There is confusion in the two spellings – ‘Mkambati’ vs. ‘Mkhambathi’.
The spelling 'Mkambati' was used prior to 1994, in the period thereafter the spelling was changed to
'Mkhambathi' which is now the official name, however unofficially 'Mkambati' is still used.
The same applies the town of ‘Umtata’, officially now ‘Mthatha’.
The Mkhambathi Nature Reserve has lots to offer the nature tourist. Its long coastline makes for a wide choice of hikes. The large wilderness area can only be traversed on foot. You can self-drive during the day and at night to watch the ample game that occurs in the reserve. Fisherman can enjoy fishing at official estuaries. Small families and friends can enjoy the Main Lodge. For larger groups the GweGwe River Lodge (20 persons) offers fantastic settings that one cannot help but enjoy, while smaller groups can find accommodation in the GweGwe Rondavels (2 persons). The reserve is situated on the coast of north-eastern Pondoland, in the Eastern Cape. It lies between Port Edward (30 km to the north east) and Port St Johns (59 km to the south west). It is a 7720-ha coastal reserve with open grasslands, dotted with indigenous forest patches and swamp forests, flanked by the magnificent forested ravines of the Msikaba and Mtentu rivers. Grasslands cover a large portion of the reserve and support a fascinating and diverse flora. Large numbers of grazing herbivores such as Eland and Red Hartebeest have been introduced into the grasslands. Among the birds which may be seen in this habitat are the Red shouldered Widow bird, Yellow throated Long claw, Common Waxbill, Croaking Cisticola, Orange Throated Long-Claw, Ground Hornbill with Gurneys Sugarbird and the Greater Double Collared Sunbird, seeking nectar from the flowering strelitzias. Of the many rivers running through the reserve, the Mkhambathi is perhaps the most beautiful with its crystal clear pools and series of spectacular waterfalls. The Horseshoe Falls are incredibly impressive as they plunge over the terrace in a wide arc. Further down,hat the river tumbles over the Strandloper and Mkhambathi Falls before dropping several metres into the ocean. Visitors to the Eastern Cape will find the scenic Mkhambathi Nature Reserve one of the highlights of their trips.Here is the new link to book for Mkhambathi, there are no guarentees that when you try it will still be workind;(so what's new?)
|................What it looks like now................
Admiring the view
The reserve is currently managed mostly by the Eastern Cape Parks Board, but ultimate property and management rights
to Mkhambathi belong to the communities surrounding the reserve. These communities had been using the land for grazing,
hunting, fishing and farming for centuries or more before being displaced in the 1920s to make way for a leper colony.
Mkambati spent time as a state agriculture farm, tuberculosis clinic, and hunting reserve before being successfully reclaimed
by the communities through South Africa's post-Apartheid land restitution system. A stipulation of the land claim agreement
was that the communities would maintain Mkambati as a nature reserve, i.e. relinquish access rights to it, in return for
tourism revenue and government assistance such as local works programs.
The government assistance and works programs are in place and doing quite well, from our perspective. But how exactly
will tourism come to Mkambati? It hasn't come yet. The area is simply not large enough to support popular predators
like cheetah or lions. Acquiring more land would not only be expensive but would require supplanting the agricultural
communities situated immediately outside the boundaries of the reserve. Furthermore, Mkhambathi's unique ecosystem has
proven to be a liability when it comes to introducing species. When the hunting reserve was created in the 1980s,
many animals like giraffe and gemsbok were introduced from Namibia and most died off immediately.
For the time being, the sheer beauty of the area is a more reliable draw. Plans are underway to build a four-star
hotel along the coast of the reserve. This has obvious potential to bring quite a bit of revenue to the communities
around Mkhambathi. But there are questions about how the increased traffic, hustle and bustle of a hotel will affect
the ecosystems and animals of Mkambati. There are questions of how the traffic will even get through, given that most
of the roads are single-lane dirt roads with their fair share of potholes. But if this compromise is not met, another
way must be found to bring money to the communities allowing the preservation in the first place.
THE LEPER COLONY:
I have not been able to find out much about the leper colony that existed, certainly on my next visit I'll research this aspect of Mkhambathi's history, however this what I have discovered:
In 1920 a leper colony was established in the area known as Mkambati and formally approved by the Minister of Native Affairs in 1922. The Mkambati land was registered under Crown Title in 1951 and the rights to Mkambati transferred to the government of Transkei in 1966 and then later transferred to the Transkei Government Department of Health. After the closure of the leper colony in 1976, the rights to Mkambati were transferred to the Transkei Government Department of Agriculture and Forestry. In 1977 there was a proposal to plant sugarcane on the inland (western) two thirds of the Mkambati land and at the same time the seaward (eastern) third of the area was proclaimed as a Nature Reserve in terms of the Transkei Conservation Act of 1971. The area that had been set aside for sugarcane planting (11 000 ha) was allocated to the Transkei Agricultural Corporation (TRACOR), and between 1983 and 1986 a small sugarcane plantation was developed on the land.The Old ChurchNear the reception is an old Church now a crumbling ruin. It was so sad to see. The church had the date 1935 above the entrance and would have served the leper colony, a source of spiritual strength and hope for those who were considered unclean and shunned by their families and society. The church would have been a regular meeting place where they could pray and have companionship, to care and comfort one another. There would have been births, deaths and possibly a few marriages. Leprosy would have not isolated them from the full spectrum of human emotions, probably made these emotions more intense.
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|A comment sent to me by someone who visited Mkhambathi some years ago: My mother grew up in Pondoland, in Bazana, so it has always had some meaning in my life although i have not had much opportunity to spend time there. As with everything in life, one feels " we will get there" but as you have indicated, if something is not done, it will not be there much longer! I would like to help, although i am quite short of time but perhaps i could ask this, would you be agreeable for me to post this on my Facebook page, to request anyone i know who may add value & assist. We have so many great people in SA who have the will & the means to make a difference, so somehow we need to reach them - only by the fast networking of modern day technology do we stand a chance!|