Known as the King of the Coast, Isaac Mpesya (27) will introduce you to the hidden gems of the Pondoland region when you join him for an epic 3- or 5-day hiking trail from Port St. Johns to Coffee Bay.
While he's been guiding tourists for a long time and knows this region like the back of his hand (it is home to him after all), he's still in the process of completing his professional guide certification with assistance from Open Africa.
We caught up with him to find out how he's been enjoying it so far.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you do?
I'm a guide on a 5-day hiking trail, called the Wild Coast Route. It connects villages and different B&Bs between Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay. I take clients on our hikes to help them get safely from one point to the other, but also to experience our culture.
If a 5-day hike sounds a bit long to people, there's also a 2-day hike they can do between Coffee Bay and Bulungula, which will take them past the famous Hole in the Wall.
How did you first get into guiding?
My uncle was running Coffee Bay Tours and started training me to help him. The people at Coffee Shack liked what we were doing and often recommended me as a local guide for their clients who wanted to explore the area a bit more, because I know the coast and all the local stories well.
They knew I could teach their clients about village life.
What do you enjoy most about being a guide?
Firstly, I get to speak English a lot, which helps me learn. Guiding gives me confidence, because I have to speak in front of people I don't know and help them enjoy their experience in my home. Being outdoors and walking every day also keeps me healthy.
When did you start working with Open Africa and what have you enjoyed learning about?
I started with Open Africa in November 2016 and have really enjoyed learning about sustainable tourism and also how to sell this product to people who would be interested, but may not know about it.
What do you hope to achieve through getting your certification?
Apart from selling my own tours, in the long run I hope to help and inspire other young guys in the area to do the same.
Finally, why do you think people should visit the Wild Coast?
Many reasons! Here in the Wild Coast we have beautiful beaches and we often see dolphins and even whales. We can help people connect with nature by teaching them to get their own food from the rocks and cook it like the people in the villages do.
Plus, the more tourists we get, the more our communities can benefit and grow stronger!