The word umngazi is said to refer either to blood (igazi) or to a type of thorn tree in the valley (umga). This valley, 26 kilometres from Port St Johns, is famous for its place in Mpondo history, as well as for being one of the stops where Dick King watered his horses on his famous 960-kilometre ride between Durban and Grahamstown in 1842.
Umgazi River Bungalows is a much-loved family resort in a nature reserve overlooking the estuary and beach. The R61 is tarred all the way to the Umngazi River turnoff and winds through beautiful scenery dotted with colourful huts. Alternatively, there is an airstrip. The lodge has no cellphone reception and is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the laidback atmosphere and sense of natural abundance amid lush tropical greenery.
The lodge has won many awards for its excellent standards and its partnership with the local community. The resort hires staff from three nearby villages – Cwebeni, Sicambeni and Vukandlule - creating employment for local community members, who also harvest and package honey from hives placed among the black mangroves. Other initiatives include a community craft project, a deli range and the Khohiso Horse trails.
A sizeable and popular resort, the bungalows strikes a balance between the feeling of a comfortable, luxury coastal resort and a rural, relaxed, isolated, paradisal wilderness.
The lodge caters for families, honeymooners and conferences with thatched en-suite bungalows. It has a health spa with a Jacuzzi, a gym, childcare facilities, tennis courts and a bar with darts and snooker.
Guests can sign up for sunset cruises or guided outings in the forests and mangroves, hire boats, go canoeing, waterskiing, mountain biking, hiking, sand-boarding, bird-watching and fishing, or simply wander among the cows on the beach, collect shells or go for a swim in the lagoon or the swimming pool.
Look out for
Fishing Guide Service – Local fishermen offer guide services to the best fishing spots at an hourly rate.
Silaka Nature Reserve – This 400-hectare reserve six kilometres rom Port St Johns conserves near-pristine Eastern Cape coastal forest. An estuary, main beach, tidal pools and rock formations form a beautiful environment for birds and otters. There is excellent hiking, and accommodation in forest chalets.