blog_post_17

Coffee Bay & Hole in the Wall

Few places in the world are this undeveloped, rugged, and naturally beautiful. It seems that high rise condos and rooftop restaurants tend to invade unprotected locations with such astounding beauty. But, here you are whisked away with few distractions and taken back to the basics.

When We Went

Early October

Pros - Not too hot and humid, saw humpback whales and dolphins in the ocean.

Cons - If you enjoy swimming, the water might be too cold for you.  But, our daughters swam happily.

How We Got There

Flights from Johannesburg to Mthatha/Umtata

Picked up from the Mthatha airport and driven to White Clay Resort in Coffee Bay with a stop by the grocery store for supplies. 

Locals will not drive from the airport to Coffee Bay after dark. Also, if you rent a car and drive be sure to get a 4x4.

It is worth noting that locals will not drive from the airport to Coffee Bay after dark. There are far too many animals in the roads and it is very dangerous. Also, if you rent a car and drive be sure to get a 4x4. The roads to Coffee Bay are paved, but if you want to drive to Hole in the Wall you will be glad you have this. Even the drive into White Clay resort was rugged and steep. Many of the Coffee Bay hostels will pick you up in Mthatha/Umtata if you stay with them. You could also take the Baz Bus.

Where We Stayed

White Clay Resort

This resort is basic but has amazing views. It really needs some maintenance and attention but the location is the perfect starting point for a hike to Hole in the Wall. From the family unit, we could sit up in bed and see dolphins swimming by. This was pretty unforgettable. The onsite bar and restaurant are very good and have more incredible views, so even if you don’t stay here, it is worth a stop for a drink or bite before or after your hike.

The onsite bar and restaurant are very good and have more incredible views, so even if you don’t stay here, it is worth a stop for a drink or bite before or after your hike.

Views from our room at White Clay Resort in Coffee Bay, the on site restaurant and bar at White Clay Resort, watching pods of dolphins from our bedroom, rondavels on the hill near White Clay Resort in Coffee Bay

What We Did

Hole in the Wall hike

We were dropped off at the Hole in the Wall around noon. Hole in the Wall is beautiful and provides a perfectly protected swimming area for kids. Our daughters had so much fun here. We let them swim and explore for about an hour before beginning the hike back to White Clay Resort.

We were told it was a 7 km hike along the coast back to White Clay Resort. Having done many hikes in Glacier National Park back home we figured it would be doable for our children. However, when I heard “along the coast” I pictured walking a sandy beach along the water. This was entirely incorrect. In hindsight, it should have been obvious as nothing about the coast here is flat. It is actually a 7 km hike up and down very large hills, rugged terrain, and paths that sometimes disappear altogether. We got lost several times so it was definitely longer for us.

It is actually a 7 km hike up and down very large hills, rugged terrain, and paths that sometimes disappear altogether.

Hole in the Wall beach and swimming area, hiking paths to/from Hole in the Wall (at points the paths can be narrow and on a steep slope so keep an eye on your kids as they hike)

About ⅓ of the way into the hike we stopped on one of the hills to have a snack and rest. From here we thought we saw whales in the ocean below and pulled out our binoculars to be sure. It was so fun watching them smack the water with their fins and spin.

In addition to the possibility of whale and dolphin sightings you will probably see cows, goats, and dogs along your hike. I’m pretty sure we were near snakes on our trek through the tall grass at least once when we veered off course, but I just prayed they stayed clear of us, tried not to think about it, and kept moving.

Next time we would start earlier, have more realistic expectations of the length and physical exertion required, and carry a few Rand and a few more snacks for the journey.

If you get lost the locals are more than happy to offer help. We didn’t typically accept this because they always want a tip which we failed to bring, and we thought it should be pretty simple to follow the coast. However, we had to accept help once and had no money along for a tip. We offered him our last 3 tangerines and apologized that we didn’t have more. He seemed quite happy, but, it would be a great idea to have a few South African Rand along for tips in case you need the help.

By the time we reached White Clay Resort the sun was setting and our daughters had been in tears more than once. We would definitely do this hike again but next time we would start earlier to avoid the stress of reaching the resort before dark and we would all have more realistic expectations of the length and physical exertion required before beginning. Also, a few Rand and a few more snacks for the journey.

