Hiking Trail Description
The Strandloper Trail running from Kei Mouth (Cape Morgan Eco Tourism Centre) to Gonubie truly is a spectacular trail. Between silver beaches and pit-stop hotels are a few natural obstacles - like the Kwelera River with its sharp rocks underfoot. The Strandloper is not only about beaches. The trail takes in estuaries, high cliffs with panoramic views and coastal forests which buzz with birds and insects.
This 5 day trail follows the beach from Kei Mouth to Gonubie passing several Hotels and also running through forests. The trail can be walked through the year. Warm, windless conditions are optimal between February and May. It's best to avoid the Christmas season and Easter as the hotels and beaches become crowded with holidaymakers.
The huts have braai places, water and ablution facilities. They all have wood provided except Cape Henderson (no fires allowed due to the log cabin being situated in the forest).
You will be given a tide table so that you can plan to cross estuaries at low tide, particularly at Quko, Kwenxura, Kwelera and Gonubie. It is also best to tackle the long stretch between Cape Henderson and Beacon Valley at low tide when you can walk on the harder inter-tidal area. This is a lovely
day on the beach no matter what the tide.
The shoreline above the high water mark from Cape Morgan to Gonubie is appropriately named the Strandloper Trail. Stretching for 59 km it is named after the “beachcombers” who subsisted there prior to European settlement. Each section of the trail was designed to reveal many special aspects of the coastline so the hiker may capture a complete Strandloper experience. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, the surf, and the opportunity to fish, sail or just watch the great variety of bird life. It is advisable to carry a tide table.
DAY 1 - KEI MOUTH SECTION (8,75 km)
Departing from the Cape Morgan Eco Tourism Centre, the trail passes through a section of coastal forest before crossing a grassland and descending into the forest thicket in the upper Cwili stream. The trail continues descending until it reaches a stream which leads you to the Cwili estuary. After crossing the estuary via the main bridge, the trail enters a small flower reserve before reaching the beach.
Along this section of the beach you will have the opportunity to enjoy morning tea or a snack in one of the hotels or shops. Continue inland to the town of Kei Mouth, after which the trail winds down "Lovers Lane" to the Kei River mouth. Appreciate the sounds of the coastal forest and enjoy the views from the top of the dune before descending to the Kei River. Here, if you wish, one of the last operating pontoons will take you across the river.
The trail returns along the shore line, taking you to sandy beaches and rocky ledges to the pump house.
DAY 2 - KEI MOUTH TO DOUBLE MOUTH (7 km)
The scenery is magnificent and unrivalled anywhere between the Kei and Fish Rivers. Walking toward Morgan Bay, continue walking over fairly rough grass and boulders until a sandy beach takes you to Morgan Bay. To the west of Morgan Bay the Morgan Bay Cliff rises out of the sea to a height of 57m. The trail goes along the tops often rocky dolerite headlands from here to Double Mouth. Low wind cropped coastal grassland is home to a great variety of flowering plants. If you're lucky, bottle nosed dolphins can be seen and a literal bird's eye view of sea birds from the headlands. These include Kelp Gulls, White Breasted cormorants, several species of tern and waders. At Double Mouth the second night is spent in the spacious log cabin situated right on the beach.
DAY 3 - DOUBLE MOUTH TO CAPE HENDERSON (15,5 km)
Round the headland from the overnight spot is the Quko estuary. About 0.5 km from the sea the river divides into two, hence the name Double Mouth.
An estuary is the meeting place of a river and the sea where there is mixing of fresh water from the river and salt water from the sea. A characteristic feature of estuaries along the Strandloper trail, which is typical of estuaries in the Eastern Cape, is that during dry periods they are not joined to the sea, but are closed by a sandbar across the mouth.
After crossing the Quko river there is stretch of beach, then a dolerite intrusion which you may have to cross inland at high tide before reaching the famous Treasure of Bead beach. The promontory ahead is Black Rock, the graveyard of several ships. There are fantastic gullies for snorkeling between Haga-Haga and Cape Henderson.
DAY 4 - CAPE HENDERSON TO BEACON BAY (13 km)
Today's walk covers 10 km of beach, backed by sand dunes. Plan to walk this stretch of beach within 3 hours of low tide, either way, as walking at or near high tide in the soft sand can be strenuous.
This day, you will walk past four beautiful estuaries all of which may or may not be open on the sea. The mouths should all be easy to cross unless there has just been very heavy rain.
DAY 5 - BEACON BAY TO GONUBIE (14,5 km)
Most of this walk is along a rocky coast-line with narrow inter tidal beaches. The frontal dunes are mostly stabilised by natural dune thicket vegetation and behind these is grassland.
The Kwelera Nature Reserve is skirted before reaching a beach with well developed primary dunes. The village of Sunrise-on-Sea is approached by way of a boulder beach. After a bumpy shuffle with Gonubie in sight, the river mouth beckons and a last swim brings you home.
Take the N2 from East London. Turn off onto the R349 onto the new tar road to Kei Mouth and to the Eco Centre.
Travel guides and a comprehensive brochure giving details of cultural, geographical and natural history aspects of the trail are available. Hikers are requested to keep their permits with them at all times.
Costs are R500 per person for the 3 nights and 4 days and the eco centre dormitory fees at the base camp in Kei Mouth have increased to R60 per person for the night before the hike.