I am still exploring South Africa’s Wild Coast, some 250 kilometers of windswept cliffs and golden beaches, comprising the magical area of its Eastern Cape.
Aside from the breathtaking views, I am very lucky to get to meet the amazing locals, hear their stories and see their hometowns through their eyes.
I reach the peaceful seaside village of Morgan’s Bay, a popular holiday destination for generations of South Africans.
While here, I am staying at the Morgan Bay Hotel, a peaceful, family-run retreat that’s been around since 1946.
It is currently being run by the third generation owners, continuing a legacy of community and family-friendly hospitality.
I am happy to be invited to an afternoon drive by Richard, the owner of the hotel, where he tells me more about Morgan Bay’s history.
“Our family has been here since 1946. My grandfather came here soon after the war. He came out from North Africa, he was born in Pretoria and then he came down here,” Richard tells me as we drive around town on his Land Rover.
He wants to take me on top of the cliffs that make up Morgan Bay’s unique landscape. The Land Rover is just perfect for the rough terrain. The sun is almost setting when we made it to the top of the dolerite cliffs, some 50 meters above the pounding surf below.
The wind is howling, and I am literally blown away by the amazing views.
Richard brings out a couple of cold beers, and it became the perfect sundowner!
It does seem like a popular spot for the locals, who come here just to kick back at the end of the day.
I admire Richard’s love for his hometown, choosing not to venture out into the big city, but instead deciding to stay here and develop the property he inherited.
Below, the wild, rugged coast continues relentlessly into the horizon. Waves, uninterrupted, shape and form the landscape ad infinitum –
Just like Richard’s passion for this place, which will be carried on to the next generations.
“Everybody is saying, well you know it is such a great place, tell nobody about it! So it is the eastern cape of South Africa’s best kept secret,” he says.
I feel privileged to be let in on this tightly guarded secret, not just for the fantastic views, but for being able to share a unique experience only the locals get to have.
From Morgan’s Bay I go further down the coast to Chintsa East, a tranquil little community almost at the end of the Wild Coast.
Setting foot in this town, I can already feel the relaxed, laidback vibe of the locals.
The great thing about the Wild Coast is the diversity of sights and activities you can see and do. Not a single shore is the same.
Here, I meet Tagan, a surfing instructor and entrepreneur who wanted to show me a bit of this paradise he calls home.
It is a short trek to the coast, passing the Chintsa River, where the place was named after.
“What makes this place special is just really the waves and the area itself, there is a lot famous surfing spots around the world and are really crowded and have a lot of people surfing them all the time. Staying out here, I have to beg people to come and surf with me!” Tagan explained.
As we reach the coast, I realize how right he was! The locals would always say there were more waves than they can surf!
Since it’s not everyday that I get to talk to a surfing instructor, I decide to get some common questions answered, for those wanting to try out surfing.
First, do you have to know how to swim?
Tagan: Some people ask me do you need to be able to know how to swim, my answer is no. The foundation of learning how to surf is to be comfortable in the water and then learning how to catch the waves.
I know there are lions inland, and sharks out there. Should I be worried?
Tagan: Don’t worry about what is in the ocean, normally when we do surf lessons we generally don’t go higher than waist deep, it is not really something we ever worry about. I think the biggest danger when you are learning how to surf is really the rips, all the currents in the water.
Do you need to be physically fit to be able to surf?
Tagan: It does help if you are physically stronger, so it does help you are a bit stronger and can lift your body weight. It does make things a bit easier. But again, it is not the be all and do all. If you have the hunger, the passion, the desire to want to learn to do something you can do it.
Well my mind is ready, but my body is not!
Tagan then takes me through the basics of catching a wave. He manages to make it look really easy.
“When you get to the water, those movements become second nature. It is just practice, the more you do it, the more you practice those steps the better it will get,” trying to encourage me.
I told him that I bet I could teach him to fly faster than he can teach me how to surf! He laughs and we shake on it.
“Surfing is a fun sport. You being in nature, and learning something new but also making sure that they’re having fun because that’s what it’s about,” he says.
I agree as I watch him and his friends enjoying the waves and even doing handstands on their surfboards.
It may take more than an afternoon to teach this old pilot some new tricks, but I am very happy to meet people who like me, are passionate enough to be able to turn their hobbies into a living.