Eyes on Africa is becoming Eyes on Adventure and adding exciting new destinations - new and expanded website coming soon!
India, Madagascar, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Galápagos, Pantanal and Amazon.

African Safaris with Eyes on Africa African Safaris with Eyes on Africa African Safaris with Eyes on Africa

Eyes on Africa on Facebook

Bookmark and Share


South Africa Safari

The Eastern Cape - Tourist Information & Activities

Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Hobie Cat, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa Mazeppa Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa School Girls with painted faces, Eastern Cape, South Africa Water Skiing, Redhouse, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Return to Map of Eastern Cape            Images © South African Tourism

The landscape of the Eastern cape is relatively diverse, from arid desolate Karoo to lush green Tsitsikamma Forest and fertile Lankloof and Sundays River Valleys. The main public game reserve in this area is the Addo Elephant Park with the private game reserve of Shamwari not far away. This was a true frontier post in the early 1800s.

Various peoples met along the coastal migration routes and as a result many battles were fought here. White settlers clashed with the Xhosa, Pondo, Zulu and Sotho tribes. The unique architecture of the towns and cities reflects the unique mixed heritage of the people and the many museums reflect the turbulent history. The Eastern Cape is an agricultural region producing mainly grains and fruits, though there are some cattle and sheep ranches.

The Eastern Cape has a wealth of beautiful natural areas, with a rich diversity of vegetation, fauna and landscapes. Some of these areas include proclaimed provincial nature reserves, marine reserve, and coastal islands; while others are referred to as conservation or wilderness areas. The Eastern Cape is also an important meeting ground of six major converging Biomes, and 25 of the Acocks veld types occur in the Eastern Province:

(a) The Savannah Biome which includes the valley bushveld flora of the summer rainfall area
(b) The Fynbos Biome characteristic of a winter rainfall
(c) The Grassland Biome which includes Flora of higher altitudes
(d) The Succulent-Karoo Biome with its Flora which flourishes under arid and semi-arid conditions
(e) The Thornfelt-Karoo Biome
(f) Indigenous Forest Biome

Spectacular examples of local vegetation are ericas, protease, wild daisies, the Cape Thatching reed, the Yellowwood, Schotia and Coral Trees, Spekboom (favourite food of the elephant), tree fuschia, sneezewood, guarri, the num-num and other shrubs (found predominantly in the Addo area), many varied grass types, Euphorbia, Aloe and other succulents, along with herbs and bulbous plants.

South Africa's native fauna is the premier attraction of the many wildlife game reserves the Eastern Cape. Boasting some magnificent and almost untouched scenery, the area is malaria-free and is fast becoming one of the foremost game viewing destinations in the country. Various private game farms in the area have ensured that the Eastern Cape is well stocked with wildlife. Varieties of buck (bushbuck, duiker, grey rhebok, mountain reedbuck, grysbok) and birdlife inhabit the region and just 72kms from the city centre, one can view the Big 5 (Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo) plus zebra, giraffe, and more....Malaria Free.

Three powerful nations shaped today's Republic of South Africa: the British, the Xhosa and the Afrikaner. It was in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa that they first made contact over 200 years ago.

While there was limited understanding between Xhosa and European settler, the economic needs of both were essentially pastoral, and at first, there was no reason for conflict. It seemed that there was land enough for all and to spare.

However, inevitably, conflicting demands coupled with the ignorance of each group about the other's culture, together with differing attitudes towards land ownership, spiritual beliefs and civilization, paved the way for conflict to fester, simmer and finally erupt.

The first frontier war broke out in 1780 and market the beginning of the Xhosa struggle to preserve their traditional customs and way of life. It was a struggle that was to increase in intensity when the British arrived on the scene.

The Xhosa fought for one hundred years to preserve their independence and heritage, in a land of great diversity, spectacular scenery and rare beauty. And still today, this area is known as Frontier Country.

Now no longer the scene of conflict and strife, Frontier Country remains spectacularly beautiful. In its natural state, it is one of the most diverse regions on earth. Much of the pristine indigenous flora and fauna is still very accessible, making for breath-taking views, experiences and memories.

