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Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape Province in South Africa guarantees an unforgettable experience. This gorgeous, malaria-free province lies between the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and is the third largest in South Africa. It is the destination for those looking for excitement and adventure, but also for those who want a more relaxing holiday. The province is also known as the Adventure Provence that offers adventure opportunities throughout the year for the whole family! The Eastern Cape is easily accessible via any of the three airports.

The Eastern Cape is one of the fastest growing tourism and eco-tourism destinations in the world. The county has spectacular coastlines, mountains, grasslands, forests and tropical mangrove forests. In total there are nine tourist routes for a unique, exciting and adventurous experience. Obviously there is a very wide choice when it comes to hotels, family hotels and guesthouses. The Eastern Cape is blessed with a vast coastline with a diversity of landscapes. To the south lie the woods, more to the east great surfing at Cape St. Francis and Jeffrey's Bay. Drive past Port Elizabeth then you get to the Sunshine Coast with beautiful beaches. Further north you come along the rugged coastline of the Wild Coast with crashing waves, deep gorges and hidden waterfalls.

The inland also has many scenic contrasts of forests in the Tsitsikamma National Park, the hilly Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area to the dry Karoo. There are beautiful national parks like Addo Elephant National Park and Mountain Zebra National Park where you can spot the Big Five. This province has a violent history by the bloody wars between the Boers and the Xhosa and the subsequent fighting between the Boers and the British. Here, too many leaders fought against apartheid, including President Mbeki, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela. Xhosa culture is represented here and today there is much attention on their traditions.

Climate in the Eastern Cape
There is a temperate coastal climate with temperatures around 21°C in winter and 26°C in summer. Further inland the temperatures vary a lot. So it can be 6°C during the winters in The Karoo and it is in the summer around 40°C. In the mountains it rains heavily between June and August and even snows. The Eastern Cape has some interesting places such as Port Elizabeth, known as the 'friendly city' and East London which is a gateway to the surf coast.

Cities of the Eastern Cape
In the Eastern Cape there are a number of cities that are worth visiting.

Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth is a town in the Eastern Cape nicknamed "The Friendly City". It is indeed a friendly, beautiful city where many tourists, especially families, come to, but the 'perfect seaside town, "as they themselves say, but it's not. Therefore the Industrial Port Elizabeth lacks charm. Still, it's a fine place to rest, for example, the Garden Route or nearby attractions such as Tsitsikamma National Park or Addo Elephant National Park. Port Elizabeth is ideally located on the Algoa Bay and is open all year for visiting. The climate is almost lovely all months and the beaches are nothing short of stunning. On the water, you can do all kinds of sports and in the city there are some interesting buildings, museums and beautiful parks. Moreover, there are several, good accommodation options. The setting is beautiful and there live many species of birds.

Just south of the centre of Port Elizabeth is the Marine Drive with numerous hotels, apartment complexes and all kinds of restaurants. The Boardwalk is the entertainment complex with shops, a cinema, the theatre and the casino. The popular beach is Humewood Beach. Here there is a covered walkway for some shelter from the sun and there are pools. Algoa provides many other, often quieter beaches such as Kings Beach, Hobie Beach, Pollok Beach, Brighton Beach, Bluewater Bay, St George's Beach and Wells Estate. At most beaches you can enjoy swimming, snorkelling, surfing, and sailing, jet skiing and fishing. The main beaches have lifeguards present. Port Elizabeth still has plenty of other activities. For example Visit Bayworld, a unique complex of museums and zoos.

Graaff-Reinet is also called the 'Pearl of the Karoo'. Even if you do not have a lot of time in this part of South Africa, definitely try to visit this quaint town. Graaff-Reinet is a large monument with more than 220 restored buildings with a Cape Dutch style. Here there is truly the atmosphere of a nineteenth-century country town. It was founded in 1786 by the Dutch East India Company and is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. It is named after Governor Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff and his wife Cornelia Reinet Hester. The town lies in the inland of the Eastern Cape, in the Sundays River Valley. The Dutch houses are surrounded by gardens and tree-lined avenues, forming a sharp contrast with the barren plains in the area.

