Why Mkhambathi Nature Reserve is one of the most photogenic places in South Africa MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Why Mkhambathi Nature Reserve is One of the Coolest Places to Take Pictures in South Africa

I’ve discovered a place that’s just perfect for what I’ve been searching for. Mkhambathi Nature Reserve, located in the amazing Eastern Cape, is one of the most beautiful and untouched spots I’ve come across during my incredible Year in the Wild. Let me tell you, there’s so much to love about this relatively small, but incredible 7000-hectare reserve along South Africa’s stunning Wild Coast. I apologize in advance for using so many enthusiastic words in this blog, but believe me, this place truly deserves them.

As I explored the reserve, I couldn’t help but fall in love with its breathtaking coastline. The calm inlets along the shore provide a peaceful sanctuary away from the mighty crashing waves that define the Wild Coast. The vibrant green grasslands cascade down towards the ocean, speckled with magnificent eland and hartebeest. It’s truly a sight to behold, especially against the stunning backdrop of the Indian Ocean.

Imagine being surrounded by lush forests filled with colorful birds and elusive antelope. That’s what you’ll find in the captivating coastal reserve, specifically in an area called “The Superbowl.” Here, nature puts on a show with towering sandstone cliffs that encircle a vibrant, high-canopy forest.

Right in the heart of this majestic crescent of cliffs, a river plunges thirty meters down into a breathtaking gorge. Standing on the cliff’s edge, you can witness the mighty rush of water and the chorus of songbirds, creating a mesmerizing scene that will leave you in awe.

Out of all the wonders in this reserve, the Mkhambathi Falls holds a special place in my heart. Its beauty captivates me like no other. The sheer power and grace of the waterfall, combined with its surroundings, make it an experience that you’ll never forget.

Imagine being able to drink straight from the crystal-clear rivers and waterfalls of the Mkhambathi Coastal Reserve. The reserve is blessed with three magnificent rivers – Msikaba, Mkhambathi, and Mtentu – that have carved deep gorges through the sandstone bedrock. These gorges are home to two thriving vulture colonies, nestled in the cliff faces of the Msikaba and Mtentu gorges.

But it’s not just the grandeur of the rivers and gorges that make this reserve unique. The Mkhambathi River, in particular, adds to the reserve’s charm as most of its catchment area falls within the reserve itself. This means that the water flowing throughout the reserve is exceptionally pure and unpolluted, making it safe to drink straight from the streams and waterfalls. How many places in South Africa, or even the world, can offer you this privilege?

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When you visit Mkhambathi, you’ll quickly discover that what sets it apart are the incredible waterfalls. As I stood there, gazing at the magnificent Horseshoe Falls, Strandloper Falls, and Mkhambathi Falls, I couldn’t help but be captivated by their beauty. These powerful waterfalls cascade down the rocks, creating deep and mysterious pools that stretch out over a hundred meters. And the most breathtaking part? Mkhambathi Falls plunges directly into the ocean, an awe-inspiring sight that perfectly concludes the experience in this astonishing nature reserve.

The rivers and estuaries are teeming with life, as schools of fish swim up and down their currents. It’s important to note that fishing in this area is regulated, thanks to the Pondoland Marine Protected Area’s efforts to preserve the diverse marine ecosystem. However, there is still work to be done. Despite the conservation measures in place, enforcing the fishing regulations remains a challenge. I’ve spoken with some local fishermen who admitted to fishing in prohibited areas, highlighting the need for greater enforcement and education.

Imagine a place that feels like stepping back in time, a place untouched by the rapid pace of modern life. That’s exactly what you’ll find in this hidden gem. It’s reminiscent of a Utopian dream, resembling the untouched beauty of the east coast of South Africa centuries ago.

Picture a landscape where wildlife roams freely, peacefully coexisting with cattle. Locals here live a harmonious life, deeply connected to the natural world. They thrive off the land and sea, finding everything they need in abundance. Food, water, and good health are never a concern.

The climate here is blissfully mild, like a perpetual summer day. You’ll never need to bundle up in warm clothes. And when the sun goes down, you can freely swim in the warm rivers and sea without a care in the world.

Believe it or not, I just found out that this place used to be a leper colony until the mid-20th century. Can you imagine being sent to a place like that? If you ever had leprosy, Mkhambathi would be the place to have it. The locals even named it after leprosy, although nobody knows exactly why.

