The name of this little village in the heart of Pondoland means “the place of beans”. Its fertile soils support the rolling green fields of the huge Magwa tea plantation - one of the largest tea plantations in South Africa and the world.
Tea crops dominate the landscape, bordered by huge eucalyptus trees that stem from the plantation’s colonial beginnings, and there is little or no modern development. The tea fields gradually give way to the dense, lush forests, gorges, ravines and waterfalls of the Mqaba Forest, which is extraordinary to walk, cycle and bird-watch in.
The area between Coffee Bay and Port Edward is sparsely populated and rural with gravel roads. Because of its remote location, Mbotyi River Lodge, situated at the mouth of the Mbotyi River and tidal estuary, is the primary accommodation here, apart from the Mbotyi River Camp Site.
In winter, there are numerous vantage points from which to observe dolphins and whales, especially during the Sardine Run – an annual marine feeding frenzy. The roads are gravel and can be tricky after rain but a 4x4 is not needed - just patience and an eye for potholes. Visitors can also fly in to the Magwa plantation’s air strip. Lusikisiki is the nearest town (26 kilometres away).
Andre Stander, the cop-turned-robber of the infamous Stander Gang (later the subject of a big-budget film) hid in the village of Mbotyi while on the run. Nestled among rolling hills, tropical forest and alongside the warm Indian Ocean, it is the perfect venue for anyone looking for a peaceful and tranquil “getaway”.
Look out for
Butterfly- and bird-watching - Ntsubane indigenous forest is the largest expanse of pristine coastal flora on the Wild Coast (and one of the largest in South Africa). The plantations, river and estuary environments are home to exquisite birds and butterflies. The lodge offers guided walks and picnic basket).
Hiking – Numerous trails traverse the coastline, indigenous forests and the spectacular waterfalls. Hikes vary from one -hour (three-kilometre) strolls to more challenging eight- to nine-hour (28-kilometre) trails for the experienced. Some hikes go through Amampondo villages. Interpreters can accompany visitors through the villages and introduce the locals. Mbotyi is the base for the Pondo Walk – four guided one-day trails of 13 to 26 kilometres.
Mountain biking – Bikes are for hire from Mbotyi River Lodge and there are mapped trails to Magwa Falls, past Angel Falls, through a village and around the lagoon or the tea plantation.
Horse trails – A community initiative, meandering along the foothills and beaches.
Magnificent waterfalls – There are five within walking distance of the lodge. Waterfall Bluff tumbles straight into the Indian Ocean.
Swimming – In the ocean, lagoon, forest rock pools or in the lodge pool.
Sardine Run scuba-diving – Get a shark’s-eye view of this incredible spectacle. Experienced agents African Watersports and Seal Expeditions are based at Mbotyi River in June and July.
Canoeing on the lagoon. Canoes are for hire at the lodge.
Rock-, surf- and fly-fishing can be done along the coast and in the lagoon. More than 800 species of marine fish occur off this coast. Bait is available at the lodge. Fishing licenses are obtainable from post offices.
Silaka Nature Reserve is 70 kilometres away, near Port St Johns, with hiking and accommodation in forest chalets.