Mkambati Nature Reserve

Mkambati Nature Reserve

Mkambati Nature Reserve - Southern Africa : Mkhambathi (or Mkambati) Nature Reserve is in Eastern Cape, about halfway between Port St Johns (60km) and Port Edward (30km), flanked by the forested ravines and estuaries of the Msikaba and Mtentu Rivers. It is 7 720 ha in size, with a 10 km-long coast

Mkhambathi (or Mkambati) Nature Reserve is in Eastern Cape, about halfway between Port St Johns (60km) and Port Edward (30km), flanked by the forested ravines and estuaries of the Msikaba and Mtentu Rivers. It is 7 720 ha in size, with a 10 km-long coastline of rugged, rocky beaches, comprising open grassland with patches of indigenous forest, swamp forests, splashing waterfalls along perennial streams, and forested ravines.

Most of the rain falls during spring and summer (September to February), with June is the driest month, and March the wettest). Strong winds can occur.

The Mkambati is perhaps the most beautiful river with its crystal clear pools and spectacular waterfalls. The Horseshoe Falls drop directly overs a series of terraces into the ocean - a beach at low tide, but there are dozens of other falls (including Strandloper Falls and Mkambati Falls) and pools upstream.

The Msikaba River can be enjoyed from a grassland walk to the views of the gorge, including a natural amphitheatre housing a vulture colony and towering forests. And also by a 2km canoe trip upstream from the estuary, which affords a good view of the Mkambati Palm, as well as bird and plant life.

The grasslands and forests support a fascinating and diverse flora. Indeed it is the showcase of the Pondoland Centre of Endemism, being a botanically biodiverse hotspot, with many endemic species. The Mkambati Palm (or Pondo coconut, Jubaeopsis caffra) is confined to the reserve.

Large numbers of grazing herbivores such as Eland, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest*, Blesbuck* and even Gemsbok*, have been introduced. (* not indigenous). Smaller animals include Bushbuck, Blue Duiker in of course, Vervet Monkey and Baboons.

Birds include Redshoulder Widow, Yellowthroat Longclaw, Common Waxbill and Croaking Cisticola in the grasslands, with Gurneys Sugarbird and Greater Collar Sunbird in the Protea and Strelitzia patches. The forests have Trumpeter Hornbill, Rameron Pigeon, African Fish Eagle, Crowned Eagle to name a few. Birdlife in the reserve is prolific.

The Sardine Run happens in June and July when great shoals of sardines migrate northwards, followed by whales, sharks, dolphins, Cape Gannets and other birds.

There are two famous shipwrecks, the Sao Bento (1554) near the mouth of the Msikaba River, and the Grosvenor (1782) lying in Lambasi Bay.

Activities include canoeing, cycling, horse riding, and fishing, but it is the variety of easy grassand hiking trails that makes Mkambati so special.

At the turn of the last century the Mkambati was a thriving missionary village with churches, village shop and post office, with a leper colony on the coast. Most of the buildings are now abandoned and unfortunately many are in ruins. There is no campsite, but there are fully equipped self-catering stone cottages that sleep six people, a magnificent stone lodge that sleeps 12, a fishing camp and a river house.
The lodge overlooks the sea, with a swimming pool, enormous lounge with fireplace and a cook.
GweGwe is a fishing camp right on the edge of the sea, but is very rustic and provides only the absolute basics, so visitors need to take their own bedding, cutlery and crockery.
Riverside is a massive rambling house on the river that takes a minimum of 12 people and maximum of 20. Apart from provisions, everything is provided.

Mtentu Lodge sits on the south edge just outside of the reserve, and allows easy access to the reserve on foot (only).

Sources, further reading and bookings:
http://www.visiteasterncape.co.za/nature-conservation/provincial-parks/mkhambathi/
http://www.wildcoast.co.za/mkambati

01 Apr 2016
Tony Rebelo