Graaff-Reinet in its entirety is a major attraction, but has some highlights. Old Residency is an impressive mansion from 1820 and the Strecht's Court which is a beautifully preserved small street with houses dating back to 1850 that were built for workers and freed slaves. The Reinet House is a fine example of a typical H-shaped Cape Dutch building in 1812 with six gables. The United Church is a Dutch Reformed church from 1887 that has two different styles. In the former Dutch Reformed Mission Church which is now the Hester Rupert Art Gallery where you can see works of contemporary South African artists.

Nature in Eastern Cape
The Eastern Cape is special when it comes to flora and fauna: the province has 820 km of coastline and three marine protected areas where many endangered plants, fish, reptiles and insects are. The province also has more than 20 nature reserves that are committed to the conservation of biodiversity. This makes this province truly an eco-destination. The Wild Coast is an unspoilt paradise and is on the natural heritage list. The Eastern Cape has a variety of nature and landscapes. As the Wild Coast it is one of the least developing and roughest areas of South Africa. Along the mountain slopes and in the dense forests live the Xhosa people. The Wild Coast coastline is pristine, with sheltered coves and rugged cliffs. In the inland is the Karoo, called "land of great thirst" by the natives. Here there are some beautiful nature reserves. Other beautiful parks are the Addo Elephant & Tsitsikamma National Parks.

Nature Reserves in the Eastern Cape
Dwesa has beautiful, large forests, a rugged coastline and vast plains where eland, zebra and buffalo live. Silaka is the habitat of several species of birds, very popular with birdwatchers. Mkhambathi has crystal clear ponds, winding rivers, dense forests and waterfalls that flow into the sea; the ideal mix for a rustic holiday for nature lovers. Guests of Hluleka can enjoy the new luxury chalets with stunning views over beautiful countryside. The Great Fish River and Baviaanskloof are outstanding outdoor destinations in the Eastern Cape. Baviaanskloof, has World Heritage Site status and is very popular because of the variety of possibilities: camping, hiking, or just unwind in this rustic setting.

The Wild Coast
The Wild Coast is one of the least developed and one of the roughest areas of South Africa. Here there are colourful traditions and ancient customs still honoured, especially by the Xhosa who live here along the mountain slopes. This coast of the former Transkei is notorious for its many shipwrecks. But precisely because of the raging sea, this is a paradise of rugged cliffs and surfs, unspoilt coastline, sheltered coves, waterfalls and dense forests. The Wild Coast is excellent for some lovely walks or to go surfing, canoeing and fishing. Along this spectacular coast live many species of (native) plants and animals. There are different types of accommodation, and there are wonderful nature reserves such as the Mkambati Game Reserve and Hluleka Nature Reserve.

Addo Elephant Park
In the Addo Elephant Park more than 300 elephants roam around in an area of ​​about 120 000 hectares. This has not always been so. In 1919, the Major Philip Pretorius was commissioned to shoot the last elephants that then walked around. He did, 15 hidden animals later. In 1931 it was decided to designate a small area here as a national park to save the remaining elephants.

Because these animals moved on the farms in the area at night a solid fence was put down. For years Addo was a zoo of 23 km². So the elephants did well and in 1998 they had to extended extend the park with its 265 elephants. In Addo not only elephants walk around but also zebras, kudu, eland-antelope, rhinos, bushbuck and hartebeest. And with a little luck you see also hyenas and lions here. The park is one of the most beautiful areas of the Eastern Cape. In the summer you can visit the park the best mid-morning when the elephants congregate at waterholes. In winter, the early morning is the time for a visit. Because the park has many unpaved roads, it is difficult to move during and after heavy rainfall. Addo Elephant National Park is located 72 km northeast of Port Elizabeth.

Tsitsikamma National Park
The Tsitsikamma National Park is beautifully situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The name comes from the Khoi tribe and means "place with plenty of water'. The park was founded in 1964 and is only 1.5 meters wide in some places. But it does have an 80 km long wild coastline here interrupted by a beach. Here the Storms River has carved a path through the Tsitsikamma Range and then dives into the sea where the National Park is founded. Many visitors visit this park during the Garden Route that begins or ends here. The park has high mountains, cliffs and dense forests and Fynbos to make the sea appear to be rolling. There are more than 200 species of birds. Among the black rocks there are lots of clams and the rare claw-less otters. The coast of the Tsitsikamma National Park offers experienced divers a great beautiful underwater world and as a hiker you are likely to see dolphins jumping out of the water.

