For hundreds of years, the Eastern Cape has been the ancestral stronghold of the Xhosa people and while in many ways it has become westernised, remnants of this tribal history remain in the people and some of the unspoilt areas of the province.
On entering the Eastern Cape on the N2 highway one crosses the Bloukrans Bridge, the boundary between the Eastern and Western Cape. The very first attraction one is greeted with is the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, at 216 meters. This is a good indication of what is to come.
The Eastern Cape is an exhilarating experience for visitors from the bustling port cities of Port Elizabeth and East London with the blue flag beaches of the Eastern Cape such as Kings Beach, to the rural tranquility of the Transkei. Despite the cosmopolitan feeling in some of the urban centres, there is always an element of the untamed, just below the surface.
Luckily accessing it is easy, with excellent game reserves like the Addo Elephant Park within easy driving distance of Port Elizabeth. This 360 000 ha park contains five of the seven natural biomes in South Africa and is home to one of the densest elephant populations in the world.
Also close to Port Elizabeth lies the town of Jeffreys Bay. For most of the year it is a sleepy seaside village but in the spring it erupts into a frenzy of extreme sports, playing host to the international Billabong Surf competition and offering some of the best waves in the country for surfers.
East London, while a smaller city, is well equipped for travelers with a host of accommodation options and many things to see and do. The museum here is worth a visit for those interested in the history of the region. Venturing out of East London and heading up the east coast, one crosses the Kei River mouth into a seemingly different world. Endless green hills dotted with tribal kraals and countless aloes are the hallmark of the Transkei, a former homeland.
The capital of this area is Umtata, a relatively large city and is an ideal base from which to explore the aptly named Wild Coast. And wild it is. Towns like Port St Johns seem to barely keep the surrounding lush, sub tropical rainforests at bay and the sighting of Zambezi and shark speices in the waters of this coastline is common.
The famous wild coast offers endless activity options, with five star hotels, luxury self-catering accommodation, guesthouses and even fully-serviced campsites on offer for those that want to rough it.
The activities are all nature-oriented, with hiking, snorkeling, swimming and other water sports being popular choices, along with tours of genuine Xhosa cultural villages where one can sample local food, beer and take part in village life. The Wild Coast offers a true escape and simply relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere, is something that all visitors cannot seem to help doing.