Frontier Country is also a meeting place for four major weather systems, which share a common boundary, hence the incredibly diverse environment. A trip through Frontier Country exposes the traveler to spectacular mountain ranges, valleys, lush forests, scrub bush and some of the most spectacular and unspoiled beaches our country has to offer.

In Frontier Country one can experience untamed Africa at its best and view the 'big five' (seven if you include whales and the Great White Shark) in malaria- and bilharzia-free reserves. One can indulge in fresh and salt water fishing for trout and ocean game fish, experience some of the most rewarding bird watching (if you're lucky you'll see indigenous parrots in their natural environment) and see a wide range of plant life including the almost prehistoric cycads in their natural environment. It may also be possible to attend one or more of over 400 performances presented annually at the biggest Arts Festival in the Southern Hemisphere.

Visitors can explore and visit the beautiful towns and villages the British settlers established years ago. Old mission stations, schools and the university where Nelson Mandela and other prominent African leaders were educated can also be found.

Whether you choose to explore Frontier Country in the saddle - on horseback or your mountain bicycle - by car or coach, by river raft or canoe or on your own two feet, you will be awed by the beauty of its mountains, valleys, plains, rivers and coastline. There are also opportunities to indulge in adventure sports ranging from skydiving to scuba diving.

Frontier Country people from all walks of life are hospitable and friendly. Whether you are buying arts and crafts, sampling a traditional meal, enjoying fine cuisine in a country restaurant, having a pint in a country pub, watching a cricket match on an old village green or visiting a township or historical monument, you will be made to feel especially welcome.

There is a great deal for explorers to do in Frontier Country, including visiting historical sites, architectural gems, museums and galleries.

Game and Nature In Frontier Country
The Frontier Country originally boasted herds of game that rivaled all others. The region's climatic diversity also meant that a great range of game existed in the many varied biomes compacted into a relatively small area.

Unfortunately, after the arrival of European hunters, a large proportion of the game was shot out, and it was only with the beginning of the conservation ethic in the mid-twentieth century that the situation was reversed and the wildlife of the area made a strong natural comeback. Today Frontier Country is still the only place in Africa where one can view the big five in an environment free of malaria, bilharzia and other tropical diseases and in their natural habitat!

The area now has nearly a million hectares devoted to game. A range of public and private nature reserves span the area, from the world famous Addo Elephant Park in the west to the magnificent Double Drift in the east.

The Karoo - South Africa's vast central plateau - is a land of wide open skies and, for many South Africans, the true heart of the country. As an enviro-tourism destination, the Karoo is unsurpassed, with scenery that changes from dramatic, rugged mountains to arid, open plains.

Malaria free game viewing, mountaineering, hunting, farm visits, bird-watching, water sports - they're all here, alongside imposing historical buildings, mysterious rock art and ancient fossils.

Stay a while and discover the endless silence of this semi-desert; gaze into the night sky and resist the temptation to pluck a star or a planet from its place in the heavens; here they all seem so close, so bright that the Karoo is considered the world's best stargazing destination.

The Sunshine Coast incorporates more then a million hectares of malaria free game reserve - so you hove more than a million reasons to visit.

This is one Route that deserves its name - stretching from Port Elizabeth in the west to East London in the east, it boosts hundreds of kilometres of shining beaches that bask in the highest number of sunshine hours on South Africa's coast.

But its not just beaches and nature reserves that make the Sunshine Coast - here you'll find plenty of entertainment, history, culture and outdoor adventure. A museum that houses the world's only Dodo egg and the famous first coelacanth, 'Old Four Legs', whose discovery near East London in 1938 catapulted South Africa into the front rank of the world's Ichthyological stage. The Grahamstown Festival, held in the historic town Grahamstown, is the country's oldest and largest annual celebration of the arts.

Numerous golf courses can be found in the area, plus every kind of water sport imaginable. Other activities include fishing, hiking, 4x4 trails and horse riding, plus casinos and cinema complexes, theatres and opera houses and all the other attractions that you'd expect from a leading tourism destination. But there's one unique difference - the Eastern Cape remains largely unspoiled and un-commercialized. So an African holiday on the Sunshine Coast will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated - and with a renewed sense of people's basic goodness and friendliness.

