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The Eastern Cape’s coastal nature reserves

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The Eastern Cape has some undeveloped and beautiful coastal reserves that are reached on difficult dirt roads and suitable for a stay of a few days, rather than for the day. All accommodation is self-catering, and there are no shops or facilities in the reserve, so you need to be fully self-sufficient and stock up before you leave the N2.

Dwesa Reserve

Situated between Kob Inn and Coffee Bay, Dwesa Nature Reserve has well-sited wooden chalets (R200), equipped with gas fridges and stoves, and is one of the best places to stay on the coast, boasting rare animals such as tree dassies and samango monkeys, as well as red hartebeest, blesbok, blue wildebeest and buffalo.

To get to the reserve, turn east off the N2 at Idutywa towards the coast and continue for 73km or so; the road forks right to Kob Inn and left to Dwesa.

Hluleka Nature Reserve

One of the loveliest of the Wild Coast reserves, Hluleka Nature Reserve consists of coastal forest whose coral trees flower scarlet in July and August, a strip of grassland and outstanding sandy beaches interspersed with rocky outcrops tattooed with extraordinary wind-shaped rock formations. In the grassland strip, you’re likely to see wildebeest, zebra and blesbok. Accommodation is in seven spacious self-catering chalets, on stilts overlooking the sea, sleeping up to four people (R600).

You can reach Hluleka along the difficult coastal road from Coffee Bay. Heading towards the N2 from Coffee Bay for a short distance, take the Mdumbi turn on the right, and continue for some 30km, when signs to Hluleka appear. Alternatively – and more easily – take the Hluleka turning 30km along the R61 from Mthatha to Port St Johns, and continue for another 57km to the coast.

Mkhambathi Nature Reserve

Largest of the Eastern Cape reserves, Mkhambathi consists almost entirely of grassland, flanked by the forested ravines of two rivers, and a ravishing coastline of rocky promontories and deserted beaches. There’s plenty of game: you’re likely to see eland, hartebeest, wildebeest and blesbok, as well as Cape vultures. The highlight, though, is the Mkhambathi River itself, which cuts through the middle of the reserve down a series of striking waterfalls, of which the Horseshoe Falls near the sea are the most spectacular.

To get to Mkhambathi, turn towards the coast at the Mkhambathi signpost at Flagstaff on the tarred R61. From Flagstaff, the reserve is 70km away on a dirt road, which is very variable in quality. Although the road to the reserve restcamp is fine, driving anywhere in the park except to the beach requires a high-clearance vehicle.

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