Port St Johns Open Africa Route


The Port St Johns Open Africa Route is situated at the mouth of the uMzimvubu River on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape Province. The uMzimvubu River gorge has two towering headlands of sandstone cliffs, rising 360m above the sea forming the impressive Gate of Port St Johns, 100km east of Umtata. 

The route highlights the culture of the Pondo people in the rural villages surrounding the town of Port St Johns, the nature reserves and the many private lodges in the vicinity. The route combines already well-developed and sophisticated establishments alongside previously untapped attractions. Tourists have the opportunity to learn about the Pondo people, their history, culture and customs.

Reasons to visit:

Port St Johns is known by the local Xhosa people as uMzimvubu, “the place of the hippo” and is home to the Pondo people, who have a rich and colourful heritage. Their traditional clothing is often dyed red using ochre and the way each person dresses indicates their clan and societal status. The beadwork that is still prevalent in the area has different patterns and styles for different occasions and uses. 

Exquisite beadwork, baskets, traditional clay pots, clay models, handcrafts and wooden carvings are very popular with visitors to the region and are sold by the local people alongside roads and through other outlets.

Visitors could join a deep-sea charter, enjoy water sports such as canoeing and fly-fishing, go on a cultural tour, take in the scenery on a number of horse and hiking trails, browse through bustling craft markets or take in a round of golf at the local club.

Port St Johns has numerous estuaries, bays and headlands. Rocky shores predominate and precipitous cliffs drop dramatically into the sea. Small sandy bays and long stretches of open beach are often found near the mouths of large rivers like the Umzimvubu and Umngazana Rivers. This coastline’s waters mark the transition between the temperate Cape and the subtropical KwaZulu-Natal. As a result a diverse array of fish and marine invertebrates occur here.

Port St Johns is dominated by rural subsistence activities and as a result has a rural atmosphere, characteristic of this part of the Eastern Cape. A wide variety of accommodation is available. This includes camping sites, bed and breakfast establishments, self-catering apartments and guesthouses of various grades. Some of the hiking trails are also very popular and need to be booked up to a year in advance.

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