An Almost untouched paradise, An environmental haven with the feel of the 'true' African coastline - the Wild Coast is an almost unbelievable experience. And it is completely unforgettable.

Craggy, rocky and untamed, the Wild Coast is the pearl in the crown of the Eastern Cape with countless natural attractions and a rich cultural heritage. Kilometre after kilometre of unspoiled coastline, forest and open spaces where you can enjoy sandy beaches, fishing, horse riding, birding, hiking, famous shipwrecks and strandloper caves.

Explore the age-old traditions and customs of the local Xhosa people, visit the birth place of Nelson Mandela (ot Qunu) and learn about the astonishingly uplifting life of the man who lead South Africa into her modern democracy at Umtata's Nelson Mandela Museum. With accommodation to suit all tastes - from seaside shacks to comfortable hotels, as well as numerous adventure activities, an escape to the Wild Coast is the quickest way to rediscover your passion for living.


Addo Elephant National Park is part of the South Africa National Park Service and is a delightful reserve near Port Elizabeth. The elephants used to be tightly packed in this park but it has recently been expanded so that these large but quietly trodden pachyderms have a wider area in which to roam. Due to this, it is harder to see them but evidence will be all around. An elephant produces 150 kilos of dung every day (about one drop every 15 minutes), so the precious flightless dung beetles have quite a job to do.

You will see many signs in this park asking you to take care not to run over dung beetles that are vital to the fragile ecology. Accommodation is in basic but attractive chalets which overlook a well trodden path to the waterhole in front of the main lodge. You can eat at the basic restaurant or take your own barbeque food and cook it on your patio while watching elephants pass by. Just after dusk the silver backed jackals often start howling, an eerie serenade in the silence.

As the early European settlers secured land and settled down, grazing lands made way for grain. Zebra was a popular hide for making grain bags and the zebra-like quagga disappeared over the slippery slope, closely followed by his cousin the Cape mountain zebra. Down to a population of 91 in the 1950s, the mountain zebra was luckier than its hapless cousin to survive at all. There are now some 1,200 Cape mountain zebra world-wide and the Mountain Zebra National Park has one of the largest herds. The undulating hills and vegetation-dotted valleys of the park, harbour a variety of antelope as well.

The Mountain Zebra Hiking Trail gives you three days and two nights among the flora and fauna but there are shorter nature trails as well as horse-riding excursions. Accommodation is in a restored Victorian farmhouse as well as traditional Karoo cottages. And there’s always camping. There is no need to bring in your own provisions – there’s a shop, restaurant as well as a gas station. Other mammals found here include eland, black wildebeest, red hartebeest and gemsbok. Mountain reedbuck and grey rhebok frequent the higher areas, whilst they shy caracal cat occupy the niche of primary predator. Summers are warm, and winter nights are cold, with regular rainfalls.

Shamwari is privately owned and Africa's southernmost game reserve. It is situated in the malaria free Eastern Cape, near the sunny city of Port Elizabeth. Although it is only 180m², the reserve contains all of the big five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). Other animal species that you may encounter are hippo, zebra, black and blue wildebeest, common and black springbok, blesbok, red hartebeest, gemsbok, eland, kudu and bushbuck. At night you may see the aardvark, caracal, genet or Cape grysbok. There are over 200 varieties of raptors and birds, from the majestic marshall eagle, to the greater double-collared sunbird. Ongoing projects ensure that the land and indigenous plantlife are restored to the area, while the anti-poaching unit protects the wildlife.

East London
East London is one of South Africa's richest and most diverse eco-tourism destinations on offer. It serves as a gateway to three of the Eastern Cape's tourist destinations. The Sunshine Coast and Country to the west of East London, the Wild Coast to the east of East London and Amatola Mountain Escape, towards the interior. Along these routes are destinations of exceptional beauty including open, sandy beaches, daring coastal cliffs, fertile valleys, river and estuary lagoons and indigenous forests, the ultimate outdoor and wilderness destination!

