Onto the coast at Kosi Bay
Kosi Bay is real frontier country. In times gone by, a heavy military presence was posted in this little corner of Maputaland, in an attempt to repel the supposed threat from the north. These days, thank goodness, things are a lot more chilled out.
But there is still plenty of cross border smuggling going on, which ensures that the place still has retained a bit of a Wild West feel to it. Or should that be the Untamed East?
After the 10-hour schlep from Barberton to Ndumo, the 1 ½ hour hop from Ndumo to Utshwayelo Community Camp near Kosi Mouth was a rather pleasant one. There are quiet a few places to stay at Kosi these days, but as we don’t have a boat, we wanted to be as close to the mouth as possible. Utshwayelo is pretty much as close as you can get.
We set up camp under a big waterberry tree, then headed down to the mouth for a late afternoon fish and a sundowner. The fishing was a bit slow (well actually I didn’t even get a bite), but you can’t get many better sundowner spots than the Kosi Bay estuary, with its seemingly endless maze of fish kraals. The Thonga people who live in the area have been using these fish traps for hundreds of years, and the little stick fences that curve out into the channels are Kosi Bay’s signature.
Unfortunately we messed up the tides a bit the next day, and we weren’t able to snorkel the reef just inside Kosi Mouth. We were pretty bummed about this, because from what I can remember from a trip about ten years back, it’s like floating through an exceptionally well-stocked aquarium. If you do find yourself in that part of the world, aim for the 1-hour window of slack tide over full high or full low.
From Utshwayelo it was another quick hop around Kosi’s four lakes to the Bhanga Nek Community Camp. Before heading south though, we hopped over the border into Mozambique to check out Ponta do Ouro. After a quick prego breakfast on the beachfront, we stocked up on 2Ms and stamped ourselves back into South Africa, much to the bemusement of the customs officials.
We were rather chuffed to discover that we were the only people staying at the Community Camp, and after offloading our gear into our little safari tent, we undertook the gruelling 20-metre trek to the beach. The camp at Bhanga Nek is pretty rustic. There’s no electricity, and you’ll need to take everything you need, including your own drinking water. But what it lacks in basic amenities, it makes up in its proximity to the beach. And what a beach it is – wild, pristine, practically undeveloped and, as a low tide snorkel revealed, absolutely bristling with life.
These Zululand beaches provide valuable nesting sites for leatherback and loggerhead turtles. At the beginning of summer, they waddle ashore and bury multiple batches of eggs above the high tide mark. A couple of months later, when the eggs hatch, thousands of little turtles make their way down to the water’s edge. Many get snapped up by crabs and seabirds, many more by predatory fish. Apparently only about one in a thousand make it to adulthood – not exactly the most favourable survival odds. At least they get some respite from humans along this protected stretch of coastline.
Our stay at Bhanga Nek coincided with the very end of the hatching season. We knew it was unlikely that we’d come across any hatchlings, but the young turtle-guide-slash-fire-wood-seller that we bumped into on the way was so enthusiastic, we decided to give it a bash. At six the next evening, we met our guy on the beach with charged headlamps, a litre of water and a healthy dose of determination. Three hours later, we were back in the same spot. We hadn’t seen any turtles, we hadn’t taken enough water, we hadn’t counted on in the howling headwind and we hadn’t considered how crippling the soft beach sand would be on our city-slicker hamstrings. Aah well, you’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say.
We spent the next couple of days recovering on the beach, with a bit of snorkelling and fishing thrown in for good measure. Yet again on this trip, we were sad to leave such an amazing spot after only three days. But if we want to make sure we don’t run out of money by Cape Town, we need to keep moving. Besides, our next stop was something we’d really been looking forward – a little bit of honeymoon luxury, 40km down the coast.
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|More info on the town of Kosi Bay||More info on the Elephant Coast area|