Right, good people, this is as far north-east as you can book accommodation here in our Rainbow Nation! Imagine Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique just across the border, mix in a sub-tropical vibe and some seriously kiff fat-biking, and you’ll sommer want to saddle up for a beach ride at Utshwayelo right away. This part of the KwaZuluNatal north coast remains relatively unexplored, and because
it lies within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage site, you can bargain on a natural and cultural experience bar none. The royal Tembe clan – members of the Tonga people – have lived here for more than 250 years, and their influence has shaped the traditions which holds sway to this day. There’s no better place to chill than at the communityowned Utshwayelo, a lodge named for the many ancient fish kraals dotting the nearby Kosi Bay estuary. Enock Tembe and Ken Whitfield run Utshwayelo – in conjunction with the local chief and elders – and you will settle into a lekker and laid-back rhythm as soon as you arrive. There are a number of prime camping spots spread around the lodge, and accommodation options include well-appointed luxury tents, family chalets and a range of bungalows, all ranging from rustic to elegant. The lodge borders the iSimangaliso Wetland Park with the entrance to this protected area starting outside the lodge gate. A 2.5km sand track connects you to the Kosi Bay Mouth and Estuary. The snorkelling here is off the scale, and in fact better than anywhere else I’ve dipped my head underwater, ever! We spotted a dozen moray eels at least while drifting on the outgoing tide, and were surrounded by countless tropical fish (over 200 species have been listed). Other activities include scuba diving, surfing, angling, boating, fly-fishing, 4×4 off-roading and superb trail running. For more information on the area, visit www.kosibay.africa
You have a range of riding options to choose from at Utshwayelo, with an easy family MTB pedal along the gravel road meandering to the lodge. There are a few sandy patches and gentle ascents, but the 12km return ride will be fine for kids and couch potatoes alike; just keep an eye open for occasional traffic. The real adventure kicks in once you haul out the fat-bikes, though. Your entry point is Kosi Bay Estuary gate a couple of hundred metres beyond Utshwayelo, with 2.5km of superbly sandy 4×4 track awaiting as you drop down towards the estuary. This ride will not be fun on anything but a fat-bike, except if you’re happy to push or portage in places. The views to the east are stunning, with the wooden fish kraals inscribing stark patterns upon the shimmering estuary. Where you level out near the water’s
edge, cross a wooden bridge (2.2km) and keep left at the next couple of forks. A small sign indicates the foot- path to the beach; follow this through the dense sand-forest as you rootride the final half a kilometre to the beach. Best would be to plan your ride for low-tide as it gives you more beach to play with as you head either north towards the Moz border (6.9km), or wend your way merrily southwards.
The iSimangaliso policy on cycling in the Kosi Bay section is currently under revision, but guided rides and solo trails should all be ratified by the time this goes to print. There are also a few singletrack trails to the left of the 4×4 track which will make for excellent fat-bike exploration on the vegetated dunes outside the Park. We checked them out on a trail run mission, and one can only hope that these routes will also be opened for riding. Your best bet is to chat to Ken at Utshwayelo, as he has all the info on what goes, both on and off the bike.
From Durban, take the N2 north past Empangeni and turn right to Hluhluwe/ Sodwana Bay, continuing on the R22 to Mbazwana. Keep going for 45km to a traffic circle, where you turn right to KwaNgwanase/ Kosi Bay and the Farazela Border Post. Drive 20km past Manguzi (KwaNgwanase) towards the Mozambique border post, only turning right onto a good gravel road 600m before the border post. Another 4.5 km will get you to the Utshwayelo Lodge and Camp. 26°53’38.4”S 32°51’30.9”E