South Africa’s ‘wild’ province, the Eastern Cape features expanses of untouched beach, bush and forest. This is Nelson Mandela’s home province, and an area with some enticing attractions – pristine beaches, abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery.
Addo Elephant National Park
This is one of the few reserves in the world that offers the Big Seven – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, great white sharks and southern right whales. The 164 000ha park, which is situated near Port Elizabeth, is rated as one of the best places in Africa to see elephants up close. It also has the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape gannets, rare flightless dung beetles, 1 000-year-old cycads, and hundreds of pastel-coloured proteas.
Cambedoo National Park
This stunningly beautiful reserve falls within the Karoo and is home to rare plants and wildlife. It almost completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet, the oldest town in the Eastern Cape. Its most famous attraction, however, is the Valley of Desolation, made up of spectacular dolerite pillars. Prehistoric fossils have been discovered on the floor of the valley. There are plenty of animals to be found, including the bat-eared fox, meerkat, vervet monkeys and Cape mountain zebra.
Baviaanskloof wilderness area
The Baviaanskloof mega-reserve is a natural, unspoilt mountain kingdom. The 200km-long Baviaanskloof, the Valley of the Baboons, is so named because of the large numbers of baboons in the area. Spectacular plant and animal life compete for attention.
Tsitsikamma National Park
This park forms part of the Garden Route National Park. The area is home to a delicately balanced marine eco-system and some excellent whale and dolphin viewing sites. Inland, the indigenous rain forest harbours 116 types of giant tree, including giant Outeniqua yellowwood trees – the largest of which is said to be over 800 years old and has a circumference of almost 9m.
The Eastern Cape has some of the best beaches in the world. This is the ideal region for sun-worshippers, water-sports junkies and nature-lovers. The province’s Sunshine Coast is a coastal belt stretching from Tsitsikamma to East London, offering glorious, sunny weather and access to beaches, lagoons, rivers and sheltered bays. From April to December much of the Eastern Cape coastline is ideal for spotting southern right whales as they follow their annual migration route.