Open Africa
Open Africa

Port St Johns Open Africa Route



Below is a list of accommodation establishments along this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Cremorne Estate
At Cremorne Estate we offer a variety of different accommodation options and services. Choose between our cosy log cabin...

Faranani Guesthouse
Set in the heart of the Pondo region. On top of a mountain with the indigenous bushes, trees and magnificent views, Fara...

iNtaba River Lodge
Nestled between towering cliffs and set in tropical gardens on the banks of the Umzimvubu River, iNtaba River Lodge is a...

Mad Hatters Backpackers
Mad Hatters Backpackers is set in a sub-tropical garden and is situated on the First Beach, facing the Great Umzimvubu R...

Sips B&B
A bed and breakfast in Lusikisiki that has the following on offer: Free wireless internet; A swimming pool; Braai (...

The Pont Self-Catering Accommodation & Camping
The Pont is nestled between the mighty Umzimvubu River and Mount Thesiger, a convenient 4km from the centre of Port St J...

Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa
  According to legend, when Faku, famed king of the Pondo, executed his enemies at Mlengana (Execution) Rock overl...

Wettham Hill B&B
This is a bed and breakfast establishment with an a-la-carté restaurant. Wettham Hill B&B is one of the best...

The Outspan Inn
Situated where the Umzimvubu Rivers flows into the Indian Ocean, The Outspan Inn is the perfect base from which to explo...

Glass House Guest Lodge
Glass House Guest Lodge overlooks First beach on the waters edge with unsurpassed sea views. They are dedicated to comfo...

Amapondo Backpacker Lodge, Restaurant and Tours
Amapondo Backpackers is nestled in a jungle forest overlooking Port St Johns second beach, famed for dolphin- and whale-...


Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Thandi's Tour Guide
“Get to know Port St Johns, hire Thandi” says the friendly tour guide, Thandi Smiley, who is one of the firs...

Jimmy Mbuyie Faces and Places
The Cultural Village Tour will give you an opportunity to meet a sangoma (traditional healer), who prescribes different...

   Arts & Crafts

Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Pondo People
Pondo People, a beaded clothing boutique and craft gallery, is an establishment located on the second property along the...


Below is a list of environmental attractions on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Silaka Nature Reserve
This small but beautiful coastal reserve lies in a forested valley south of Port St Johns, and stretches from Second Bea...

   Food & Drink

Below is a list of restaurants and other food and beverage outlets on this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Club Vuyani
Club Vuyani is an entertainment establishment located on one of the most unspoilt beaches in Port St Johns, the second b...


Below is a list of services on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Nkanyiso's Project
Nkanyiso organises many events and tours within the Port St Johns area for visitors to enjoy their stay. He knows all th...


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The Port St Johns Open Africa Route is situated at the mouth of the uMzimvubu River on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape Province. The uMzimvubu River gorge has two towering headlands of sandstone cliffs, rising 360m above the sea forming the impressive Gate of Port St Johns, 100km east of Umtata. 

The route highlights the culture of the Pondo people in the rural villages surrounding the town of Port St Johns, the nature reserves and the many private lodges in the vicinity. The route combines already well-developed and sophisticated establishments alongside previously untapped attractions. Tourists have the opportunity to learn about the Pondo people, their history, culture and customs.

Reasons to visit:

Port St Johns is known by the local Xhosa people as uMzimvubu, “the place of the hippo” and is home to the Pondo people, who have a rich and colourful heritage. Their traditional clothing is often dyed red using ochre and the way each person dresses indicates their clan and societal status. The beadwork that is still prevalent in the area has different patterns and styles for different occasions and uses. 

Exquisite beadwork, baskets, traditional clay pots, clay models, handcrafts and wooden carvings are very popular with visitors to the region and are sold by the local people alongside roads and through other outlets.

Visitors could join a deep-sea charter, enjoy water sports such as canoeing and fly-fishing, go on a cultural tour, take in the scenery on a number of horse and hiking trails, browse through bustling craft markets or take in a round of golf at the local club.

Port St Johns has numerous estuaries, bays and headlands. Rocky shores predominate and precipitous cliffs drop dramatically into the sea. Small sandy bays and long stretches of open beach are often found near the mouths of large rivers like the Umzimvubu and Umngazana Rivers. This coastline's waters mark the transition between the temperate Cape and the subtropical KwaZulu-Natal. As a result a diverse array of fish and marine invertebrates occur here.

