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The seaside town of Port St Johns is a family holiday village of legend on the Pondo side of the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. It is also one of the highlights on any backpacker’s accommodation world itinerary because of its vast natural setting, frontier relaxed atmosphere and appeal to more adventurous accommodation younger backpacker.

The long Umzimvubu river front accommodation winds its way through the Wild Coast towards the warm waters of the Indian ocean where family holidays are made. Sellers line the roads selling fresh corn and live chicken. On the close hillside traditional mud hut houses provide a tourist views a picture of South Africa. Women and children from the local community can be seen carry wheat and water buckets.

As its name suggests, the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape that extends between the Mtamvuna River in the north and the Great Kei River to the south, is an untamed wilderness. It is an incredible, unassuming combination of breath-taking coastline, precipitous and craggy cliff faces, wild and desolate beaches, secluded bays and green rolling hills that rush headlong into deeply etched river valleys.

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Included in the Wild Coast is what used to be the Transkei, which, largely due to lack of infrastructure, past neglect, and the fact that it isn’t easy to ‘fly in’ for a weekend, has ensured that the well over 200 kilometre coastline is virtually inaccessible to all but those prepared to hike it, or venture forth on horseback. The beauty of the coastline is interfered with by few, and aside from the odd collection of thatched rondavel huts, is virtually uninhabited.

This Wild Coast area acted as a border for much of the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was rife with conflict between British colonists and the rural Xhosa people who lived a colourful and richly cultural existence in this beautiful region. The birth place of Nelson Mandela is an effortlessly unspoiled land that claims to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

The weather is almost always mild and there are few days when the sun doesn’t effortlessly shine. Forested areas include prehistoric cycads, sneezewood and yellowwood trees, and areas thick with vegetation. The sky is often rent with the call of the fish eagle, and a tumult of bird calls are a combination of sea, coastal and inland birds.

Explore the traditions and customs of the local Xhosa people, visit the birthplace of Nelson Mandela and learn about the astonishingly uplifting life of the man who lead South Africa into her modern democracy at Umtata’s Nelson Mandela Museum.

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