But here’s the thing: just like all the other breathtaking places in South Africa, Mkhambathi is in danger. The destructive power of capitalism, commerce, and development is creeping in. Mining companies have set their sights on extracting titanium from the sands and soil here, and they’ve been facing opposition from the Pondo people and organizations like Sustaining the Wild Coast and Wild Coast Project. It’s been a real battle, but the community, led by their king Mpondombini Sigcawu, has made it clear that no mining will happen here.

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Last weekend, I had the chance to spend time with Nonhle Mbuthuma, a local environmental advocate and teacher. She was leading a workshop for kids in Mtentu, right along the northern edge of the reserve. Nonhle shared a troubling revelation with me: the local communities fail to see any benefits from mining. In fact, they believe it will only bring destruction. The rivers they rely on for drinking water will vanish, and the grasslands where their cattle graze will disappear.

But it doesn’t stop there. The mine will also ruin the beautiful landscapes that make this area so special. And to make matters worse, it will only be operational for a measly twenty years. Any jobs created will go to people from outside the community, and only a small group of individuals will get to enjoy the financial rewards. “What are we supposed to do once our land is destroyed?” Nonhle asked me. It’s a legitimate question. And if the mine goes ahead, the income from nature tourism in this magnificent part of South Africa will dry up.

But there’s another threat, lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce on the Wild Coast: the N2 national road. The government wants to stretch it through this sacred land, but its consequences would be disastrous. Not only would it shatter the breathtaking beauty that graces this coastline, but it could also pave the way for foreign companies to exploit the region’s mining rights.

I have witnessed firsthand the devastation that highways can inflict on our precious natural systems, from the majestic Addo Elephant National Park to the enchanting Garden Route National Park. They not only disrupt delicate ecosystems but also give birth to sprawling developments that chip away at the very essence of a place – the magic that lures travelers from far and wide.

People around here have been telling me something interesting. They say the government wants to construct a toll road, claiming that it will benefit the community by enhancing accessibility. However, there’s a catch. The government hasn’t allocated any funds to improve the roads that lead from the toll road into the actual communities. And let me tell you, those roads are in pretty bad shape. Isn’t it better to focus on upgrading the existing infrastructure while also preserving the unique essence of the Wild Coast?

When I think about Mkhambathi Nature Reserve and its marine protected area, I can’t help but be amazed. It’s a truly remarkable place, on par with iconic reserves like Table Mountain National Park and Kruger National Park. Considering its small size, this is quite an accomplishment. However, what’s troubling is the uncertainty surrounding its future. We must recognize the importance of preserving Mkhambathi and its surrounding areas.

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Imagine if the mines were allowed to operate near Mkhambathi. It’s a thought that infuriates me and saddens me deeply. Some may argue that I’m too sentimental or overly concerned with the environment, but I urge you to visit Mkhambathi and see it for yourself. Then, make your own judgment.

Exploring the Wonders of Mkhambathi Nature Reserve

A Message for Adventurers and Visitors

Let me tell you about this incredible place called Mkhambathi Nature Reserve. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before, with stunning beauty at every turn. However, before you embark on your journey, there are a few things you should know.

Wow, let me tell you, the roads around here in the Eastern Cape are just awful. I mean, seriously, have you ever seen anything like it? It’s like a never-ending obstacle course out there! And don’t even think about venturing into the reserve unless you’ve got some sort of monster truck. Regular vehicles need not apply, my friend. And you know what’s really frustrating? Apparently, there’s money available to fix these roads, but the bigwigs in charge just haven’t given the green light. Talk about a bureaucratic nightmare!

I had a chat with the reserve manager, Vuyani Mapiya, and he told me that Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism have been trying to get these roads sorted for ages. I mean, come on already! It’s time to take action and get this place in gear. If they want to attract people and develop this region, they’ve got to start by fixing the roads. It’s not rocket science, folks. Oh, and while they’re at it, they might want to make sure the basic amenities are up to scratch too. You know, things like working toilets, hot water, and chairs that aren’t falling apart. It’s the little things that make a big difference.

Now, I want to make something clear. I love the fact that this place isn’t overrun with tourists. It’s nice to have some peace and quiet, you know? But if they want to take tourism seriously and stop this mining nonsense, they’ve got to step up their game. They need to show that they can generate income in a sustainable and nature-friendly way. Sure, the area is beautiful and all, but that’s not enough. They need to get the basics right and give tourists a reason to choose this place over any other.

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