Msikaba), the ocean spray spectacular at Luphuthana, waterfalls which plunge directly into the ocean (including the 80 metre high waterfall at Waterfall Bluff), Cathedral Rock, friendly Pondo villages and sweeping vistas. During the annual sardine run (June-July), the ocean is a-frenzy with game fish, dolphins, sharks and myriad seabirds.

On this self-catered trail version, extra day-nights can be had at any of the camps or at Mbotyi. It is also possible to break the first hike day into two days by overnighting at Grosvenor lodge where catering is provided.

  1. Day 1Arrival & Transfer Day

    Self-drive to Port St Johns (5 night trail) or Mbotyi (std 3 night trail), leaving your vehicle in secure parking here and we will transfer you to Msikaba, the trailhead, for your first nights accommodation. No hiking this day.

    Overnight: Msikaba Camp

  2. Day 2Hike Day 1: Msikaba to Luphuthana Camp (16km)

    Todays hike is mostly walking on the plateau above the cliffs. The vestiges of treasure quests at Grosvenor, Goss’s Point and the stunning Mkweni estuary, as well as the fantastic spray display at Luphuthana are highlights of the day.

    Overnight: Luphuthana Camp

  3. Day 3Hike Day 2: Luphuthana – Mbotyi River Lodge (18km)

    Another long day but without major ascents. Trail Highlights include: Top Hat, Waterfall Bluff (an 80m high waterfall which plunges directly into the ocean), Cathedral Rock, Mfihlelo Waterfall, freshwater swimming pools on the Mlambomkulu river, and the views from the top of Drew’s Camp looking down towards Mbotyi where you will enjoy the comfort of Mbotyi River Lodge for the night.

    Overnight: Mbotyi River Lodge (DBB)

  4. Day 4Hike Day 3: Mbotyi River Lodge - Manteku (10km)

    The terrain becomes more undulating after Mbotyi. Trail Highlights: Friendly rural villages, sweeping vistas from the hilltops, Manteku mangrove estuary with prolific birdlife, canoeing up Manteku Estuary.

    Overnight: Manteku Camp

  5. Day 5Hike Day 4: Manteku – Ntafufu (10km)

    Trail Highlights: Black Sands, beach before Ntafufu, Ntafufu River Crossing.

    Overnight: Ntafufu Camp

  6. Day 6Hike Day 5: Ntafufu - PSJ (13km / 4.5-5hr hike)

    Trail Highlights: Dome Bluff, golden miles of beach through to Poenskop

    ETA: Groups arrive back in PSJ from midday to early afternoon

1 Night DBB at Mbotyi River Lodge – Riverview Chalets.

2 / 4 Nights Tented Camps - twin bedded safari tents on wooden platforms under thatch boma's with ensuite ablutions and hot water gas shower. Central kitchen & dining boma - fully equipped for self-catering.

Oceanview Chalet - Mbotyi Lodge
Ntafufu Tented Camp
  1. Is it possible to have our bags transported by vehicle on this trail?

    Unfortunately not on this trail. However, porters are available at R250/porter/per day. They walk ahead of you and it supports the local economy.

  2. What type of footwear is appropriate?

    For this trail, heavier hiking boots are not necessary. A hiking type shoe or trail running sneaker with good grip is perfect.

  3. What is the best time of year for this trail?

    The Wild Coast has a very temperate climate so can be hiked all year round, but from about March through to November tend to be better months i.t.o less rainfall. Best to try avoid the busy school holiday periods. Winter months offer a wonderful and stable climate for hiking and the annual sardine run brings with it many game fish, schools of dolphins and pelagic birds.

  4. Is it possible to get catering at some of the camps?

    Unfortunately not. If you want catering to be provided then you need to chose the fully supported and catered pondo-hopper trail version.

  5. Is it possible to buy food supplies enroute?

    Unfortunately, this cannot be relied upon. There is a larger Spaza store in Mbotyi (mid-way on the hike) where basic food items can be replenished (fresh bread, tinned good, tomatoes, onions, green pepper), but otherwise the hike does not pass through much in the way of villages with spaza stores. Best to come fully prepared.

  6. Can this hike be shortened or lengthened?

    The 3 and 5 night trails are the standard options but it is possible to spend an extra day-night at any of the tented camps or Mbotyi and it is also possible to extend the trail should you want to do this. The 3 night trail can be run from Msikaba - Mbotyi (2 longer hike days / 3 nights) or Mbotyi to Port St Johns (3 shorter hike days/ 3 nights)

  7. Can this trail be arranged during holiday periods?

    Unfortunately NOT, as the tented camps prohibit 1 night bookings over these times. We have come up with the Pondo Falls trail to address this need, or you can also look at the Lower Wild Coast Hotel Hopper.

5 Night Pondo-Explorer

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
R6 700/pp
4-6 Persons
R5 600/pp
7-10 Persons
R5 300/pp
11 -15 Persons
R5 000/pp

3 Night Pondo-Explorer

Group SizePrice (PP) 
2 Persons
R5 000/pp
4-6 Persons
R4 200/pp
7-10 Persons
R4 000/pp
11-15 Persons
R3 800/pp
Whats included in this tour
  • Transfer from Port St Johns (or Mbotyi) to Msikaba trail head
  • 3/5 Nights Accommodation: 2/4 nights in tented camps, 1 night DBB at Mbotyi hotel
  • Inclusive Meals: Dinner & Breakfast at Mbotyi River Lodge
  • Local Guide / Pathfinder for all hike days
  • Full catering facilities available at the tented camps - gas plates, cookware & cutlery
  • Reserve Permits & Trail Fees
  • Emergency Support Service
  • Pre-booking of porters
  • Canoes - at Msikaba & Manteku