Once a region side-stepped by most travellers in favour of the Garden Route and Big Game Country of the north, South Africa’s Eastern Cape continues to win visitors over with its pristine coastline, accessible and malaria-free wildlife reserves, picturesque villages and surreal hinterland landscapes.
As the second largest province in the country it also boasts 800 kilometres of sun-soaked coastline including at its most northern end, the lush 174-kilometre long ‘Wild Coast’; a stretch of shoreline termed as such thanks to a delightful lack of development, rivers ending in expansive estuaries, long sandy crescent beaches, rocky headlands, coastal dunes and many a shipwreck to dive.
With the most of the region’s Big Five game and nature reserves being malaria-free and all within a 45 minute to 1.5-hour drive from Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape is a safari experience well-suited to families or those looking for a more straightforward trip. Among these are Shamwari Kwandwe Private Game Reserves which boast some of fine luxury and Afro-chic lodges, and the fabulous Settlers Drift Lodge in Kariega Private Game Reserve.
The region’s interior hinterlands are also what shape the Eastern Cape as a distinct destination and are worth mentioning for its endless horizons and desolate scrublands creating quite a dreamlike lunarscape interrupted with picturesque old settlement towns such as Graaff-Reinet.
When to go
The Eastern Cape is a year-round destination, although temperatures tend to be milder on the coast than in the hinterland interior generally.
What to do
- Safari in its private reserves
- Surfing in Jeffrey's Bay
- Horse riding
- Unspoilt beaches of the wild coast
- Visit the towns of Grahamstown and Graaff-Reinet