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Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape may not be as well known as the Kruger as a safari destination, but there are some really excellent Big 5 game reserves here, including Shamwari and Kwandwe.

Perhaps the most well known is Greater Addo National Park where you can see lion and elephant inland and great white sharks at the coast all within the one park!  These destinations all work well as the culmination of a self-drive along the Garden Route out of Cape Town.

Apart from the wildlife, there is the incredible natural beauty of The Wild Coast stretching along the Eastern Cape’s northern coastline. Explore it on a self-drive on 4×4 trails to see dramatic coastlines, jagged cliffs, sheltered bays, wild beaches, green hills and valleys. For the energetic it is a hikers’ paradise and can also be enjoyed on horseback. This is Xhosa tribal country, birthplace of Nelson Mandela, with a landscape of gentle rolling hills dotted with tribal huts. Romantic shipwrecks, spectacular rock formations, pristine white sands, dolphins flashing in the waves and charming family 
hotels make this area one of South Africa’s best kept secrets. It’s ideal too as a family destination not least because it’s malaria-free.

 

at a glance

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Introduction

The Eastern Cape, lying on the southeastern South African coast is the second largest of South Africa’s nine provinces. This diverse province is situated between the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal, and bordered by the Orange River and Drakensberg Mountains. It is a region of great natural beauty, particularly the rugged cliffs, rough seas and dense green bush of the stretch known as the Wild Coast.

The province’s diverse climates and landscapes range from the dry and desolate Great Karoo to the lush forests of the Wild Coast and the Keiskamma Valley, the fertile Langkloof, renowned for its rich apple harvests, and the mountainous southern Drakensberg region around the town of Elliot.

The Eastern Cape’s main feature is its spectacular coastline, lapped by the temperate Indian Ocean. With long stretches of unspoilt sandy beaches, rocky coves, secluded lagoons and towering cliffs, the coast is the province’s main tourist attraction.

The selection of adventure includes the world’s biggest waves, the only snow slopes on the continent, and the highest bungee-jump in the southern hemisphere. The highlights of the Eastern Cape are without doubt the Addo Elephant Park, Grahamstown National Arts Festival, and the surfing capital of Jeffreys Bay.

Lying in Algoa Bay is Port Elizabeth, the largest city and an important harbour. Other major towns include Bisho, the capital; Uitenhage, which has important motor vehicle manufacturing and related industries; King William’s Town, rich in early settler and military history; Grahamstown, also known as the City of Saints because of its more than 40 churches; as well as Mthatha, Graaff-Reinet, Cradock, Stutterheim, Aliwal North, and Port St Johns, the largest town on the Wild Coast.

A trip to the Eastern Cape is not complete without catching a glimpse of Africa’s animals in their indigenous environment.  Greater Addo National Park perhaps best known for its elephant populations (in formerly Addo Elephant National Park), now spans to the coast encompassing both land and ocean animals and is home to the Big Seven: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, rhino, great white shark and southern right whale. Addo is a perfect location to self drive for an independent safari option. Whilst private game reserves such as Shamwari and Kwandwe Reserves now offer excellent game viewing in varied habitats and great game populations including the Big 5 and cheetah. Excellent lodges on the reserves offer a variety of experiences including game drives, bush walks and getting up close to ongoing conservation projects.

The Eastern Cape is an interesting place to visit. It’s capital is Bisho and its major city Port Elizabeth. Some of the country’s most powerful political figures, like Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, were born here and the capital city, Port Elizabeth, was a crucial centre of the anti-apartheid movement.

 

 

 

When To Visit

The best time to visit the Eastern Cape depends on the place and the season.

The coastal area of the Eastern Cape Province lies directly between the subtropical conditions of KwaZulu Natal and the Mediterranean conditions of the Western Cape, while its inland area is bisected by the great escarpment resulting in the southern reaches defined by a series of rivers and corresponding wetland fauna and flora, while the northern areas are those of the altitudinous plains of the Plateau and great Karoo. These topographical differences are what cause the climatic differences and conditions experienced by the towns and cities within these areas.

In the North East along the Wild Coast, towns like Port St Johns experience long, hot, balmy conditions and high rainfall, while Graaff Reinet, in the heart of the Karoo Heartland, experiences long hot summer months and moderate winters. Up towards the Free State (at towns such as Lady Grey and Aliwal North) the rise in altitude means the appropriate lowering in temperature and the towns, just a few hundred kilometres from the swelter of the other areas, experience conditions favoured more by skiers than sunbathers.