In the Tsitsikamma National Park, you can take two popular walks: the Tsitsikamma Trail and Otter Trail. You walk through rugged mountain landscapes, primeval forest, Fynbos, along wild rivers and streams; anywhere you have a panoramic view. The Otter Trail is 42 km and goes from the Storms River Nature's Valley. The hike takes five days, four nights and requires some fitness. Tsitsikamma Trail largely follows the same route but deeper into the forest and is less heavy. Along the way you can stay in cabins that you must book in advance at the Tsitsikamma National Park office. Another recommended walk is the Dolphin Trail. This hike is physically less demanding and you stay in accommodations with more comfort. The Tsitsikamma National Park is on the south coast of the Eastern Cape on the N2.

Attractions and activities in the Eastern Cape
It is quite possible in the Eastern Cape to do Big 7 game drives. Besides the famous Big 5 here you can also spot the great white shark and southern right whales. You can also go on foot, bicycle, and horseback or with a 4x4 safari vehicle. Many private game reserves are malaria-free! For the true sports adventurous there are also various possibilities: abseiling, rock climbing or the highest bungee jump in the world at the Bloukrans bungee-bridge (216 meters)!

The Eastern Cape has not only a beautiful nature and the Big Five also a rich history. In this place in the second half of the 18th century, whites and blacks met for the first time. In the Eastern Cape there were bloody wars between farmers, the English and the Dutch, and shortly before between farmers and the Xhosa. The British have conducted their most long and costly colonial war. It is not known by the great losses on both sides who won those wars now. Probably this bloody history has had an impact on its people. Famous fighters against apartheid like Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko come from the Eastern Cape. This region is still home to the Xhosa, the largest group of Africans besides the Zulus. Xhosa live largely in accordance with ancient customs and rituals. To get to know this very special part of the region, it is recommended to agree to a historic hike. If only to get into cities even once that are not completely westernized.

Inyathi Buffalo Route
The most famous tour is the Inyathi Buffalo Route which runs from Khiwane to the immensely large Amathole Mountains. Along the way you get along a lot of pretty places like the Dibazza Wall of Fame, Mdantsane, Intabakanonda and King William's Town. These places are all very well known and loved by South Africans themselves. Tourists have yet to discover this area. It is not only intended for visitors to learn more about the history of this region. The municipalities hope through a fun tour to attract more visitors to these unspoilt places.

Buffalo City / East London
Inyathi Buffalo Route starts -how else- in Buffalo City. This is the region where the Nahoon, the oldest fossil footprints in the world was found in 1964. But besides these footprints of 200 000 years, there are along the coast and in the mountains some wonderful archaeological finds made and it stems from a later time, but were owned by the Khoisan, one of the first nations in this region.

The city located on the Buffalo River is better known by its old name East London, the largest river city of South Africa. Despite its size East London has retained a village atmosphere. The most spoken language is still Xhosa, followed by Afrikaans and English. Its main asset is its location and the stunning nature. The city is in addition to the Buffalo River is also along a rocky coastline up to 68km on the Indian ocean. There are fourteen beaches and the sea temperatures are always pleasant. A paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Surfing, fishing or canoeing; it's all here.

Bird Paradise
In the nearby forests and nature reserves, you can take beautiful hiking trips and the area is malaria free. Bird lovers can marvel at a variety of exotic bird species like the crown crane bird, the rare Black Oystercatcher, Stanley Bustard, barbets and starlings. There are special bird watching hikes at several nature reserves. Because you've got a combination of sea, river and forest here, each tour offers yet another bird population. The East London shopping centre is like Oxford Street in London, England. There is a nice market. In the East London Museum, you can visit the famous, oldest fossil foot print of the world. For the truly tourist attractions you are better off in a little more inland King William's Town and the Wild Coast. The accommodation there is better and less expensive.

Mdantsane township
Twenty kilometres outside Buffalo City is the Mdantsane township. In the sixties these townships were created especially for the poor, black labourer. They were kept far away from the big and wealthy cities. Now Mdsante is the largest city in the region with more than 250 000 inhabitants. The township is divided into eighteen zones. The market can be found in the real centre (zone 2) but recently there are some shopping centres. The inhabitants of Mdantsane are very poor, but always cheerful and friendly. In recent years, this begins to draw the middle class here slowly. Mdantsane is the second largest township in South Africa, after the more famous Soweto.

