Formed in 1994 out of the former homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, the Eastern Cape is the birthplace of former presidents, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, and offers a wide array of attractions, including 800km of untouched and pristine coastline along with some particularly splendid beaches and great Big Five viewing in a malaria-free environment.
The best of these is the Addo Elephant National Park, situated around 70km from Port Elizabeth. With 1,600 square kilometres of prime bush, the park is home to over 400 elephant, many of which you’ll be able to see at the numerous watering holes, as well as a wide variety of game from black rhino, lion and Cape buffalo to the usual collection of different antelope. For those eagle-eyed visitors, the park is also home to an abundance of African tortoises and flightless dung beetles. It is important to note that to run over one of these busy little workers in your car is frowned upon massively, there are road signs stating they have the right of way and you must wait on them. Nature comes first in Addo!
In recent years, the park has expanded and now forms part of the Greater Addo Elephant National Park, which includes the Woody Cape Nature Reserve and a marine reserve on the coast. This expansion has not only meant that the park now contains five of South Africa’s seven major vegetation zones, think desert, jungle and bushveld, but also that it’s possibly the only park in the world to house the so-called Big Seven in their natural habitat.
Aside from the game parks, the region is also the location for SA’s only ski resort, Tiffindell, which has a number of beginner slopes and a main one that has a steep upper section which can challenge even the best skiers. There is also an Ice Station bar, which at 2,720 is South Africa’s highest bar.
For the adrenalin junkies, the Bloukrans Bridge – which forms the border between the Eastern and Western Cape – is home to the world’s highest bungee jump at 216m, while Jefferies Bay is a surfer’s paradise, famous for its ‘Supertubes’, arguably Africa’s longest and most consistently good wave.
But the Eastern Cape is not all about the wildlife and the great outdoors, it’s also the setting for South Africa’s largest and most colourful cultural event, the National Arts Festival. Held annually in Grahamstown over June and July, the population doubles as over 50,000 people descend on this former frontier town to check out the vast offering of arts, crafts and entertainment from the very best of local and international talent.
So next time you’re planning a trip back home or fancy seeing a different part of our beautiful country, why not take a moment and have a look at what the Eastern Cape has to offer because a world of excitement and adventure awaits you.
Elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale, great white shark
South Africa has some of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots with remarkable birdlife, small game and bizarre insects. To promote these, some clever people have come up with another must-see list, the Little Five.
– elephant shrew – weighing 60g, its name comes from its elongated snout which it uses to eat insects, fruit, seeds and nuts.
– ant lion – an odd yet familiar feature of the bushveld, digging conical depressions in dry, soft sand with which to trap its prey, ants.
– rhinoceros beetle – one of the largest beetles in southern Africa with horns on its head much like those of its larger namesake.
– buffalo weaver – social birds that build their nests in forked branches of tall trees.
– leopard tortoise – with a striking black and yellow spotted shell, they are one of the biggest tortoises in this part of the world, males weigh up to 23kg.