A long weekend at Umngazi

by jayhayman

A couple of weekends ago we went to Umngazi bungalows. It’s a beach resort south of Pretoria (3 hours from Durban). Faced with a ten hour drive from Pretoria, we flew to Mthatha airport and took a taxi to Umngazi.

It was fascinating to drive through a non-touristy part of the country– from what I could ascertain the only sign that Nelson Mandela had lived there was a solitary hospital named after him.  However, if you do go, allow plenty of time. The scenery was magnificent, but large parts of the road were being expanded, which meant navigating past huge trucks on decrepit, single lane roads. Cath’s nerves weren’t helped by the driver’s persistent use of his mobile.

Towards the end of the journey we turned off the main road, and followed the river down to the sea. Umngazi bungalows is located on the river mouth, separated from the beach by the river. The resort is a collection of traditional wooden bungalows (with thatched roofs).


View of the resort from across the river.


Usually it is impossible to book  Umngazi less than 6 months in advance. The resort is one of those well-kept secrets– great location, food (particularly seafood) and a place to unwind.

I hadn’t bothered to read up on the resort, so was in for a bit of a culture shock. It’s an exclusive resort for well-to-do, young South African parents. Nearly everyone seemed to know each other. Apart from us. And most of the parents were in their late 20s. It was quite bemusing to see all these model-esque people parading around the pool in the morning.

The place was perfect for those with young kids. There were regular activities throughout the day for them. An army of nannies on standby. Available at any hour. Separate dining for the children. To be honest, it would have been quite easy to avoid seeing your kids atall. Understandably, lots of young parents were going for it. While they could. Despite struggling to manage a few beers before feeling shattered, I somehow managed to delude myself I was above all this unnecessary partying. Being a nightlife veteran and all that!?

The kids had a great time. From capture the flag to the daily movie nights. Although they both had a sick bug at one point.  The weather was also perfect for us– it felt like Wales in the summer. Without all that unnecessary rain.


Relaxing by the water’s edge.

The highlight for me was the wild, sub-tropical coast. Getting there, required wading across the river mouth at low tide or taking a boat ride across. We spent most of the days talking walks in the surrounding hills or trudging along the coast looking for seashells. Not a soul to be seen.


The wild coast.


Looking for seashells.