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Mthatha, formally known as Umtata, lies along the Wild Coast approximately and hour and a half’s drive from Port St Johns and Coffee Bay, home to the famous Hole in the Wall attraction. Mthatha is the region’s biggest, most colourful and liveliest town and is the turn off point for Coffee Bay, which is the only coastal resort, other than Port St. Johns, to have a tarred road from the N2 all the way to its’ doorstep.
Mthatha is known as Madiba Country! Nelson Mandela was born in the nearby town of Mvezo, spent his childhood in Qunu, and his last years of retirement, and today the town is home to one of the three Nelson Mandela Museums in South Africa. Spread across three historical sites, at Mvezo, Qunu and the Bunga Building in Mthatha itself, the Museum collects, interprets and exhibits key aspects of the story of the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
The museum may be the greatest attraction to the town, but its surrounding area remains seeped in old traditions and is a site to see for any visitor where the women still wear ochre-coloured dresses with turbans, wire bracelets and white clay on their faces, fetch water from the river and where children walk home from school barefoot.
Other activities include hiking, beaches and picnicking and water sports at the nearby Mthatha Dam.
The town boasts all types of accommodation, including B&B’s Guest houses and hotels.
Things to do and see
- Nelson Mandela Museum & Bunga Building
- Mthatha Town Hall
- Nelson Madela Route
- Collywobbles Vulture Colony
- Bulungula Homestay Experience
- Bulungula Beach
- Madiba Hiking Trail
- Coastal Hike to Hole in the Wall, Coffee Bay
- Lubanzi Beach, Port St Johns
Mthatha receives approximately 693 mm of rain annually with the majority of its’ rainfall occurring during the summer months.
Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 15˚C and 28˚C.
Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 5˚C and 23˚C.
There are daily flights from Johannesburg into Mthatha Airport. There are daily domestic flights from other destinations around the country into East London Airport, approximately 232 km away via the N2. Car hire facilities are available at both Airports.
Mthatha (Umtata) had its beginning in 1869 as a military buffer between the warring Pondo and Tembu tribes, and ten years later the village had grown up behind the walled enclosure. It also served as a military post for the colonial forces in 1882, and the town itself was founded in 1883, along the banks of the Mthatha River - the name derives from the word thatha, meaning “taker”, owing to the damage and fatalities caused by the flooding river.
A branch of the University of Fort Hare was established in the town, and after the "independence" of the Transkei in 1977 it became the University of Transkei.
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