The area is known as the strelitzia coast because there are so many strelitzia palms in the area. At Greenpoint there is a powerful lighthouse to warn ships against the ‘Aliwal Bank’, a rocky rift of 15km by 1 km near the surface and about 4km from the coast. The Amy lakes had sunk there in 1970 and the Nebo sank on her maiden voyage in 1884. The name of the reef came from the bark Aliwal that spotted it in 1849. Even though it is dangerous it is one of the richest fishing reefs on the South African coast.
About 2km from Claustal the road crosses the Mahlongwana River to reach Umkomaas at the mouth of the khomazi (‘place of the whale cow’). According to legend, King Shaka himself named the place when he saw a whale cow give birth in the shallow water and then play with her calf.
The story of the town goes back to 1861 when there was an attempt to develop a harbour at the mouth of the river to export the sugar produced in the hinterland. There were several ships that transported the sugar until the-railway was built in 1897 and it became unnecessary to endanger ships at the mouth of the river.
When the town was formally declared as a municipality in 1904, the name was changed from South Barrow to Umkomaas.
Apart from sugar, rayon pulp is also produced.