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The Eastern Cape Province of South Africa is the 3rd most populous region in the country and was once the frontier between British occupied territory in the west and the grazing grounds of various Nguni tribes living off the land. Xhosa and English are the two most widely spoken languages here.
The province is an amalgam of pastured farm land and maize fields amid mountains, nature parks, indigenous forests, and 820km of mostly pristine coastline. It’s an area where modern cities coexist comfortably with traditional kraals.
The Province is world renowned for many things; surfing at Jeffrey’s Bay, the Grahamstown Art Festival, the highest bungee jump at the Bloukrans Bridge and the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, to name a few.
It’s an adventure playground, a nature lover’s utopia and a beachgoer’s hideaway all rolled into one.
Top 8 reasons to visit the Eastern Cape
1. For unqualified beauty, the Tsitsikamma rainforest region is a must visit. The forest has some of the country’s largest trees, a swing bridge over the angry Storms River mouth and rock pools containing small octopus and other marine life. The area is an adrenalin-invoking hub with activities such as treetop ziplining, canoeing and black water tubing available.
2. The Addo Elephant National Park is considered one of the best game farms in southern Africa, offering self-drive and guided game drives to view the Big 5 (leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo and elephant). Other Eastern Cape parks of significance are the luxurious Shamwari and Pumba private game reserves.
3. Tiffindell in Barkly East is South Africa’s only ski resort, rated 19th in CNNs top 100 ski runs in the world. Not bad for a country with a dearth of snow!
4. Surfers flock to Jeffrey’s Bay and nearby Cape St Francis to ride the supertubes. Jeffrey’s Bay hosts the annual Billabong Pro event on the professional surfing circuit.
5. Travel over the motorised vehicle pont at Port St Johns to enter the Wild Coast and your destination of Coffee Bay. The bay is encircled by cliffs where the swimming and shad fishing is excellent. The Hole in the Wall, a large hole punched out by gradual wave motion can be seen at the centre of cliffs located offshore.
6. Hiking in the Amatola Mountains is an unforgettable experience. The trails around Hogsback amongst misty rainforests and waterfalls are magical. For those with spare time, the challenging 6-day Amatola Hiking Trail takes the hiker through 100km of untouched beauty.
7. The picturesque town of Graaff-Reinet in the Great Karoo was first established in 1786 and has 220 national monuments best explored on foot. The town is surrounded by nature parks and is the gateway to the Valley of Desolation, a basin filled with unusual geological features.
8. Visit the fascinating Owl House at nearby Nieu-Bethesda to view the incredible artwork of Helen Martin, a reserved individual who only began creating art at 50 and without formal training.
The Eastern Cape has an international airport in Port Elizabeth and smaller domestic airports at East London and Mthatha. Ask your host for advice on best air routes. Most major cities and towns have car rental agencies, however, a vehicle can be ordered online. Metered taxi and shuttle service operators are located in Port Elizabeth and East London. The Eastern Cape is vast and a rental is the best option to travel the area.
Did you know?
Temperatures swing dramatically in the Eastern Cape. One can drive through snow high up in the mountains one moment and be sweltering on a beach the next, all within a 70km radius!
The two main cities, Port Elizabeth and East London have a long association with the motor industry. Since 1924, car manufacturers have assembled their product here to be shipped out to all parts of the world. Both Port Elizabeth and East London have large assembly plants at their harbours and the next new vehicle you purchase is very likely to have been shipped from the Eastern Cape.