Tip For Trip - Eastern Cape
The main feature of the Eastern Cape is its magnificent coastline. With its wide open sandy beaches, secluded lagoons and towering cliffs, the Indian Ocean coastline provides the province with a rich natural tourist attraction, which is also a paradise for watersports enthusiasts. Added to the diverse coastal experiences are more than 60 state-owned game reserves and more than 30 private game farms, which collectively cover an area greater than the Kruger National Park.
Amatola mountain region
The Amatola mountains are famous for their scenery and history, and stretch from Adelaide
in the east to Stutterheim
in the west. With its lush forests and ancient battlefields, it is an area steeped in Xhosa culture and early settler history. The dense forests of the Amatolas are a haven for the endangered Cape parrot, and were also home to the first dinosaur to be identified in South Africa, The ‘Blinkwater Monster’, a large fossilised reptile discovered near Fort Beaufort
. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Cathcart
, where trout-fishing, hiking, riding and birdwatching are among the attractions. The Amatole Hiking Trail is a well-known scenic but strenuous trail. The coastal city of Port Elizabeth
, which has earned the name ‘Friendly City’, is a superb holiday destination, offering a diverse mix of ecoattractions. The Isuzu National Sailing Week is held annually in April in the waters of Algoa Bay. The city boasts various scuba-diving sites. Visitors can also visit Bay World with its oceanarium and snake park, and many splendid museums. Other attractions include the Greater Addo Elephant National Park and game reserves; the traditional healing village, Kaya Lendaba; birdwatching; air tours; canoeing; various mountain-bike and horseriding trails; and organised outdoor excursions. Within the city there are some beautiful parks with well-landscaped gardens, including the St George’s Park, which covers 73 ha and houses the famous Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, the oldest bowling green in South Africa, Prince Alfred’s Guard Memorial, the 1882 Victorian Pearson Conservatory, and the 54-ha Settler’s Park. Tourists can also explore the Donkin Heritage Trail, take a ride on the famous Apple Express, and go hiking along the site of ancient shipwrecks on the Sacramento Trail.
Since Portuguese mariners first pioneered the sea route around the Cape to India, this notorious coast has claimed countless ships. Southern right and humpback whales and their calves are regularly spotted from the high dunes, usually between May and November, while common and bottlenose dolphins are often seen close to shore. The entire region, once known as the ‘Transkei homeland’, is the home of a major section of the Xhosa-speaking southern Nguni (or Pondo) tribes. Brightly coloured examples of their beadwork, together with traditional pottery and basketry can be bought from roadside vendors and at some trading posts. Visitors to the rural village of Qunu can view the childhood home of former President Mandela. In the city of Mthatha, the Nelson Mandela Museum tells the story of this great figure. The alignment of the N2 national route along the Wild Coast will help open up investment opportunities in this area. Coffee Bay
is popular among surfers, anglers and shell collectors. To the south is the prominent rock formation, the Hole in the Wall. The local Xhosa call this place Izi Khaleni (Place of the Thunder). During high tide, the waves move through the hole in such a way that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.
The vast plains of the Karoo have an air of grandeur and its many picturesque towns are steeped in history. The Owl House in Nieu Bethesda
displays the creative talent of the late Helen Martins. Statues of mermaids, wise men, camels, owls and churches create a wonderland in the garden. All the artworks were created with broken bottles, bits of mirror and cement. More than 200 houses in Graaff-Reinet
have been restored to their original Victorian appearance, and proclaimed national monuments. The Old Library Museum houses the Lex Bremner Fossil Collection of Karoo reptile fossils and a collection of Khoi and San art reproductions. Urquhart House has a popular genealogical research centre. Almost 50 km south-west of Graaff-Reinet is the Kalkkop Crater, a gigantic circular impact that is of major scientific importance. To the north-west of Graaff-Reinet lies the Valley of Desolation. A steep and narrow road leads into the mountains that surround the valley. The Valley of Desolation is a national monument within the Karoo Nature Reserve, and was formed millions of years ago by weathering erosion. The first evidence of the presence of dinosaurs in South Africa can be viewed at Maclear
. The Mountain Zebra National Park is a haven for the Cape mountain zebra species, which at one time inhabited most of the Cape. The park saved these animals from extinction and today their population stands at about 350. Other species found in the park include antelope, eland, African wildcat, bat-eared fox, and more than 200 bird species, including the pale-winged starling, the booted eagle and the blue crane.
This route runs from Bloemfontein to East London. Popular attractions include the slopes of the Tiffindell Ski Resort and the streams filled with trout, as well as the many caves adorned with ancient rock art. Several historic towns can be found in the region, including Barkly East, Rhodes, Lady Grey, Elliot, Aliwal North, Burgersdorp and Queenstown.
The Sunshine Coast comprises miles of unspoilt sun-drenched beaches. Port Alfred
lies at the mouth of the Kowie River. Coastal hills are home to the oribi – a small territorial buck that was recently near extinction. Inland, Grahamstown
is sometimes referred to as the ‘City of Saints’, because of the more than 40 churches found in the town. The town is also known for the National Arts Festival, which is held here annually. During this time, Grahamstown is transformed into a dedicated arts venue where performers, visual artists, audiences, writers and craftspeople fuse in a celebration of creative energy. Other attractions include various museums and historical buildings, the oldest post-box in South Africa, botanical gardens, the cathedrals of St Michael and St George, nature reserves and hiking trails. Situated north-east of Grahamstown, the Great Fish River Reserve consists primarily of valley bushveld habitat and is surrounded by both tribal land and commercial game reserves and farms. The reserve boasts abundant wildlife such as white rhino, giraffe, waterbok, Cape buffalo, hippo, kudu, springbok and eland. There are several historic forts and remains from the legendary frontier wars located in the area. East London
, South Africa’s only river port city, was originally established as a supply port to serve the military headquarters at King William’s Town. The city’s own waterfront development, Latimer’s Landing, is situated on the banks of the Buffalo River. The East London Aquarium houses approximately 400 different marine and freshwater species. The East London Museum depicts the natural environment and rich heritage of the region. Best known for the prehistoric coelacanth, the museum also displays reconstructions of the extinct dodo of Mauritius, along with the only extant dodo egg in the world. The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area is the largest of the inland protected areas and provides opportunities to visit spectacular fynbos-covered mountains on foot or in off-road vehicles.
This region, stretching from Plettenberg Bay
to Jeffreys Bay
, is renowned for its dense forests, majestic mountains and deep river gorges. It forms the eastern end of the Garden Route. The word tsitsikamma is derived from the Khoekhoen words ‘tse-tsesa’ meaning clear and ‘gami’ meaning water. South Africa’s first marine park, the Tsitsikamma National Park, extends along a rocky coastline of 50 km, and 3 km out to sea. Inland, adventure seekers will find deep gorges and temperate evergreen forests criss-crossed by six hiking trails, including the five-day Otter Trail. The varied wildlife includes dolphins and whales, caracal, genet, chacma baboon, dassie and mongoose. Another popular adventure is a black-water tubing experience on the Storms River. Prominent bird species in the area are the African black oystercatcher, the orange-breasted sunbird, the Nerina trogan and the colourful Knysna loerie. A lucky few may catch a glimpse of the rare Cape clawless otter, which the Otter Trail is named after.
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