Morgan Bay, a little seaside resort east of East London, is sec-luded, tranquil and surrounded by amazing natural beauty.
It lies between East London and Kei Mouth - about 85km from East London and 8km from Kei Mouth. At the start of the Wild Coast, it is not as remote or difficult to reach as some parts of the Wild Coast, but you must take a short stretch of dust road to get there.
Sheer rock cliffs, topped with grass and beautiful wild flowers, plunge down to the sea at Morgan Bay. If you follow the footpath on these cliffs - about 50m above the sea in some places - you find yourself on the Strandloper hiking trail, which starts in Kei Mouth and ends in East London.
You feel as if you're walking on top of the world on this footpath. The ocean heaves and moves down below and white sea spray is flung into the air as the waves pound the rocks.
Morgan Bay is quiet and pristine - incredibly unspoilt - and a well-kept secret. Maybe that little dust road puts visitors off, but it shouldn't. It's well- maintained and easily navigated with a small car.
Accommodation in the village consists of a hotel, a lodge offering bed and breakfast and self-catering apartments and a caravan park. There are a handful of smaller B&B and self-catering establishments.
This is a place where you get away from it all. There is only one convenience store. The resort's main road is a dirt one, with a line of houses facing the sea and a smattering of other houses on the hills behind.
The bird life is a delight. Iridescent nectar suckers flit among the sub-tropical blooms. Flycatchers bob and weave among the wild grasses. Watch a tenacious cormorant fishing in the waves.
The 4km walk from Morgan Bay to the Double Mouth Nature Reserve is a must. You can also drive or take a quad bike, which can be hired in Morgan Bay.
Two rivers twist and join and share the same estuary at Double Mouth, which is a popular fishing spot. The caravan park in the nature reserve is graced by grazing antelope. There is a short forest walk from the park to the eastern river. Interesting shrubs and flowers dot the river banks.
You will be amazed by the many species of wild flowers and succulents between Morgan Bay and Double Mouth.
Then there is the real treasure on the beach at Double Mouth. A Portuguese vessel, the Santo Espirito, carrying Ming china and Carnelian beads, sank offshore in the 1600s and chips of its blue and white porcelain and sea-battered red beads still wash up on the sand and among the rocks.
Legend has it the beach is haunted by the spirits of the stricken ship's passengers.
In 1987 an experienced hiker of the Wild Coast planned to overnight under the stars at the mouth of the estuary. He was unrolling his sleeping bag when "an eeriness" surrounded him and he "felt bombarded by a lot of weird spirits", he describes. He promptly packed up, walked towards East London and slept under milkwood trees a couple of kilometres further on.
Besides all the pursuits offered by nature - walking, hiking, swimming, surfing, river and sea fishing - there's also canoeing and quad biking. There is a golf course, country club and more sports facilities at Kei Mouth, 8km from Morgan Bay.
Take hiking boots, binoculars and your camera. There are plenty of photo opportunities and if you're interested in botany, you could amass a plant catalogue of wonderful textures and colours.
Where to stay in Morgan Bay
- Morgan Bay Hotel: 043 841 1062
A finalist in the 2008 AA awards for family resorts, this three-star hotel has the charm of a bygone era.
Tariffs (dinner, bed and breakfast): Sea-facing rooms: R555 a night in low season; R625 at Easter; R855 at Christmas. Standard rooms: low season R485; Easter R545; Christmas R745. You pay 10% for children aged one to four and 40% for children aged five to 12.
- Mitford Lodge: 043 841 1510
Right at the beach, you can feel the sea spray. There are beautiful views of the grass-topped cliffs that form part of the Strandloper hiking trail. It has a restaurant and bar, but also offers self-catering accommodation. There's a fun, bohemian feel to it, and it is suitable for all types, from families to backpackers.
Double apartments: R390 in low season and R520 in high season; family apartments: R590 low season and R1200 high season; B&B rate (in the lodge): R269 in low season and R369 in high season.
- Khaya Morgana (Self catering): 083 543 9723
Well-maintained double-storey, open-plan thatched rondavel with wooden deck and floors, with inner, outer and upstairs communal areas. Sleeps six.
High season: R1150 a day including daily domestic service; mid season: R950 a day including daily domestic service; low season: R850 a day excluding domestic (R60 extra for domestic).
- The Morgan Bay Bed & Breakfast: 043 841 1125
Accommodation in a charming, old colonial home in a beautiful garden, with the beach and safe-swimming lagoon at the bottom of the garden path. One double bedroom, one twin and a smaller, double bedroom with en-suite shower. Rooms and bathrooms open on to the veranda and garden, overlooking sea and beach.
About R350 a night per person year-round.
- Flame Lily House: 043 841 1594
Spacious, comfortable accommodation in a double-storey house. Owners occupy the top floor. Situated above the milkwood trees on the central beachfront, it is just 25m from bathing beach, with the lagoon, dunes, cliffs, fishing spots and hotel facilities in walking distance.
Tariffs range from R400 for a couple out of season to R1 800 for eight people at high season.Bedsitter with kitchenette costs R250-R350 depending on time of year.
- Morgan Bay Caravan Park: 043 841 1062
On the banks of the Inchara River lagoon, overlooking beach and sea. Each site is about 120square metres with braai facilities. Electrical points are within 20m. A shop is in walking distance and the hotel is half a kilometre away. Low season: R150; Easter: R295; Christmas: R375 per site per night whether caravanning or camping.
- Yellowwood Forest caravan/camp site: 043 841 1598
Set in a garden on the bank of the Inchara River, a kilometre from the Morgan Bay beach. Enormous trees and lush vegetation surround this peaceful place. Great for nature lovers and birdwatchers.
Tariff: R120 per site, plus R15 per person for December and Easter. Low season: R65 per site, R10 per person. Maximum of six people per site. R25 for electricity. Sites with electricity are limited and are snapped up quickly.
- Double Mouth caravan/camp site: 043 736 9909
Situated in the Double Mouth Nature Reserve, 4km from Morgan Bay. It accommodates a maximum of 30 campsites, with a maximum of six people each. Ablution blocks, washing facilities and electricity.
Tariff: R174 per caravan site per night.