Like much of our coastline, this area was originally populated by the San (Strandlopers) and Koi people, who left numerous middens all along the seashore. After the arrival of the amaXhosa, who settled east of the Great Kei River, the area between the Albany coast and the Kei River became an effective “no man’s land”. This area remained uninhabited as a result of the conflict between the Paramount Chieftainship and renegade chiefs who had fled westwards. Later the British perpetuated this as a no go area.
It was only farmed in the early twentieth century. Before this, and for many years afterwards, it was a popular holiday destination for farmers from inland, who made the journey by ox wagon and camped over Christmas living off the land and the sea, much as the previous inhabitants! This area has been particularly fortunate in that a large part of the forests and grassy hills are conserved state forest land, accessible on foot for recreational purposes.
For the owners of Umtendwe, the acquisition of the small farm was a dream come true. Having been regular visitors for over twenty years, their dream of preserving the natural dune and river forest as a private seaside nature reserve became a reality a few years ago. This has involved the ongoing rehabilitation of the coastal bush and the unsustainable fields along the Umtendwe Lagoon.
The owners were adamant that the chalets should not disturb the forest or natural outlook in any way, and finally settled on an African concept patiently designed by Lyn Day, consisting of various round buildings linked by organically flowing passages. The spacious rondavels and various living areas are of different heights, shaped like the forest trees surrounding them. Indeed, in the evening light the chalets cannot be distinguished from the trees - a very pleasing footprint in a very beautiful setting.