Port St Johns is dominated by rural subsistence activities and as a result has a rural atmosphere, characteristic of this part of the Eastern Cape. A wide variety of accommodation is available. This includes camping sites, bed and breakfast establishments, self-catering apartments and guesthouses of various grades. Some of the hiking trails are also very popular and need to be booked up to a year in advance.

Wild Coast Ultra
When:  2015 dates TBC
Where:  Port St Johns    
Contact Person:  Dave Gassner
Tel:  +27 21 785 5911
Mob:  +27 76 817 9058
This race is a trail running treat along the pristine Wild Coast from Port St Johns to East London.

Wild Coast Wild Run
When: 11 – 13 September 2014
Where: Kei River Mouth to Hole in the Wall, Transkei
Tel: +27 21 821 9898
Mob: +27 72 438 3242
The Wildcoast Wildrun is pure fun and exhilaration along 112km of unspoilt coast line. The event consists of three or more days of trail running stage races along some of the most rugged and beautiful scenery in Africa.

Grindrod Bank Umngazi Pondo Pedal
When: 2015 dates TBC
Where:  Port St Johns    
Contact Person:  Damian & Lauren Bradley
Tel:  +27 31 764 1885
Mob:  +27 82 559 2080
E-mail: /
Held annually in June, it has become a popular fixture on the mountain biking calendar. Billed as the epitome of ‘purist mountain biking’, what truly sets this event apart is that it is a race with heart.

The Pondo people have traditionally lived in rondavel huts, built with their doors facing east. The rondavels are constructed with natural materials including cow dung and clay for the floor, wood from indigenous trees for the framework and roof beams and sturdy thatching grass for the roof.

These traditional homes and their unique design ensure that they are cool and comfortable in summer and retain warmth in winter. During strong gale force storms the huts remain standing and secure while many western-style structures are often destroyed.

Married Xhosa women smoke long stemmed pipes, which prevents ash from falling onto her breasts or a child on her lap. Men smoke shorter pipes and both pipes are decorated with intricate beadwork.

History of Port St Johns:

Port St Johns was named after the Sao Joan ship (meaning St John in Portuguese) that wrecked on the coastline in 1552. Prior to that the Mthwa people inhabited the area. 

In 1845 the Ndamase crossed the Umzimvubu River on a bundle of sticks (iinyanda) and this became a historic event in the region. Once across the river, Ndamase was greeted by Fono, one of the Mthwa chiefs and thereafter western Mpondoland became known as Nyandeni after the famous bundle of sticks (iinyanda) At the same time a small colony of white traders settled at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River, where Rosebud was the first known vessel to hazard a passage across the sand bar at the mouth of the river (which was notorious for wrecking ships) and open a harbour for trade. The captain believed the area was ideal for stopovers and to serve as a trading post. Some other ships followed and notwithstanding several wrecks, the river mouth became accepted as a port of call for coasters conveying goods for trade with the Pondo and other local people. 

With the name Port St Johns then established, the British government decided that it was essential to effect control over the area, especially in view of the possibility of foreign powers landing there and the threat of the region being used by gunrunners. In 1878 the British government ceded the western bank of Umzimvubu to Chief Nqwiliso, who ruled over the independent Pondo people. 

In 1884 Port St Johns was formally annexed by the Cape Colony and was governed as a white enclave apart from the Transkei territories. Small ships would land with cargo of whisky, beads, blankets and trade goods. They took away maize, ivory, hides and other products of the Pondos. 

In 1930 a wandering hippopotamus, Huberta, arrived in the village and stayed there for six months. This resulted in the river being named the Umzimvubu (home of the hippopotamus). Huberta had started her journey in Zululand in 1928 and progressing via Durban down the coast, she travelled nearly 1600km to King William’s Town. She gained great fame along the way until she was accidentally shot by a farmer.

In 1935 Port St Johns became a municipality and its sea trading days ended in 1944. In 1963 when the Transkei government was formed, Port St Johns was explicitly excluded until 1976 when 'homeland independence' was granted and Port St Johns was handed over to Transkei.

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Open Africa Routes

A route is a cluster of travel attractions, accommodation, tour operators, local artisans, guides and restaurants. It brings people together from all levels of community to promote travel to their area. You select what interests you on a route and create your own itinerary.

South Africa - Eastern Cape

South Africa - Eastern Cape

En-route from Durban to Buffalo City, Port St Johns has numerous estuaries, bays and headlands. Small sandy bays and long stretches of open beach are found here, often near the mouth of large rivers like Umzimvubu River and Umngazana.


coast adventure port-st-johns eastern-cape pondo


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