Wild Coast vs. Elephant Coast
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Mar 23, 2013 1:29 AM Last Post By: lucapal
Mar 22, 2013 11:41 AM
Wild Coast vs. Elephant CoastLooking for some advice as we plan our month long self-drive trip in April. We'll be renting a Nissan 4wd camper - starting and ending in Joburg. Royal Natal and Drakensbergs will first stops. Then it was to be the Wild Coast of Eastern Cape, possibly via Lesotho before driving up the coast to KZN - Durban and then St. Lucia. Now after reading about the Elephant Coast north of St. Lucia, I'm reconsidering driving to the Wild Coast and instead spending extra time in and around the E.C., Swaziland, and possibly into S. Mozambique before we head for a week-plus in Kruger. Our focus is on seeing interesting country, wildlife and nice day walks. Would we loose out on much if we skipped the Wild Coast and spent more time north of Durban? Originally I wanted to see the homeland of Nelson Mandela and the beautiful coastline - places like Coffee Bay. But now I see there is a lot to explore n. of Durban and it would cut down on our driving distance. Our rental will come with paperwork to enter Swazi and Moz. So now I'm thinking skip Lesotho and Wild Coast may be the better way to go. Any help with this choice? Thanks. MZ
Mar 22, 2013 12:34 PM
1Tough call and I don't think there's a right answer to this one, it really depends what you're wanting most out of your trip. I warn you in advance that I'm South African and my two favourite parts of the country are the Drakensberg and the Wild Coast, so I'm likely to be biased.
If you focus is
1) 4X4 driving then Lesotho - be aware though that the only road linking Lesotho and KZN is Sani Pass so I don't think that from the Amphitheatre Lesotho is a natural fit (you'd either need to backtrack from the Amphitheatre through Eastern Free State (Golden Gate/Clarens), or make a long detour to include Lesotho via Sani Pass when going to the Wild Coast via Kokstad makes a lot more sense if you were in the Himeville/Sani Pass region.
2) Day walks - the Drakensberg is a magnificent mountain range - the Northern berg = Amphitheatre and Central berg = Cathedral Peak + Injasuthi would win out for daywalks for me, or Mnweni if you're feeling more adventurous. You will struggle to get better places to go walking in SA (or the world - but note my bias). Be aware that the very reccomended (as long as you've got a head for heights) hike up to the top of the Amphitheatre via the chain ladder is accessed from Phutadhitjaba (spp?) in the Free State - it's a relatively easy walk and only takes a few hours so look into it.
3) Coastal scenery - the Wild Coast is the winner for me - it has a more African vibe than the rest of the SA coastline (think thatched huts and cows on the beach) and the actual topography of the coastline is rockier and to my mind more interesting than the Elephant Coast, It's also good for daywalking and the walk from Coffee Bay to Hole In The Wall for example is a very good way to spend a day (the wild coast path rns along the entire coastline). When I've been there I've always seen massive schools of dolphins in the surf too so if that's the wildlife you're after. Whatever you do don't bother too much with the KZN coast South of Durban, not to knock it, but I'd guess from your post that it's not for you (Oribi gorge maybe a worthwhile detour/stop?)
4) Wildlife - well if it's big game you're after then you'll not find much in what I've typed so far and then the Elephant Coast/ Kruger becomes a better option. The coastline is more sandy and typically "beachy" than the wildcoast so if that's what you're after also good. All the Northern KZN parks = Mkuze, Hluhuwe/Umfulozi/Lake St Lucia etc are great for wildlife including options for "the big 5" and of course Kruger is unbeatable in SA.
Hope that helps
Mar 22, 2013 2:00 PM
2Jake is a newcomer to Thorn Tree, but he really should have started here years ago. His advice is really good and well articulated and set out.
Take note of the constraints regarding detouring to Lesotho - you would probably end up choosing between Lesotho and the Amphitheatre. You have a 4x4, but I would not dream of going either up or down Sani Pass in a camper - the corners are simply too tight. The only alternatives to Sani Pass would be a) to do a loop around the western and southern edges of Lesotho, or b) to do an out and back route through the northern entrance near Butha-Buthe.
The Wild Coast gets rave reviews from many posters on Thorn Tree, but it really does not appeal to me that much. It consists of rolling green hills, little clusters of mud huts, very bad roads, a rock-face with a hole through it, and little else. I guess I am just too old to really appreciate it properly. My choice would be northern KwaZulu-Natal - St Lucia, Cape Vidal, Mkuze, Hluhluwe/Imfolozi, Sodwana Bay (if you are a diver), Kosi Bay, Ndumo, Ponto do Ouro and the Maputo Elephant Game Reserve (the camp ground at Milibangalala is wonderful during the week when it is quiet). Return via Swaziland and spend a night or two at Hlane Game Sanctuary and another at Mlilwane in the Ezulwini valley.
Whichever you choose, make sure that you have advance reservations in the Kruger Park and that you choose your camps appropriately, i.e. starting with your first night in one of the more southern camps so that you have time to reach the camp before it closes. Consult the web-site of the SA National Parks board (http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/) .
Mar 22, 2013 3:16 PM
3Thanks so much for your insightful and detailed posts, Rudi and Jake. This is really helpful information, and will help in making the final decision. Can't wait for the walks in the Drakensbergs, Jake, after our long, snowy winter. I'm leaning towards spending even more time there and skipping the Wild Coast. Rudi - I've booked 5 nights in Kruger and will probably add 2 more. I've reserved campsites as follows - 2 nights at Balule, 1 at Letaba and 2 at Maroela (last 2 nights there as we'll exit Orphen on our way to Blyde R. Canyon). I still need to book 2 nights (April 23, 24) at a campsite in the south. Any suggestions? And any thoughts on the value of several days in southern Mozambique? Thanks. MZ
Mar 22, 2013 11:44 PM
4Balule is a long way from the Crocodile Bridge entrance and even further from the Malelane entrance, the two gates in the south - the direction from which you will be coming. You should be aware that the gates (both park entrance gates and camp gates) open at 06h00 and close at 18hoo during April. The speed limit within the park is 50kph on tar roads and 40 kph on gravel roads. You will probably spend about 50% of your time watching animals and birds and the other 50% actually driving. If one travels at more than about 30 kph it becomes less likely that you will spot animals. So your average speed from point to point will be around 15 to 20 kph. I prefer to keep daily distances between the camps to about 100 kilometres. Coming from the south my first night in the park would ideally be Lower Sabie, which is 36 km (2 hours) from Orpen gate. If nothing is available at Lower Sabie I would choose between Crocodile Bridge and Berg-en-Dal/Malelane. If you could arrive earlier in the day Skukuza would also come into reckoning.
Be aware that neither Balule, nor Maroela have shops,restaurants or filling stations. The nearest camps with those facilities are Olifants and Orpen respectively. Which is also where you will have to book in before just arrivig at the camp ground.
At Letaba or at Maorela you could book on a sunset drive on a parks board vehicle. I do not know about Balule.
As far as southern Mozambique is concerned - I have mentioned Ponta do Ouro and the Maputo Elephant Park (we did not see any elephants) and camping at Milibangalala. However, it is not easy finding one's way on the unsignposted tracks in that area and a GPS would certainly be a help. At the very least a decent map of the area would be requird.
Mar 23, 2013 1:29 AM
5Like Jake (but not like Rudi ;-) I love the Wild Coast......culturally very interesting,nice walks,deserted beaches,very bad roads (that is not a negative for me) and not many tourists.
Certainly if wildlife is a priority then there are better places...as you know.Kruger is unbeatable for me too,but Imfolozi and St Lucia are well worth a look as well....
Too many great places in SA!
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