There are places in the world, which take your breath away and then keep you breathless for decades. Places of serendipity and essence. Places of beauty and distinction. Places with integrity and soul. Places that make you immediately feel at home.
Situated in the far North Eastern corner of KwaZulu-Natal, is Kosi Bay, just to the north of that you will find Utshwayelo Community Campsite which forms part of the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park - the first natural World Heritage Site in South Africa to be accorded this distinction.
Utshwayelo takes its name from the fish kraals, celebrating the traditions and culture of the Tonga people - this camp is a community partnership project of skills sharing and a life of purpose.
Here at Utshwayelo things don't change, people stay the same and besides a few upgrades and revamps, the camp remains as simple and as majestic as the first time we visited in mid 1990.
With Enoch, Ken and Anna at the forefront of this establishment, Utshwayelo always feels like home. The facilities are rustic but nice, with flush toilets and hot water. Shaded campsites are private and clean. There is always someone at hand to sweep your site, wash your dishes and bring you bundles of freshly chopped iron wood for your open fireplace. Like I said not much changes here
The central lapa is cosy and usually houses the foreign tourists who are keen to keep in touch with the outside world. It is only recently that Internet and cell phone connection was established. We choose to disconnect and pretend that we are out of reachand in a sense we are.
It is true to say that with the installations of the 'super kitted', free standing tents and the rustic chalets, Utshwayelo is no longer the primitive experience we so loved to return to, however it is also true to say that tucked deep in the corner of the campsite you can still find that space where you can hide out in your Robinson Crusoe style camp.
What makes Utshwayelo really convenient is that the campsite is the closest accommodation to the mouth (about 3km) and you can easily purchase your permit for the entrance to the mouth at the office.
Forget coming here in season, unless you like company, we love coming to Utshwayelo out of season and sometimes we are lucky to have the place to ourselves.
The nights are truly special at Utshwayelo, as the camp is slightly raised and you can hear the distant sounds of the life in the valley below. In the morning you are woken by chickens and a light murmur from someone's radio announcing the start of a brand new day. The camp has a night watchman and besides a few unstable foreign tourists we never had a single security issue here.
Utshwayelo is run professionally and the community involvement adds to the atmosphere. The camp itself is an awesome place to rest and enjoy the tropical outdoors. It's a must for anyone travelling there for the first time.
There are a few accommodation options, either stay in a wooden or tented chalet or camp on your own. The chalets have different sized beds on offer and are sheltered from the mosquitoes with a very decent net. The chalets are clean and provide towels and an outdoor shower. In the bedroom there are shelves provided for your clothes with a basin.
At the communal area is a bar, swimming pool and lounge area where games can be played. What makes this an excellent choice is the lodge's location as it is right at the entrance to the Kosi mouth.