East London is South Africa’s only river port, situated on the mouth of the Buffalo River, so called by the Khoi San because of the large number of these animals roaming the area. It was eventually settled as a means of providing supplies to the garrisons, who were protecting the white settlers from the warring Xhosa tribe. In the late 1850’s the population of East London was boosted by the introduction of some German settlers, most of whom were bachelors. In 1857 the British Government took pity on them and a cargo of 157 Irish girls arrived to help lift morale. The unusual double Decker Bridge over the Buffalo River was completed in 1935 and to this day, is the only bridge of its type in South Africa. Modern day attractions include the East London Museum housing the coelacanth, a prehistoric fish thought to be extinct and numerous memorial statues.

East London's beaches are rated among the finest in the world. Certain areas, mostly notably world famous Nahoon Reef, are renowned for their surfing and consistent wave conditions and play host to international surfing competitions. Water World and Fun Park on the west bank of the Buffalo River is a superb facility for children offering super tube, speed slides, river cascades, paddling pools, a play park and mini 4X4's.

Fort Beaufort
Fort Beaufort was founded in 1824 and was named after the father of Lord Charles Somerset, the Duke of Beaufort. Originally a military garrison, Fort Beaufort boasts many fine buildings dating back to the Frontier wars, including the Martello Tower, a circular fort of the kind usually erected as part of a coastal defense system. The old Victorian barracks is probably the finest to be found anywhere outside the United Kingdom. During the War of MIanjeni, the town was attacked and nearly overrun by anti-colonial forces led by Hermanus Matroos.

Fort Beaufort is an excellent base from which to explore the fascinating Kat River Valley and the surrounding Katberg and Amatola Mountains which saw some of the heaviest fighting anywhere in South Africa. At Fort Fordyce the great Xhosa chief Maqoma humiliated the British hero Sir Harry Smith.

Graaff-Reinet - The Gem of the Karoo
Established in 1786, this town was named after the Governor of that time - 'van der Graaf' and his wife -'Reinet'. Known to be a barren and untamed area, it became the outpost of white civilization for trading by the middle of the last century. The picturesque Sneeuberg mountain range keep watch over this typical 19th century rural town and the town lies in the horse-shoe bend of the Sundays River.

It is one of the only towns in the world to be surrounded by nature reserve - a unique location for a truly unique town. It is also home to the Valley of Desolation - a breathtaking spectacle of precariously balanced Dolerite columns.

Graaff-Reinet is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape, and much of its charm comes from the huge number of restored historical buildings that line its streets (it has more national monuments than any other town in South Africa). But it is also a town of the Karoo, which is known for its warm hearted and open hospitality, and a town where nature takes precedence, surrounded as it is by the Karoo Nature Reserve.

The heaviest flying bird in the world - the Kori Bustard, one of over 220 bird species, can be found in the area, as well as a grapevine purported to be the largest in the world, this ancient vine still bears grapes every year.

Why not try something different - perhaps the adventure of a lifetime - when you go paragliding with black eagles. Come share the thermals of the vast Karoo skies with these magnificent birds. You may even catch a glimpse of the shy Cape Mountain Zebra - once an endangered species, now thriving in the Nature Reserve.

Colonel John Graham established Grahamstown in 1812. His brief was to survey the frontier and establish a series of forts along the Fish River, the newly proclaimed border with Xhosa territories. It was the first town to be established by the British in South Africa, its location being primarily chosen for the perceived abundance of water. It remained a military garrison and was the site of the famous 1819 attack by Nxele (Makana) in his attempt to halt the European incursion into Xhosa territory.

A bitter battle, described as the most significant in South African history, ensued in which the Xhosa were finally forced to withdraw after the timely arrival of a group of Khoi-Khoi hunters under the leadership of Jan Boesak. Today the battle area is known by the local people as Egazini, meaning the "Place of Blood". A monument to the Xhosa warriors who died defending their homeland has been erected and specialist guides are at hand to lead tours of the battlefield.

As a result of this battle it was decided to settle 4,000 Britons in the area to consolidate British occupation of the territory. Their influence on subsequent South African history was far reaching and way out of proportion to their limited numbers compared to the local inhabitants. After the arrival of the settlers, Grahamstown grew rapidly to become the second largest town in South Africa after Cape Town. As military activity moved further east and north, education took over as its main infrastructure.

