A Hidden Gem in South Africa: The Double Mouth Nature Reserve
A Hidden Gem of South Africa: The Double Mouth Nature Reserve
Only a 50-minute drive from East London, and 5 km from the Morgan Bay holiday town, lies one of the most beautiful camp sites in South Africa. As one drives over the hills from Morgan Bay to the campground, the view of the Wild Coast is spectacular. Descending down to the camping ground one enters a shady horseshoe-shaped camp ground with sites situated on two levels, shaded by large pine trees. Below the camp sites is a large lawn suitable for an informal game of cricket or soccer. Across the camping area road and down a gentle slope one finds a large protected gully suitable for fishing or snorkelling.
The big attraction in the area is, however, the famous Bead Beach which is about a 30 min walk towards the south around a headland and over some rather rocky coastline. One has to cross the Double Mouth River; here two rivers meet to flow into the sea, hence the name Double Mouth.
Then on to the end of a white sandy beach that ends in another rocky area, famous for the carnelian beads and Ming pottery shards that are found here. In 1608 the Portuguese ship Santo Espirito ran aground in the area, another victim of the Wild Coast with its sometimes fierce winds and freak giant waves. For years this wreck, which has never been found, releases her treasures on a regular basis. Experiments have been made with coffee beans used to trace currents, and many other scientific methods to find the wrecks location, but to no avail. So it joins the many mysteries of the Wild Coast that include the wreck of the Grosvenor with its great treasures, that ran aground in this general area in 1782.
Other interesting stories from this area include the tragic “Suicide of the Xhosa Nation” and the sad story of the German Settler, John Brock and his discovery of diamonds on his farm along the nearby Kei River. He was found guilty of “salting” the diamonds and put in jail. A more recent theory is that the diamonds he found were from the Grosvenor. Noel Mostert’s excellent book Frontiers is strongly recommended for a history of this area.
As one of the many nature Reserves run by East Cape Nature, the Double Mouth area is protected from the removal of any vegetation or coastal life that graces the rock pools. Fishing is allowed with the condition that a sea fishing licence is purchased. This can be done at the Post Office at Morgan Bay. The two ablution blocks provide toilets and showers with hot water and are well maintained on a daily basis.
While we did not see any of the three antelope that are said to be found in the reserve, we enjoyed the many birds that are to present. The “dawn chorus” every morning provided us with some bird songs that we don’t hear in East London. The Cormorants, Gulls, Terns and Swallows were all active. Large raptors like Fish Eagles and Crowned Eagles also grace the skies and cliffs.In the evening bats arrive to feed on the insects in the air.
For the less hardy visitor to the area and who does not want to camp, there are two hotels and a host of bed and breakfast or self catering establishments available at nearby Morgan Bay. An “eco-friendly” camp site is located in Morgan Bay at the Yellowwood Forest Campground. Here on every Saturday morning a flea-market supplies locals and visitors with a large selection of food and other commodities. The Morgan Bay Hotel also has a camp site on the lagoon and near the Morgan Bay beach and also has a bowling green. It is a beautiful area with lots of accommodation to choose from and visiting here out of the Xmas and Easter Holiday season should not pose a problem finding something to suit every individuals taste and pocket. The roads that wind through the coastal hills from the N2 are in good condition and suitable for ordinary vehicles.
Nestled in the dune forest at the Double Mouth Campground is a secluded log hiking cabin that forms part of a hiking trail than extends from Kei Mouth to East London.
Several service providers offer hiking opportunities along the Wild Coast. It is possible to hike, using these providers, from Port Edward in Kwa-Zulu Natal to East London in the Eastern Cape, a distance of some 400km. The options are numerous and one can choose to stay in a variety of accommodation types. These include Hotels, Hiking Huts, tents and privately owned huts in the nearby tribal villages that are dotted along the coast. This is a spectacular coastline and any hike will amaze the participant with one beautiful scene after another.
For the elderly who can no longer hike 15-20km per day up and down hill and along sandy or rocky beaches, a gentle drive to Double Mouth is recommended. One of the advertisements for the area states that “Carnelian Beads and Ming Pottery Shards lie scattered among the shells”. Two visits to the beach last week provided no such finds, and so we were sorry that we did not buy some from the local women who offered them for sale at very reasonable prices. When we return, and we will, we will again search for some and if we do not find any we will support the local tribal villagers by buying a few for my collection. Meanwhile the area in itself is a treasure not to be missed by locals or visitors from other countries.