King William's Town
King William's Town or KWT is the capital of the Eastern Cape and one of the most beautiful places in the area to visit. KWT was originally a military base for the British during the war with the Xhosa. The British wanted to build a great city here and then mention it to King William VI. Their application was rejected by the British government and the Xhosa got this piece of land back. However, the station was built and on the site lay an important trade route which drew locals to flock to this place. King William's Town has some beautiful botanical gardens and large stone buildings. The picturesque streets are cheerfully outlined by Jacaranda trees with purple flowers. If you maybe bring a visit to this city, you should definitely visit the Amathole museum. Here you will find also an extensive collection about the Xhosa culture and the second largest collection of mammals from the southern hemisphere.

In this museum is also the stuffed body of the wandering hippo Huberta. Huberta was a famous hippo in 1928 to 1931. In three years, she travelled 1600 km throughout the area. King William's Town has seen a lot of political tension in the time of apartheid. One of the most tangible reminders of a turbulent past is Fort Murray. This fort is situated on the banks of the Buffalo River and built in wartime. The fort was established in 1848 by Colonel Harry Smith. He chose this fort above Wellington fort that is located more inland and was therefore vulnerable.

Biko and Mandela
Steve Biko, one of the most famous fighters against apartheid, was born in King William's Town. In 1969 he became leader of the student party SASO. This political party fought for the 'black consciousness'. Just before the outbreak of the civil war in 1976, Steve Biko was a gag. He was arrested and died after 26 days in captivity in Port Elizabeth. You can visit the grave of Steve Biko at the Ginsberg cemetery just outside the city. An even more famous person coming from this area is Nelson Mandela. The Nelson Mandela route starts also in King William's Town. This route runs through the nearby town of Umtata where you can visit the Nelson Mandela Museum.

For those of versatile nature and who loves sporting challenges, the Amathole region in the Eastern Cape is the right destination. The Amathole region located between the Wild Coast, the Friendly N6 and in Frontier Country, with the central Amathole Mountains. Fertile river beds, forests and waterfalls make up the impressively varied landscape. It is a natural environment which also offers numerous opportunities for sporting activities.

Xhosa culture
The entire district has the atmosphere of independence and democracy. The name Amathole, translated from the Xhosa 'the calving of the Drakensberg' refers to the rural lifestyle of the Xhosa, whose Nguni cattle still graze at the foot of the mountains. In college Fort Hare is to see a large collection of African Xhosa art, there are beautiful San paintings.

Fort Beaufort
The small historic town of Fort Beaufort is located in a valley where citrus fruit colours the trees. The valley with rivers, forests, waterfalls and deep canyons invites you to make long hikes and languid strolls through the pastoral landscape. Remember to visit the Martello Tower, a national monument which a gun is mounted and rotates 360 degrees. There are only two of these guns in the world known of.

Fort Foryce Nature Reserve
The main objective of Fort Foryce Nature Reserve is to preserve the Dohne sour field, the surrounding mountain forests and the biodiversity of the area. In particular a reconnaissance to horse is popular, whether or not with guides. The park is a good base for hiking or fishing (Bass) and offers beautiful views of the Amathole Mountains. In the park there are several accommodations where the night can be spent like Harris Cabin and Maqomas Den.

Thomas River Historical Village
Thomas River Historical Village was opened in 2003 after Jeff and Ann Sansom had taken the drastic rebuilding themselves. A former train station is now a village where the visitor goes back into the past. Take the time to visit the private library, the railway carriage museum, rock art museum, pub museum or antique motorcycle museum. Popular is also the Ramble restaurant where you can eat in the pub or museum in the historic dining room.

The historic town of Cathcart is a kind of sanctuary of tranquillity. Endless starry skies make the night a work of wonders. Days can be filled with birding, hiking, fishing and mountain biking. But especially the gliding or paragliding from the surrounding slopes is popular, with its quiet flight in any way disturbing the peace.

