It seems like a photograph of some remote, unspoilt tropical destination. A waterfall plunges 23 metres into a pool fringed with forest and rocky cliffs. The pool at its base is deep and green and flows into a warm sea. But just beyond the waterfall is a busy road, and on either side of the river are hotels, restaurants and houses. And in that deep pool are paddle boats and canoes, while the beach itself is packed on a hot summer’s day, a lifeguard making sure that nothing untoward happens.
This is the little resort town of Uvongo, named after the Zulu word, ivungi – the place that rumbles. It is quieter than some of the other popular towns in that it is a traditional South Coast town that is centred on the beach and not a mall or shopping centre.
Barely three kilometres up the beach is St Michaels-on-Sea, another brilliant family destination that virtually merges with Uvongo and offers a very similar feel. And, also like Uvongo, St Michaels has a beautiful estuary that offers boats for hire, and safe and fun swimming, while the sea here is renowned as a surfing spot with a notable point break.
The great swimming and surfing beaches of these two towns are interspersed with stretches of rocky coastline, making for very good surf fishing. During the sardine run and the shad season, the rocks are often covered with a “bamboo forest” of fisherman trying their luck. Accommodation in the area is varied and caters for all budgets and tastes.
Look out for
Those with green fingers or who just appreciate beautiful flowers will love the Stephward Estate Exotic Nursery. The nursery specialises in exotic orchids, bromeliads and heliconias, while the restaurant makes use of produce grown on the premises.
The Uvongo Flea Market takes place every Saturday, offering a range of arts, crafts and nicknacks, as well as all manner of tasty treats.
The Skyline Nature Reserve is one of those rare places these days that offers free entrance. While a few species of animal and many birds are present, the focus is on the flora. An arboretum is the main attraction, but there are also walks amongst the many indigenous and exotic plants.
The Uvongo Bird Park is another delight for lovers of all things avian, but if you prefer to see your birds in the wild, head for Ivungu River Conservancy.
Hire a pedal boat or canoe at either the Uvongo or St Michaels lagoon and explore the river, paddling right up to the base of the falls in the case of Uvon go.