Gompo Rock/Cove Rock

Cove Rock/Gompo Rock features prominentlyin the human history of East London. Evidence of
early human habitation, most likely Khoisan peoples, is present in the form of middens containing mussel and limpet remains and sherds of earthenware. Some of the earliest documentary evidence relating to Cove Rock can be traced back to at least the 17th Century to the wreck of the Dutch ship, the Stavenisse. Sailors from the ship were rescued off Cove Rock in 1687 by the crew of the Centaur.
In the log book of the Centaur, Cove Rock has been referred to as “Doodkist” or “coffin” because of its shape as seen from the sea (Pettman 1931:113).
Avu & Bengz.
We had the whole stretch of
the beach to ourselves
The Rock has also featured prominentlyin the religious lives of Xhosa-speaking people. The Xhosa prophet, Nxele or Makana, was converted to Christianityin 1812. In 1817, in an attempt at mass conversion through a show of his sacred potency, Nxele assembled people at Cove Rock to witness the resurrection of ancestors and cattle from a cavern beneath the rock.
According to traditionalist Cape Nguni belief paternal ancestral spirits, Abantu bomlambo (my grandmother's clan) are said to reside in the water beneath the Rock. When my grandmother asked me to bring her sea water and some sand, it was only befitting to get it from this sacred spot.
Members of African Independent Churches, more specifically Amaziyoni or Zionist-type churches,
also meet and baptize in the vicinity of Cove Rock. Water is believed by Zionists to be the origin of all
living things and has curative properties. Water is said to be imbued with spirit (umoya) and the more turbulent the water, the more powerful the spirit (Kiernan 1978:29), Gompo Town near East London city centre derives its name from the Rock.
Cove Rock is the nexus of things historical, cultural and natural. The Rock is a breeding site for the
threatened African Black Oystercatcher and is a favourite fishing spot for many East London anglers.

Physical Description
Cove Rock/ Gompo is a unique sandstone headland with good examples of wave-cut platforms, a classic half-heart bayand a large mobile dune field unique to the East London environment. The adjacent area is a protected State forest.

The Rock is situated in East London about 11 kilometres south west of the Buffalo River mouth
between Hickman’s River mouth (east of the site) and the resort of Winterstrand (west of the site)
Travel along the R72 towards Port Alfred. 
Take a left turn towards Cove Rock. Just before the entrance gate to Cove Rock estates, turn right onto a dirt road.
This was our point of no return,
with Bengz as our navigator
Travel a few kilometers along this road until one reaches a parking area to the right. Access to the beach is via the dunes. It is about a kilometer and half walk to the rock along the beach.

Our footprints in the sand
Natural weathering of the rock. There is considerable litter on the rock which has been left by anglers and recreationalists.

Capacity and Constraints
The dirt road is currently accessible to ordinary sedan vehicles. However the condition of the road does deteriorate with heavy rains and excessive usage, and needs to be constantly maintained. The dune path is eroding away with increased usage.
The rock can accommodate large groups, but controlled access is recommended to prevent destruction of rock flora, fauna and historical artifacts.

Tarring of the dirt road to the parking area is recommended. A boardwalk to the beach through the dunes is essential to prevent further deterioration of the dune path. 
Paths on the rock itself must be formalized to ensure that the ecological integrity of the rock is maintained. Adequate signage on the road and at the parking area is necessary. Information boards regarding the cultural, historical and natural significance could be erected on the rock. A local resident is already employed by the Municipality to act as car guard in the parking area. Additional people could be employed and trained
as site guides. Information flyers could be also distributed by guides. There is an ablution block a few
hundred metres from the access path. Local residents could be employed to keep these facilities clean
and keep the rock free from litter.

On the day
When we visited on the day, there was overcast with very light drizzle of rain. We could not go all the way to beneath the rock.
We will come again on a clear day :)


  1. Love that place, and my son and nephew just love these mini trips so we continue to navigate eliphondo. Thanks for the inspiration to explore more.

  2. We bought our property in winterstrand in1985 .when we started building there were only 6 homes there. In the early days when we were allowed to ride on the beaches we used to load up all the kids from Winterstrand and spend the day at cove rock as did many other fishermen. The fishing was always very rewarding and the shell life was abundant. Once vehicles were banned from the beaches the area became deserted. Fishermen no longer frequented the area. Criminal activity scared off the few fishermen who were prepared to make the long walk from Hickmans river or Winterstrand. Now the sea life especially the mussels and perlemoen have been dessimated.


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