Hogsback is situated high in the mountains surrounding the Amathola by native forest with crystal clear waterfalls. The area gets something mystical through the mist floating around the mountain peaks. Experience the fairy-tale peace, the view and the sunsets in each season are different. Hogsback is also known for its beautiful gardens and majestic 800 year old Yellowwood tree. Hiking, horseback riding, birding can all be done there.

Stutterheim is located at the foot of the Kologha Mountain, an offshoot of the rugged Amatola Mountains. Stutterheim is an ideal location for hikers, mountain bikers, anglers and campers with its beautiful surroundings of dams, hills, dense forests, meadows and lakes. The town was founded in 1837 as a mission, today life of the average Stuttenheimer revolves around the farm or the timber industry.

The Eastern Cape - Wild Coast: following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was born in Qunu, a small village in the Eastern Cape. Here he spent the greatest time of his youth. Meanwhile, the former president lived in Qunu again. Qunu is a small village located about 30 km southwest of Umtata on the road between Butterworth and Umtata in the Wild Coast region. The rugged nature is characteristic of the region that extends from the Mtamvuna River in the north to the Great Kei River in the south. The combination of the breath-taking coastline, mountainous cliffs, wild and deserted beaches and bays and endless green hills on a journey through the Wild Coast is an unmatchable experience.

The Wild Coast has nearly 200 kilometres of coastline. It is still untouched and unknown to the traveller, but definitely worth visiting. In the Wild Coast the original Xhosa people live in the famous thatched cottages. Nature lovers can indulge in the various nature parks like Mkhambathi Nature Reserve, Dwesa Nature Reserve or the Drakensberg.

Hole in the Wall
A well-known natural phenomenon in the Wild Coast is the Hole in the Wall at Coffee Bay. Through years of erosion by the sea there is the 'hole', which appears surrounded by a majestic landscape of rich cultural history.

Nelson Mandela Museum
Those who want to know more about Nelson Mandela and wants to follow in his footsteps, you can visit the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu. The museum was officially opened on February 11, 2000, on the 10th Remembrance Day of the release of Nelson Mandela. The museum - which offers an educational and cultural experience for the visitor gives an inspiring picture of the life of Nelson Mandela. A guided hike with a guide through his home, his school and the church where he was baptized, but also a visit to the cemetery where his parents are buried gives an insight into his life.

Hole in the Wall:

Sardine Run

The largest animal migration on earth: the sardine run in the Eastern Cape

The annual migration of sardines takes place in the South African winter months and is currently in full swing. The migration begins at Agulhas Bank (Cape), along the Wild Coast to the southern parts of KwaZulu-Natal as the sardines spawn and then return again. This natural phenomenon is known as the sardine run and is compared with the spectacular Wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara and the Serengeti plains in Central Africa. The coastal town of Port St. John's, located on the magical Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape is one of the most popular destinations where the sardine run can best be seen. From here one can see the migration of millions and millions of sardines leaving the cool Cape region, but also the culture and traditions of the locals.

Port St. John's
At Port St. John's the water is close to the shore very deep and huge schools of sardines are clearly visible. The great multitude of sardines attracts a huge variety of large predators: thousands of sharks, dolphins, sea birds feed on the sardines. This school of sardines is the largest in the world and is truly a spectacle to behold. As a spectator of the sardine run, one can see the antics of dolphins and the spectacle of sharks, but also oceanic birds coming and fly and take advantage of this annual migration: A must for nature lovers, birdwatchers, photographers, snorkelers and divers.
For those who want to see the annual migration with their own eyes, may from June to early August into Port St John's. You can book special sardine run day trips, guided by a specialized team of both skipper and dive guide. There are also extensive timetables available for the sardine run.

Mbotyi River Lodge
North of Port St. John's is located between the hills, the tropical rainforest and the Indian Ocean Mbotyi River Lodge, a family beach resort with an AAA Travel Award status. It is an ideal base for a relaxing and adventurous vacation. The resort is surrounded by beautiful gardens, a magnificent swimming pool, the Long Bar and plenty of activities for the kids. Mbotyi River Lodge is in the heart of Pondoland, and here you can experience the real authentic culture and the warmth and friendliness of the locals. The staff is friendly, professional and will ensure that the guests have everything they need. Walking through the hills and valleys, visiting the tea plantations, the village, meet the locals, visit a Sangoma or local shebeen which is absolutely worth it.