Kosi Bay evokes images of sand and 4x4 action for most people. Still, it’s not as secluded as it sounds – you can even get there with an SUV and road caravan.
Here in the far north of KwaZulu-Natal, the Mozambican border lies just a few kilometres farther, and the tar road that leads to it skirts Kosi Bay. It is therefore tar all the way until you turn off, and then the road varies depending on the campsite you’re heading to: from a normal dirt road to a sandy trail.
We stopped off at Utshwayelo near the lake’s mouth of Kosi Bay and at the Kosi Bay Resort by the lake. The two campsites are 8 km apart as the crow flies, with Utshwayelo closest to the sea (3,4 km).
But your travel adventure starts a good 100 km before you even get to Kosi Bay.
THE N2 IS THE EASIEST route to get to this part of the world, wherever you come from. From Pongola’s side (the town close to the Golela- Swaziland border post), you also travel between vast sugarcane fields – with no fences along the way. Don’t be in a too much of a hurry as tractors crawl up and down the road with their sugary cargo.
The turn-off to Kosi Bay from the N2 is right next to the Pongolapoort Dam, which incidentally is also the hunting ground of the fearless tigerfish. The narrow tar road winds around the southern end of the dam and then you need to get ready to engage your towing vehicle’s lower gears to get over a short but steep mountain pass. The town of Jozini lies just beyond the mountain while the lovely view to the left over the water will have you catching your breath. This water eventually worms its way ahead of you through the gorges to the dam wall in Jozini.
Jozini is a hive of activity and a place where people pay scant attention to traffic rules. Ironically, we saw several traffic officers, also at the intersection where you keep straight on to Sodwana Bay or turn left across the dam wall to Kosi Bay. It’s at this very intersection where you can decide which road you want to take to Kosi Bay. Google Maps says the road heading straight measures a mere 109 km to Manguzi, the big town near Kosi Bay, but it will take nearly two hours. The route to the left, across the embankment, is only 3 km shorter, but shaves 20 minutes off the time.
You may not stop on top of the 89 m high dam wall, but there is a place to pull over if you want to take a family pic. It’s good to stretch your legs here, take a deep breath and gather courage for the stretch of road ahead. The road does not have the best tar surface in the country, and you won’t have a smooth ride. Here it’s not sugar-cane tractors you have to watch out for, but goats, chickens and cattle ambling back and forth across the road.
Manguzi is a mini-metropolis where you could stop if you’ve forgotten something at home. You can see the businesses are geared for tourists, especially the 4x4 guys. We pulled into an Engen garage and deflated our tyres for the dirt and sandy roads ahead. You don’t have to deal with a regular air pressure gauge here; you enter the desired tyre pressure on a compressor’s keyboard and a computer takes care of it.
UTSHWAYELO KOSI MOUTH LODGE & CAMP
Near the mouth
Utshwayelo is the northernmost campsite in KwaZulu-Natal – the turn-off to get here is 13 km after Manguzi and barely 1 km before the Mozambican border. The broad, corrugated gravel road is rocky at times, but any city sedan should be able to cope with it, even if you’re towing a caravan. Utshwayelo is 4,5 km farther on the righthand side of the road.
In front of you is the entrance gate to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, with a sign that shows only 4x4s may enter here. To the left is a stall where you can purchase bright fabric and African jewellery, and a bundle of wood for R20. Utshwayelo is across the road where a waving national flag welcomes you. The road from here is sandy, but it is solid. Large water berry trees are everywhere and will most likely shade you from the sun on your stand. The office is 50 m to your right.
On the open office’s counter is a large glass container with ice-cold water and orange slices. And then the friendly Anna Mthetwa, the assistant manager, welcomes you. If you have questions during your stay, come here for the solution. If you didn’t bring a braai grid, she’ll come to your aid. Anna walks you to the opposite of the courtyard to point out one of the resort’s bathrooms and walks ahead to show you to your stand.
THERE ARE 14 stands, most of which are laid out like a kraal with a reed fence all around – so you have privacy. Each stand has a blue power socket, a light, a tap, a garbage bin and a braai area (a moveable drum braai). The stands are spacious and you have plenty of parking space after you set up camp. In some places there’s grass, but others only have sand. The trees on some stands are low and you will not get your caravan under them but stand 17 at the far end is a winner. The ground is level, and the tree is in the middle.
Stands 11 and 12 are straight across from the office, but it’s too small for a caravan and more suitable for tents.
There are three ablution blocks. One is among the first group of stands, the second at the square, and the large one is just behind the square closer to the farthest stands.
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