A few years ago we had done a weekend road trip to Kosi Bay and we liked it so much it had been on our bucket list to do with Trokkie.
Leaving the endless pine and eucalyptus forests of Mpumalanga behind and skirting Swaziland on the south side, we soon enough hit the sugar cane landscape of Kwazulu Natal. The change was quite amazing. Not only regarding the difference in crop, but also the difference in human habitation. Driving on the N2 towards Kosi Bay, the landscape emerged as a never-ending string of villages, settlements, huts and houses dotted on every mountain side.
We crossed the Pongolapoort Dam and ventured further into the northern part of Kwazulu Natal, with its sprinkling or roadside stalls selling fruit, crafts and fire wood. Seeing school holidays had not yet started, we saw groups students in their various uniforms walking along the roadside or catching a lift.
We actually had hoped to go to Punta do Ouro, because we thought someone had told us there might be access to it in South Africa. Unfortunately it is indeed over the border in Mozambique and, without registration for Trokkie, we could not cross borders with only a trade plate.
We turned around at the border post and turned off at the first dirt road going to the beach.
We eventually spent three glorious days at the Kosie Mouth Resort: chilling, enjoying the sun and snorkeling in the shallow reefs and around the fish traps. The camp sites at Kosi Mouth Lodge Resort were the most private and generous of anything we had experienced so far: per camp party there is a huge space surrounded by a reed screen fence about 2 meters high. In our assigned camping site, we most probably could fit another Trokkie (or two). Being screened off and private was very nice.
As it is not so evident to drive Trokkie all over the place on sandy beach roads through the thicket of the coastal bush, we had decided to park her on camping grounds and do all the rest by foot work. The first day we were going to walk down to the mouth and first lake, we bought a permit at the office which we had to hand in at the gate. The young lady at the gate said she would keep our permit. When we asked her if she would remember us when we would walk down again the following day she said: “Yes, because you are different”. Initially we were a bit confused as to why she would say that but, after starting our walk, we figured it out soon enough: the road to the lakes and the mouth is about three kilometers and we most probably were the only people WALKING! Everybody else was driving down with their car. On the Google map you can see: top left is the caravan park/lodge/resort and top right is the path ending at the beach. The path hugs the side of the lake with widespread views over the lacework of fish traps adorning the lake.
The walk proved to be our daily exercise, especially the walk up back to the camp!
But the water was divine! Me and cold water don’t go well together and you won’t see me cavorting in seas and oceans if the water is not close to bath temperature. Kosi Mouth was. Stefaan had taken the snorkeling stuff along so we dumped our stuff on the beach and went for a dive. Although we saw some fish and an eel of two, the water was a bit murky and green. I got out after a while but Stefaan stayed in the water till his fingers and toes turned white and wrinkly.
Besides the iconic fish traps, other attractions in this area are the Raffia Palm Forest and the hatching of the leather-back turtles. Unfortunately for the turtles we were here (again) in the wrong season. The Raffia forest however is accessible whole year round.
We left Kosie Mouth resort, drove a bit more south and checked in at Kosibay Caritas, a cool and funky get-away, and booked a forest-snorkel-combo boat trip. The manager told us that they could only do the boat trip for minimum 4 people. Another couple had checked in and he would let us know if they would be joining us on the trip.
Early evening a guy, Marius, came to visit us and have a look inside the truck and it turned out that he was one part of the couple joining us on the trip the following day. One word led to another and before we knew his wife Marie had joined us and we enjoyed a pre-boat-trip-getting-to-know-each-other braai and a glass of wine.
Next morning a safari vehicle took us down to the lake and we enjoyed a casual ride on the mirror-still lake towards the palm forest. Our guide, Nipho, was more than happy to share with us all he knew about the forest, the vegan vultures and life on and around the lake in general. Chatting with him, it was quite interesting to figure out that city dwellers like us come to places like this to get away from suburbia and enjoy nature in all its glory, but people who have grown up here, would grab any opportunity to go to the city. The Google map shows the mouth – where we had been a few days before- all the way on the top right, Kosi Bay Casitas to the left and top of 4th Lake. The Raffia Palm Forest is somewhere at the bottom of 4th Lake and the snorkeling was somewhere between Lake 1 and 2.
Nipho took us on the short walk through the forest on a walkway made of the spines of the palm fronds to make walking easier on the swampy soil. We passed a little hut, also made of those spines, and we could understand why it was a totally acceptable building material. He showed us the really pretty fruit of the raffia palm that was a design piece in its own right. It seems to be the favourite food of the palm-nut vulture. We saw deep tracks in the swampy mud and Nipho confirmed that it was hippo. He also said that big bushpigs roam the area and could be more dangerous than the hippos. He talked out of experience because he once had been chased by one.
After the forest walk we took a lazy ride past the fish traps and through the channels that connect the different lakes. We took a short detour to a spot which seemed to be a favourite haunt for some hippo’s. Between lake one and two, we were allowed to get off the boat for a short snorkelling session in an assigned hippo and croc free channel. Seeing we had just seen the hippos in their natural environment, we were kinda happy that our channel was protected. The water was much cooler and clearer than at the mouth, but the variety of fish much smaller. After 30 minutes or so, we all jumped back on board and headed back to the landing dock.
All in all: a really cool experience! For us, Kosi Lake with its traditional fishtraps must be one of the most unique settings and destinations in S.A.
We returned to the boat ramp, got back into the car and on the way back saw a truck at the road works section that had sunk to the differential in the soft sand. I had a flashback to our Punda Maria recovery situation, but I was glad Trokkie hadn’t been at such a tilt!
Back at Casitas we enjoyed a late pizza lunch (the place is renowned for it!) with our fellow travelers. They eventually decided that we could hop into their Jimney and the four of us would go down to Kosi Mouth. And that is what we did. It was nice this time around not to have to walk the three kilometer to the beach!
The water was kinda high but we decided to give it a go. When Stefaan and I had been at the Kosi Mouth Resort a few days earlier, we had figured out how the tides are big influencers for beach goers. We had not always been able to perfectly tune in to low tide and had crossed on different moments of the day with the height of the water in the first gully varying between knee height and breast height (for me), but always with a good section of the beach open and dry. When we started our walk with Marie and Marius though, the water was already breast high with a fairly strong current and the beach section was covered with a few centimeters of water and the tide was still coming in. But we had two strong men with us, so we pushed on. Past this first gully we reached the beach- covered with water- and kept on plodding to the other side where Stefaan had his best snorkeling time a few days before. But… to get there we had to cross another gully and all of a sudden we realized just how strong the current was. Luckily, the tide was coming in so we wouldn’t be rushed out to the ocean. The alternative however, wasn’t great either: being swept inland to the hippos and crocs. I’m not brave when it comes to playing in sea and ocean to start with and adding this serious current… I felt very, very uncomfortable. Luckily Marie felt the same and the call was made to return. The walk over the beach section was not too bad, but to cross that first gully again proved a challenge. I felt my feet being swept away from under me, clawed on Stefaan’s shoulders and felt like a fish on a lure, swirling in the current. If it wasn’t for the fact that I could hold on to Stefaan while crossing, I might have ended up in Lake 4!
We made another attempt to walk along the river’s edge to the beach, but the going was slow, the sun was going down and the decision was made to call it a day and go home.
We enjoyed our last evening together at Casitas and discussed meeting each other the next day at Black Rock, another snorkeling site.
When we discussed that option with the manager the following day however, we were told that Trokkie would not be able to get there. It’s thick and low coastal forest all the way. So, unfortunately we would not meet up with Marie and Marius at Black Rock, but would push further South to Mabibi.
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