On the border
If it wasn’t for the Mtavuna River, The Pont Holiday and Water Sport Resort probably would have fallen into two provinces, because this is about as close as you’ll get to the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. The resort is on the Natal side of the river that divides the two provinces. And if it wasn’t for the river, the resort probably wouldn’t exist; because the water is the lifeblood of the place. It gets really busy over weekends, even out of season. When you drive into the campsite, the riverbank stretches from left to right in front of you. Motor boats with skis behind roar over the water and jet skis growl to and fro, while a tourist boat and people in canoes glide past silently. Upstream, close to the shore, an inflatable boat with a precariously balanced fishing rod bobs on the water while the owner gets some shuteye. On land it’s a jolly, colourful mishmash of people in bright swimming costumes, beach towels, and gazebos on lush green lawn. The smell of meat on the coals coming from the direction of the small, thatch-roofed lapas permeates the air, and everyone seems to be chilling and having a good time.
Patience is a virtue
The resort rules require that day visitors park outside, but it looks like this is only enforced in season. On a Sunday afternoon there are quite a few stands occupied by cars and trailers for boats. You might have to ask someone to please move their vehicle if you want to pitch camp, or you’ll have to wait. It’s worth it to wait, especially if you’re looking for privacy and shade. There are 41 stands in the resort, and when you drive in through the gate there’s a sign against the ring wall around the pool, showing stands 8–41 to the left and 1–7 to the right. The stands on the left are on a large, open piece of grass, and there are only a few with shade trees to keep the earlymorning sun out of your tent. The seven satnds on the right are first prize: they are separated from each other by a row of trees, and you have an uninterrupted view over the lawn in front to you to the river and the bushy hill on the opposite side. Day visitors are required to leave by 7 pm, and by late afternoon the guys with the bakkies and trailers start queuing at the jetty to load their boats. Everywhere people are packing up picnic baskets and
Motor boats with skis behind roar over the water and jet skis growl to and fro, while a tourist boat and people in canoes glide past silently.
gazebos and getting the kids together. Soon, peace is restored, and the boats’ roaring and people’s laughter are replaced by the cackle of Egyptian geese and other water birds. In the distance you can hear people calling from the opposite side of the river. Technically, many of the park’s personnel live in the Eastern Cape, and commute to work by boat in the mornings and evenings. The boat’s mooring on the opposite side of the river is more or less the same place where the old ferry, after which the resort was named, docked before the Umtanvuna Bridge was opened in 1966. Next to the river there’s an information board recounting the full history of the ferry. Speaking of the bridge: if the excitement on the river isn’t enough for you, you can drive back to Port Edward and over the bridge to the Eastern Cape – and the Wild Coast Sun and Wild Waves Water Park. It’s about 10 km from here.
A meal at dusk
When it’s time for dinner, you can light a fire at one of the lapas. There are no braais at the stands, but there are six braai lapas spread out around the resort. Each have four or six back-to-back builtup braais. If you forgot your Aromat at home you can head to the resort shop, which is at the main entrance. The shop is small, and – just like at a school tuckshop – you have to ask at a window for what you want. But the selection is surprisingly varied. Of course, you don’t have to braai. In the middle of the resort, near the river, is Paddlers restaurant and bar. You can order anything from a breakfast sandwich with bacon, cheese and egg (R30) to 600 g of ribs (R125). Try the curry of the day (R90). The food is tasty and well-presented, and while you wait you can read about the surrounding attractions on the menu. It’s kind of like a tourism brochure.
Make sure you pack everything away and secure your tent before turning in for the night, or you’ll fall prey to the vervet monkeys sneaking along the tree branches above you. When you walk to the ablution block in the morning you’ll see them leaping from branch to branch like Tarzan. You have to walk in between the holiday houses if you want to use the ablution facilities closest to the stands on the right. They’re easy to miss if you don’t know where to look. The other three ablution blocks are further on, to the left of the entrance road (if you’re facing the river). The facilities look like they’ve recently been renovated; the hot water in the shower is scorching hot, and the water pressure is strong.
HOLD THE LINE. Water sports are the main activity at The Pont, but you don’t need to bring your own boat to the resort to enjoy the water.
EAT ASHORE. Paddlers Restaurant’s menu lists a huge variety of dishes. You won’t have to braai even once during your stay if you don’t want to.
FLOAT YOUR BOAT. On the weekend you’ll see all manner of watercraft, from speed boats to simple canoes.