South African Shoestring: The South Coast

Whether you are after beach life, city adventures or if you are an adrenaline junkie through and through, there is something for you on the South Coast. 

Umzumbe

Umzumbe lies North of Port St. Johns and has two fantastic backpackers, The Spot (which was full during our visit) and Mantis and the Moon, we were lucky to end up at the latter. A pathway of bridges through the jungle takes you down to several log cabins hidden in a beautiful tropical forest setting. A yoga studio with walls made of glass, a UV light bathing the swimming pool at night and a fantastic array of facilities provides a hot spot for backpackers looking to get back to nature. For cheaper accommodation options you can opt to stay in the teepee in the heart of the venue.

Oribi gorge is a half hour drive from Umzumbe and is home to the highest gorge swing in the world. From the platform you gaze out into the gorge 165m below. The swing pulls at your harness and as you relax your grip on the cliff edge the heavy cord tugs at your waist and you fly over the edge dropping with an extreme velocity. 

An incredible feeling, one which we can relate to our sky dive in Australia which you can read about here.

An adrenaline pumping experience - so much that Laura forgot to take the car keys out of her pocket before the swing and they ended up at the bottom of a very dense gorge pass. The friendly guys working there hiked down and managed to find them whilst we sat on the incredibly scenic suspension bridge with a walkie talkie and the tele-photo lens trying to find them. With the keys returned we took a short hike to the over-hanging rock, looking out into the nature reserve, trying to slow the heart rates.

Umkomaas

Umkomaas is famed for its scuba diving. It is home to Aliwal Shoal, one of the worlds most famous dive sites. With up to 70 sharks on one dive, and poor visibility, the dives a test of bravery. Some of these creatures were enormous, but the great realisation was of the unaggressive nature of sharks. 

When a 4 meter shark surprises you through the cloudy water, you do not see fear in his eyes, you only see your own irrational worries. The weather is unpredictable and poor conditions can lead to cancelled dives and long bumpy boat journeys - so take this into account. 

Blue sky mining backpackers sits on the hill overlooking Warner beach, 15 min from Aliwal Shoal Dive School. Their safari style tents are an excellent option for the budget backpacker who fancies a glam ping retreat at a very reasonable price. 

 

Durban

Durban is a big city with plenty of great hostels, but other than the beautiful beaches, most activities are to be found in the surrounding areas, which you can explore yourself, as we did! However, cities tend to have great markets, so we headed to the one we had read about the most...

The Indian markets are actually called Victoria markets and sell everything from traditional clothes to jewellery and spices. Although the prices are higher than in the rural communities where a lot of their stock is produced, they have an excellent range of items for sale. 

On entering the Grey Street Mosque, two men consecutively approached us offering to show us around and answer any question we may have. Unsure of whether they were on a conversion mission, we entered with open minds. 

The Islam faith is one of great interest to us. 70% of what is written in the one and only edition of the Q'aran is science. The stories are rich and intricate and as they were told, we sat in awe. One of our new friends had learnt the Q'aran by memory before he was 12 - a truly astounding feat. But we were somewhat disheartened when Laura went to shake his hand and he said he must not touch a woman. We questioned this act and all of a sudden he had no reasonable answers. 

Someone who claims such spiritual enlightenment yet fails to believe men and women are equal is still yet to 'find God' where it matters - in everyone. It is a shame to see intelligent people sucked into blind faith where it has such a negative effect on those around them. 

The South Coast will take less time to cover than its neighbouring coastal regions (the Wild Coast and Zulu-Land) but it is definitely worth stopping off. We covered the whole thing in 5 days and you shouldn't need much longer!