Grahamstown has more than 70 declared National Heritage sites. One of these is the highest church spire in the country, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of many famous buildings of the Victorian era, including the Albert Memorial in London's Kensington Gardens and St Pancras Station in London.

Grahamstown remains an important educational and cultural centre today, with easy access to game reserves and the unspoilt beaches of the Sunshine Coast. The surrounding area is farmed, largely for chicory, pineapples, ostriches, sheep and game. The city is also an important legal center.

Jeffreys Bay
After a little more than two decades, Jeffrey’s Bay matured into a quiet fishing village, until its sandy warm beaches and perfect swimming and surfing bays were discovered. Jeffreys Bay has some of the most sensational surf in the world, many say the best. The waves just go on and on in perfect tubes and every July the beach gets packed with freshly waxed boards and sun bleached blond surfers for the national championships. When the tide has gone out and the surfers have retired, the beach is yours to stroll and comb for its rare and beautiful shells washed up by the warm Indian Ocean.

Kenton on Sea
This peaceful coastal resort lies between the Bushmans and Kariega Rivers and offers a wide range of activities. You can explore coves, lagoons, rivers and beaches. The twenty hectare Joan Muirhead Nature Reserve is close by and plays a very important part in the ecosystem of Kenton on Sea. This resort town has a temperate climate and large stretches of beach. Along the shore is an historic ‘Dias Cross’, erected five centuries ago by Bartholomew Diaz, the first Portuguese ocean explorer to sail along the eastern coast of South Africa. The area has a variety of plant and birdlife, including some century old cycads, which are one of the most primitive plants still surviving today. There are plenty of rock pools, excellent swimming, water sports and fishing. With easy access to all the scenic wonders the Eastern Cape has to offer, Kenton on Sea is an African vacationer's paradise.

Port Alfred
This outstanding African holiday spot, flanked by splendid beaches, straddles the banks of the Kowie River. The beaches extend for miles, making them ideal for walking.

Popular among water sport enthusiasts for swimming, surfing, boating, water-skiing and scuba diving, the town has a picturesque boat harbour, residential marina and first class angling. There are stunning sea views from The Royal Port Alfred Golf Course, and the surrounding countryside has many hiking trails, and historical and scenic places to visit.

Port Alfred lies on the picturesque R72 coastal road, half way between Port Elizabeth and East London. This small town was once a sleepy fishing village at the mouth of the Kowie river, which is navigable for some 28 kilometers upstream. Today Port Alfred boasts a huge yacht harbour. With man-made islands and canals, a paradise especially for boat owners was created, and the boats can travel either to sea or up the river.

The climate in Port Alfred is, like everywhere else at the Sunshine Coast, subtropical. Wide and long beaches with fine sand are particularly popular with surfers. The water temperatures lie between 18 and 24 C degrees.

Along the coast there are reefs that provide excellent diving grounds. A well-reputed diving school offers its services to beginners. The Kowie river is particularly popular with canoeists (Kowie Canoe Trail, 18 kilometers long). Port Alfred boasts an excellent golf course too, which belongs in the top ten in the country.

Port Elizabeth
A superb value-for-money African holiday base, the city offers a diverse selection of attractions as a family-fun holiday destination including eco-attractions, scenic nature trails, historic heritage, magnificent wildlife, cultural experiences and countless water sport activities. Algoa Bay's 40 km of breathtaking coastline boasts a perfect combination of warm water, protected beaches and is complemented by Port Elizabeth's wonderful climate, which has been rated as having the fourth best weather of any coastal city in the world! Furthermore, the area supports the most diverse array of vegetation types in South Africa as five of the country's seven terrestrial biomes (biogeographic areas) are represented in the Eastern Cape.

The Bay, which is a favoured draw-card for beach and watersport enthusiasts is fast becoming known as South Africa's watersport capital and offers activity throughout the year, especially wind-surfing and fishing. In fact, Algoa Bay is regarded as one of the best sailing venues in the world, while scuba diving is of world class quality with beautiful reefs, shipwrecks, fish and colourful coral species.