Spent Time with the Locals

The primary reason we went to Coffee Bay was to volunteer with an organization doing missions work in the community. We were scheduled to work in the schools in the mornings and then have free time with the kids in the afternoon assisting with surfing lessons, music, sports, etc. Unfortunately, this organization asked when we would like to come and allowed us to choose dates during a South African wide school break. This was so disappointing and frustrating for us. 

Painting on the exterior of the home, reading stories with the locals, typical South African rondavels, meeting Yvonne

One of the employees at White Clay Resort was involved with the organization and offered to take us around town to meet some families. The first day out we met Yvonne who was absolutely the sweetest most inspirational lady. We then happened upon one of the teachers from the school who knew English well and could translate for us. She sat with us and a neighboring family outside their home while we sang songs and read a Bible story. I’m not sure how many people lived in this small home but more and more continued to come out the longer we were there. The attention span of these kids was astounding. They would sit for hours listening. This special time was our 11 year old’s favorite memory from our South African trip.

The attention span of these kids was astounding. They would sit for hours listening. This special time was our 11 year old’s favorite memory from our South African trip.

At the end of our time together the invite was given for the kids to come to the beach by White Clay Resort the next day. We asked them to spread the word and invite all of their friends. The following day we had 20-30 kids that had walked through town and to the beach. We had purchased candy and had some fun bracelets and paper flip cards to share. However, these proved to be more distracting for the kids than helpful. It was still a special time and we were impressed with how far the kids would walk to join us.

Singing with the locals on the beach near White Clay Resort (we brought suckers, they all love candy), Yvonne - this sweet lady loved us the day we met, Girl in red, I wish I knew her name. She spoke some English so we were able to interact with her more the next day when she came to sell jewelry and gave her one of the small English Bibles we brought. 

Trash Pick Up on the Beach

Since the schools were closed we had to improvise. We had come to volunteer and wanted to help somehow. Littering is just what people do there. They aren’t taught any different. It’s so sad to see trash everywhere in such a beautiful place. So, one morning we each took a trash bag and went down to the beach to clean it up. It was a great opportunity to teach our girls a lesson about caring for our earth and also do something small to help while there. 

It was a great opportunity to teach our girls a lesson about caring for our earth and also do something small to help while there. 

Coffee Bay Tour

We spent one morning visiting a few shops in Coffee Bay and had lunch at Ocean View Hotel. This hotel had a pool, trampoline, spa services, restaurant, bar, and small shop. It had a nice view although not as nice as White Clay Resort, but the accommodations seemed to be cleaner and better maintained. We also stopped by Coffee Shack Backpackers Lodge and Camping which had a small snack shack, a drum circle, pool table, and appeared to be a fun location to stay if you wanted to mingle. I don’t recall any amazing views at this location though. 

Daily life in Coffee Bay, Chad with Prince (the stray dog that found us) and the jewelry & younger sibling left with us when the girls went to swim, a typical road in Coffee Bay

Watched the dolphins and enjoyed the views

We enjoyed million dollar views for a fraction of the price. It was so fun to sit up in bed and see pods of dolphins swim by (we had binoculars on our nightstand) This was also the first beach we’ve been on where you could possibly be joined by a cow. The cattle here are free range and roam at will. I read not to befriend stray dogs as they could have diseases. but one particular dog befriended us and our girls named him Prince. He sat outside our room and would growl at the construction workers as they passed by. 

We enjoyed million dollar views for a fraction of the price.

One afternoon some of the girls came back to sell their jewelry just outside the fence to White Clay Resort. We went down to buy some souvenirs and just sat with them. Not all of them spoke great English so conversation was minimal. However, our girls asked if they wanted to go play on the beach and they quickly left Chad and I with their goods and younger sibling to go swim. It was fun watching all of them play together.

The view from our room, Selah and Noel playing on the beach of White Clay Resort, some of the girls came back the next day to sell jewelry by the resort, dolphin pods swimming by in the morning = the view from our bed

What We Would Do Next Time

Because we expected to volunteer in the schools the entire time we didn’t make alternate plans. It’s amazing how long a day can seem with no internet connection and no activities planned. If we went again I would definitely arrange the following in addition to our Hole in the Wall hike and Coffee Bay tour.

Surf Lessons

Mpuzi Cliffs and Caves Tour

Drum Circle, drum making, dancing

The Coffee Shack Backpackers has a list of fun day outings to keep you occupied. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s a great way to get ideas for your visit. The Baz Bus site also lists some ideas.

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