The city of Port Elizabeth enjoys a daily average of +/- 7-8 hours of sunshine annually. In Winter (April to August) the temperatures range from 7º to 20º C. In summer the temperatures range from 16º to 26º C. On the whole the weather in the Eastern Cape is good to visitors, rarely reaching extremes, except perhaps in the height of the Karoo summer. The changes depend on how much you move across the province’s expanse and in and out of different climatological zones.

In general, the weather along the coast is kind to visitors. Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) enjoys a daily average of seven hours of sunshine annually and the region rightly earns its title as the Sunshine Coast. It’s only in the Karoo regions that the weather reaches extremes, from the height of the harsh Karoo summer to the icy winters.

 

 

 

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Eastern Cape – Port Elizabeth

Eastern Cape Highlights

Addo Elephants

Addo Elephants

Addo Elephants

If it is elephants you want to see then head to Addo Elephant Park. Now South Africa's third ...

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Addo Elephants

Addo Elephants

If it is elephants you want to see then head to Addo Elephant Park. Now South Africa’s third largest national reserve, Addo Elephant National Park lies in the malaria-free Sundays River valley in the Eastern Cape, just over an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth.

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Family Safaris

Family Safaris

Family Safaris

The Eastern Cape Reserve is ideal for a Big Five family safari. Easily accessible on a self-drive, ...

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Family Safaris

Family Safaris

The Eastern Cape Reserve is ideal for a Big Five family safari. Easily accessible on a self-drive, malaria-free and offering an excellent choice of accommodation with a range of kid’s programs.

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Cheetah Tracking

Cheetah Tracking

Cheetah Tracking

Samara Game Reserve works closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust protecting the endangered ...

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Cheetah Tracking

Cheetah Tracking

Samara Game Reserve works closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust protecting the endangered cheetah species. The reserve gives you the opportunity to head out on foot with a tracker to spot these lovely cats.

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Big 5 Private Reserves

Big 5 Private Reserves

Big 5 Private Reserves

The Eastern Cape offers some superb Big 5 game reserves, including Shamwari and Kwandwe. Highly ...

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Big 5 Private Reserves

Big 5 Private Reserves

The Eastern Cape offers some superb Big 5 game reserves, including Shamwari and Kwandwe. Highly trained rangers conduct game drives in open land rovers and take you close to elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, giraffe and several antelope species. Perfect for a first time safari.

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Rhino Conservation

Rhino Conservation

Rhino Conservation

Chandelle Game Reserve - Spend 3 - 4 hours tracking rhino with a specialist ranger and tracker ...

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Rhino Conservation

Rhino Conservation

Chandelle Game Reserve – Spend 3 – 4 hours tracking rhino with a specialist ranger and tracker team. Learn about the habits of this threatened species, the issue of rhino poaching, as well as Kwandwe’s own conservation efforts.

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Surfing

Surfing

Surfing

Jefferys Bay has the kind of waves that attract surfers from around the world. J-Bay is ...

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Surfing

Surfing

Jefferys Bay has the kind of waves that attract surfers from around the world. J-Bay is special because a wave can run up to 800m, offering surfers an unbeatable and everlasting ride.

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camps & lodges

Camp Figtree

Camp Figtree

Camp Figtree is a colonial style guest lodge, set between the renowned Addo Elephant National Park to the north and east and the Riverbend ... Read More

Ecca Lodge

Ecca Lodge

Ecca Lodge is intimate, relaxed, stylish and trendy. Emblazoned with the vibrant colours and textures of the African people, you could be ... Read More

Great Fish River Lodge

Great Fish River Lodge

The luxurious Great Fish River Lodge is perched along the steep banks of the Great Fish River. This elevated lodge is designed to make the most of ... Read More

Kuzuko Lodge

Kuzuko Lodge

Kuzuko Lodge is situated on a 15,000 hectare private concession just north of the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. Kuzuko means place ... Read More

Msenge Bush Lodge

Msenge Bush Lodge

The romantic Msenge Lodge is located in the 7,000 hectare Pumba Private Game Reserve in the malaria free Eastern Cape. Tucked away on this reserve, ... Read More

Pumba Water Lodge

Pumba Water Lodge

Pumba Water Lodge is located in the 7,000 hectare Pumba Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. From its elevated position, Water Lodge (aptly ... Read More