“28 kilometres! Are you crazy?!” The kids are not exactly enamoured about the idea of an eight hour hike to see some waterfalls. However, we persist.
As a family we are on a year long tour of Africa – two daughters who have just completed school and a son who will need to be home/hut/car-schooled, plus two parents intent on experiencing it all.
“One of our Africa tour mottos is to experience new things, so we are doing this,” I say. Of course the teen girls are quick to retort, “But we have seen waterfalls before, it’s not new.”
“You’re right,” I reply, “but walking 28 kilometres will be.”
Our guide, Caine arrives spot on time at 7am and after a brief explanation of the route we head on down the dirt road from the Pondo Hut we’re staying in at the community run campsite in Mbotyi. The dirt road soon becomes a small winding path as it enters a thick, indigenous forest. Huge trees frame the path like a tunnel as the forest stretches for miles in all directions. We feel like explorers lost in a jungle as we listen to the haunting sound of a crying baby coming from deep within the forest. “That’s a hornbill,” our guide informs us, dispelling the mounting sense of trepidation.
The path emerges from the dense forest into a new world. Hills carpeted with lush green grass roll out before us, dotted with colourful huts, all spread beneath a cloudless blue sky. Soon the path descends to the beach. A herd of cows lounge lazily on the warm sand of the beach. A large bull boasting huge curving horns watches us as we move towards him, he flicks his head and turns nonchalantly to lick his hide.
Our path continues up from the beach across rolling green hills, over streams, and through stunning hidden valleys. We refresh in cool rivers before finally arriving at our destination, Waterfall Bluff. As we round the corner the sight is spectacular, awe inspiring. There it is, one of only 19 in the world, one of only two in Africa, the only one in South Africa – a waterfall that falls directly into the sea.
A huge overhanging rock forms a cave at Waterfall Bluff where we settle down to have a picnic in one of the world’s ultimate picnic spots. The giant waves roar in from the sea and smash against the towering cliff as if seeking to rise up to meet the water plummeting down from above. It’s like watching a clash of giants.
Tearing ourselves away we begin our return hike, amidst protestations from the kids about “going nowhere slowly” with emphasis on the “slowly”. Our guide stuns us again and again showing us the olympic-sized Mamba Pool and the incredible Cathedral Rock which looks like the Hole in the Wall clone.
“Come,” Caine says as we tear our gaze away from the incredible vista of Cathedral Rock. We’re beginning to feel like the kids. We want to stop and soak this in, but there is still a way to go. Once more we follow our guide as we head along a rocky outcrop jutting into the sea. “Be careful of the gap and the cliff. Go on your stomach,” Caine says as we get close. “Secret Falls is there,” he says pointing down. We approach carefully as we slide towards the edge of the cliff. I’m stunned! Words fail me as I look down at the sight before me.
And what a secret it is! Here before us is a second waterfall plunging directly into the sea below. It seems even bigger than Waterfall Bluff. The roar of the sea far below rises up carrying with it the smell of its salty spray. The waterfall cascades down a huge cliff plummeting into the sea far below, shouting out its secret for all who come to see.
“I never knew there were two waterfalls that fall into the sea,” I say to Caine, still stunned and transfixed by the sight. And as it turns out nor does the rest of the world. Wikipedia with all its collective knowledge listed just 19 such waterfalls and two in Africa. It’s wrong! There are 20 waterfalls emptying into an ocean, and three in Africa, and two right here just kilometres apart. It’s called Secret Waterfall because that’s exactly what it is. No path, no signs, no knowledge of its existence by our modern world. It’s plummeted into the sea for millennia upon millennia, yet the world has not known, except for a few locals. Maybe this is Africa’s best kept “Secret” after all.
The rest of our walk back, despite the heat and thirst is, almost euphoric. Finally after nine hours of sensory indulgence we arrive back at Mbotyi beach. We plunge into the cool waters of the estuary and luxuriate in finally resting. What an epic adventure. Wow! And what a start to our travels. Bring it on Africa!