Riebeeck East
The Dutch Reformed Church established the village of Riebeek East in 1830 on the farm Mooimeisiesfontein, the home of the famous Voortrekker leader Piet Retief. Previously the local Boer farmers had to trek to Uitenhage, about 130 kilometres away for the Nagmaal (Communion services). The need for a church in the area became very apparent and while the British government turned down an initial request in 1826, a second in 1830 was granted. In the South African tradition, a town grew up around the church. Riebeeck East is now in the midst of a game and sheep farming area and offers many attractions and hiking trails through the surrounding diverse and beautiful hills. The Mooimeisiesfontein farmhouse, the home of Piet Retief, still stands and has been declared a National heritage site.

St Francis Bay
The picturesque South African holiday town of St Francis Bay, where whitewash and thatch rub shoulders with Sardinian-style red tile roofs, lies among beautiful green clad dunes. Approximately half of the town is constructed around the largest man made web of canals and waterways in Africa. The Kromme River noted for the wild flowers growing along its banks, winds its way to the ocean and provides a paradise for anglers, canoeists, windsurfers and boaters. A nature lover could lose himself in the natural beauty of the area with superb hiking and biking trails in the nature reserve, along the dune river system or the vast white beaches. Bird life is abundant in this area. The waters of the bay are world famous for their perfect surfing waves and ideally suited to almost any type of water sport. Dolphins and whales certainly seem to think so and play in the water alongside the surfers. The bay also boasts some of the finest rock and surf angling along the East Coast. Adjacent to St Francis Bay is the rustic fishing village of Cape St Francis with its beautiful beach and historic lighthouse while Port St Francis is the harbour.

Before the Voortrekker era, the Mthatha River was regarded as the boundary between the Tembu and Pando tribes who were amongst the earliest people in the area. The nearby Mthatha River is said to have received its name from the number of Thathe or Sneezewood trees, which flourish along its banks. A notably treacherous river when it floods, another theory suggests that the name derives from the word thatha (taker), owing to the damage and fatalities caused by the flooding river. The Chiefs from both these tribes decided the only way to stop the incessant brawling between the two tribes was to create a ‘white buffer zone’. They allocated farms along the banks of the river to be rented out to the white settlers. The first person to acquire one of these farms was the Bishop H. Callaway who arrived as the first bishop of the Anglican Diocese in this area. He erected his headquarters, as well as a church, a school and a hospital. The township was laid out in 1879 and there is a handsome building, which is used for the parliament. The town hall is impressive and overlooks a superb garden.

Top           Return to Map of Eastern Cape

Photo Gallery: Eastern Cape Photo Gallery [Page 2 / Page 3]
For History and General information about South Africa, click More South Africa

Travel Insurance

Wilderness Wildlife Trust            Eyes on Africa sponsors Children in the Wilderness            Eyes on Africa is a corporate sponsor of The African Wildlife Foundation

Eyes on Africa is proud to be a certified Fundi - a South Africa Tourism Specialist                           Eyes on Africa is endorsed by IATAN - International Airlines Travel Agent Network           Eyes on Africa is a member of the Better Business Bureau             Eyes on Africa is a member of ASTA - The American Society of Travel Agents (member #900143776)

African Safari - Home          Site Map          Currency Converter          Search          Links          Blog          Africa Weather          Budget Safaris          Photo Safaris

Botswana Safari          Kenya Safari          Malawi Safari          Mozambique Safari          Namibia Safari          Rwanda Safari          Seychelles Islands

South Africa Safari          Tanzania Safari          Zambia Safari          Zimbabwe Safari

Safari Map          About Us          Our African Safaris          Scheduled Safaris          Rates and Pricing          Planning          News          FAQ's          Photography          Contact Us

Eyes on Africa, Ltd.
1743 West Fletcher Street
Chicago, Illinois 60657
Tel: 800.457.9575 / 773.549.0169    Fax: 773.327.2977    Email: Eyes on Africa

All content © 2002-2016, Eyes on Africa, Ltd. All rights reserved.
All images © 1995-2016, James Weis/Eyes on Africa (unless otherwise noted). All rights reserved.
Legal Restrictions & Terms of Use  •  Privacy Statement  •  Travel Terms & Conditions  •  Travel Info Form  •  Travel Agreement  •  Travel Insurance Form  •  Credit Card Form

email webmaster: EOA Webmaster