Pondo-Hopper Hiking Trail
Keen to hike the most rugged and pristine section of Wild Coast, but don't feel like the schlep of planning and preparing meals, or bringing little more than your tekkies and a beach towel? Provided your hike is planned for outside the peak school holidays, we can offer a fully supported and catered version of the 3 & 5 night Pondo-Explorer trail.
You will overnight at the same East African style tented camps, but all bedding will be supplied. Your main kit bags will be transferred from camp to camp by vehicle, so you need only hike with a light daypack. Dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for each trail day, will be provided by the tented camps and your third night is spent at Mbotyi River Lodge.
- Trip Duration3 or 5 Night Std Hike Options
- Daily DistancesDay 1: 16km Day 2: 18.5km Day 3: 11km Day 4: 10km Day 5: 13km
- Trail Grade3 / 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 & hot shower. Central kitchen & dining boma.1 Night at Mbotyi River Lodge
- Logistic SupportThis is a fully catered and vehicle supported hiking trailBedding and towels will be providedPath-finder included on all trails
- Group SizeMin 4 persons for the 5N HopperMin 2 persons for the 3N Hopper.Maximum of 24 persons/group.
- PricingOn a group of 4-6 persons: R8,400/pp for the 5 Night Hopper
At a Glance
Overnighting in the same East African style tented camps as the pondo-explorer, but with all bedding supplied. Your main kit bags will be transferred from camp to camp by vehicle, so you need only hike with a light daypack. Dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for each trail day will be provided by the tented camps and your third night is spent at Mbotyi River hotel.
The tented camps all have superb locations - sheltered under the milkwoods overlooking an estuary, or perched on a hillside offering panoramic sea views. This fully supported hike is a fantastic trail to do with a group of friends looking for a hike that is within reach of the average hiker and with enough activities - like canoeing up the estuaries, fishing and swimming, to keep the Duracell bunnies entertained.
- Day 1Arrival & Transfer Day
Self-drive to Port St Johns (5 night trail) or Mbotyi ( 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 (Dinner)
- 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 (Breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)
- Day 3Hike Day 2: Luphuthana – Mbotyi River Lodge (18.5km)
A long day but without major ascent. 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 (Breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)
- Day 4Hike Day 3: Mbotyi River Lodge - Manteku (11km)
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 (Breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)
- Day 5Hike Day 4: Manteku – Ntafufu (10km) (Breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)
Trail Highlights: Black Sands, beach before Ntafufu, Ntafufu River Crossing.
Overnight: Ntafufu Camp (Breakfast, packed lunch & dinner)
- 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 & hot water gas shower. Central kitchen & dining boma where meals will be served.
Breakfast at Ntafufu Tented Camp
Mbotyi River Lodge -Estuary & Seaview
- How do I get to the start of the trail?
If you are self-driving, we will collect you from the hike finish-point: Port St Johns on the 5 night trail or Mbotyi on the 3 night trail. You will leave your vehicle in secure parking in PSJ or Mbotyi and be transferred to Msikaba – the hike start for both the 3 & 5 night trail. This transfer is included in the hike price.
If you are flying, we can arrange private transfers from the airport. Mtata is the closest airport (1.5hr from PSJ) but the only direct flights there, are from JHB. Durban or East London are the next closest airports (5- 6hr transfer). If the group is flying – we can arrange transfers directly to Msikaba (trail-head) and back from Port St Johns (trail-end) – please request a quote for these extra transfers.
- 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. Winter months offer a wonderful and stable climate for hiking and the annual sardine brings lots of marine action, but we do struggle to get a booking at Mbotyi hotel as it is block-booked by the sardine tour operators.
We unfortunately cannot offer this supported hiking trail over the peak school holidays as the camps need to give priority to long-stay bookings.
- 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.
- Do you cater for vegetarians and other dietary constraints?
Vegetarian is no problem at all, but we do need to be given good advance warning. Other dietary constraints need to be assessed on a case-by-case scenario and a surcharge may apply. The shops in the area are limited and the nearest health shop is over 300km away.
- What about drinks?
Tea and coffee, and juice at meals is provided, but for all other drinks (both alcoholic and soft) – you will need to bring your own, and these will be transferred along with your bags from camp to camp by the support vehicle. Space is limited, and the roads are rough, so your drinks need to be properly packaged (cooler or box) and please avoid glass.
- Can this hike be shortened or lengthened?
The 3 and 5 night trails are the standard catered options. It is possible to spend an extra day-night at Mbotyi hotel should you want.
5 Night/ 5 Day Pondo-Hopper
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11 or more
3 Night / 2 Hike Day Pondo-Hopper
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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 at Mbotyi hotel
- Full Catering: DBB + Packed Lunch from all the tented camps & Mbotyi hotel
- Daily Luggage transfers
- Bedding and Towels provided
- Local Guide / Pathfinder for all hike days
- Reserve Permits & Trail Fees
- Canoes – available at Msikaba & Manteku Camps
- Emergency Support Service