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A beacon overlooking the city of Port Elizabeth, the Donkin Reserve is named after Sir Rufane Donkin, acting Governor of the Cape Colony in 1820. He constructed a 10m high stone pyramid in memory of his wife who had died of fever in India after only 3 years of marriage, and he set aside a small area around the pyramid as a reserve. A lighthouse was built alongside the pyramid in 1861 and both structures have been beautifully restored and are an integral part of Donkin Reserve.
An upgrade project was undertaken in 2014 with the intention of making the Donkin Reserve a safe and welcoming public space for Port Elizabeth’s citizens, and the successful project has helped to kick-start other improvements in the inner city. Students at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University were responsible for the creative and colourful mosaic walkway and the reserve has been fitted with the world’s largest flagpole supporting a giant South African flag.
The views from the lighthouse are spectacular and in the grounds below are palm trees for a shady spot to enjoy a relaxed lunch. The Donkin Reserve is on the Route 67 public art route as well as the Donkin heritage trail. The art route spans 67 public art locations across the city while the heritage trail passes 51 heritage sites and places of interest relating to the 1820 settlers, a group of British citizens who arrived here to help Britain defend the eastern frontier. The Nelson Mandela Bay tourism office is located at the base of the lighthouse for information regarding the reserve, the art route and the heritage trail.
A local journalist recently wrote an article on the 1st April which stated that the reserve had been purchased by the Bahraini royal family to build a compound for themselves and this April fool’s joke caused a bit of an outcry.