Pondo Hopper Hiking Trail

Enjoy the remote beauty and solitude of the Northern Wild Coast, on a fully catered supported trail.


Explore the most rugged and pristine section of South Africa’s Wild Coast, skirting the Indian Ocean along cattle paths that lead hikers over rolling green hills, through Pondo villages, along rocky shores and remote slices of beach.

The Pondoland Coastline

Venture where only a fortunate few have passed, with a fully supported slack-packing experience. The northern Pondoland section of the Wild Coast, stretching from Mtamvuna River in the north (Port Edward) to the mighty Umzimvubu in the south (Port St John's), is undoubtedly the least accessible, dramatically rugged and breathtakingly pristine section of the Wild Coast.

You will pass through traditional Xhosa villages, over rolling green hills, rocky headlands and sandy bays. See amazing waterfalls, freestanding rock stacks and pristine estuaries on your journey. The skeletal remains of numerous shipwrecks along the shore bear testimony to this high-energy coastline, whilst schools of dolphin and whales are a familiar sight.

Overnight in East African style tented camps. On the fully catered, pondo-hopper, your main kit bags will be transferred from camp to camp by vehicle, so you need only hike with a light daypack. Dinner, Breakfast and a packed lunch for each trail day will be provided by the tented camps and your third night is spent at Mbotyi River Lodge hotel.

The tented camps all have superb locations: sheltered under the milkwoods overlooking an estuary, or perched on a hillside offering panoramic sea views. This fully supported hike is a fantastic trail to do with a group of friends looking for a hike that is within reach of the average hiker and with enough activities - like canoeing up the estuaries, fishing and swimming, to keep the Duracell bunnies entertained.

Adventure Highlights

  • The deepest estuary in South Africa (Msikaba).
  • The spectacular ocean spray at Luphuthana.
  • Waterfalls which plunge directly into the ocean (including the 80 metre high waterfall at Waterfall Bluff).
  • Cathedral Rock.
  • Friendly Pondo villages.
  • Sweeping vistas.
  • Annual sardine run (June-July), the ocean is a-frenzy with game fish, dolphins, sharks and myriad seabirds.


Route Description

This hike is offered as a 3 or 5-day experience. Depending on which you pick, the experience en route will be slightly different.

Day 1: Drive to Port St John’s (5 Night Trail) or Mbotyi River Lodge (3 Night Trail).
Leave vehicles in secure parking and take a transfer through to Msikaba Camp (3hr transfer from Port St Johns, or 1.5hr from Mbotyi). In the afternoon, take the canoes up the Msikaba Estuary (one of the deepest estuaries in South Africa) for sundowners, or cross the estuary into Mkambati Nature Reserve where the superbowl walk will afford a bird’s eye view onto an impressive colony of Cape Griffon Vultures. Overnight: Msikaba Tented Camp.

Day 2: Hike from Msikaba – Luphuthana. 16km.
Starting just after breakfast, todays hike is 16km. The day’s highlights include the beautiful Mkweni estuary and the awesome spray display at Luphuthana – always worth getting wet for an epic photo or video! Overnight: Luphuthana Tented Camp.

Day 3: Hike Luphuthana – Mbotyi. 18.5 km.
Todays hike is 18,5km, which some may feel in the legs after the first days hike. The trail takes hikers past the Top Hat, Waterfall Bluff (an 80m high waterfall which plunges directly into the ocean), Cathedral Rock, Mfihlelo Waterfall, and the freshwater swimming pools on the Mlambomkulu River. The Views from the top of Drew’s Camp looking down towards Mbotyi are stunning, and cast gazes towards the comfort of Mbotyi River Lodge. Overnight: Mbotyi River Lodge.

End of 3 night trail.

Day 4: Hike Mbotyi – Manteku. 11km
Much to the relief of some, todays hike is 11km but the terrain now becomes more undulating. Hikers will pass friendly rural villages where curious folk may wave and stop for a chat, and sweeping vistas from the hilltops are common today. The walk ends in the Manteku area, at the Manteku mangrove estuary with prolific birdlife. Spend the afternoon canoeing up the stunning Manteku Estuary. Overnight: Manteku Camp.

Day 5: Hike Manteku – Ntafufu. 10 km.
With the legs well rested, and feeling in tune with the rhythym of Wild Coast walking, hikers will travel 10km past Black Sands and into the Ntafufu area. After crossing the Ntafufu River, hikers come to rest at Ntafufu Camp, nestled behind a dune. Overnight: Ntafufu Camp

Day 6: Hike Ntafufu – Port St Johns. 13 km. (4.5 – 5hr hike).
For the last day of the trail, hikers will walk 13km up to Port St Johns, and the walk can take up to five hours. En route, hikers pass Dome Bluff, and miles of golden beaches through to Poenskop. From here, the group can choose to stay over or simply access their vehicles and head home.

End of 5 night trail.

Important information

Total trail distance (5 Day Hike):
69 km

Approximate hike time (per day):
Shortest day 3 hours, longest day 7-8 hours.

Local guides are available and can be arranged through Active Escapes.

Fully Supported:
Overnights are in fully catered lodges and camps, and all luggage is transferred from point to point - while you hike.

When to go

Anytime outside of the peak school holidays. The Wild Coast has a mild sub-tropical climate so can be hiked all year round with average summer temps around 27-29 deg C whilst winter months average low twenties. If you interested in the pelagic birds and marine sightings, winter months, especially over the sardine run, are best.


Almost always you will encounter nothing but friendly rural villagers and fishermen along the trail. However, we do still recommend you opt to take a local guide, primarily so that you don’t need to worry about the navigation and it’s always good for local villagers to see employment opportunities coming out of your visit.

Health Precautions

The Wild Coast is a malaria free region, but precautions should be taken to try prevent tick bites.

What to Pack

On this fully supported catered trail, bedding and meals are provided for, but please bring your own towel and if you have any special dietary restrictions which require health shop alternatives, you are asked to bring your own, as Lusikisiki & Flagstaff are rather limited in these options! The camps operate off solar, wind & gas for hot water showers, but don’t forget your head torch for walking around camp.

Details to keep on hand

Active Escapes
Tel: +27 (0) 33 3295259
Mobile: +27 (0)84 2407277
Email: tours@active-escapes.co.za
Website: www.active-escapes.co.za

Getting to the Pondo Hopper Hiking Trail

The start/finish point for the 3 day trail is Mbotyi and Port St Johns for the 5 day hike.

Getting to Port St Johns: either self-drive (approx 5hrs from Durban or East London). The nearest airport is Mtata, but only SAA flies there from JHB. We can arrange a private transfer from Mtat down to PSJ or Msikaba directly. Otherwise, the alternative airports are Durban, King Shaka or East London in which the budget airlines fly to, and it is approx 5hr private transfer from either airport.

Getting to Mbotyi: self-drive, approx 5hrs from Durban. Accessable by sedan vehicles OR fly into Durban & we’ll arrange a private transfer to collect you & transfer you to the trailhead. IF you fly into Durban, there is a regular shuttle, Margate Coach, which will get you to Port Edward and we can send a private transfer to there (more cost effective).





Images of the Pondo Hopper Hiking Trail







Attractions you'll see along the way