Travel Guide South Africa: Eastern Cape

Diverse landscapes, beautiful beaches, cultural treasures as well as a tremendous biodiversity – South Africa's Eastern cape is a true jewel. Learn more in the following blog.

Ann-Kathrin
Ann-Kathrin
Travel Guide
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By exploring the Eastern Cape visitors probably experience the most diverse region of South Africa. With multi-faceted landscapes and biomes, ancient customs and cultures as well as lonely beaches, the Eastern Cape is a true natural and cultural jewel. Travellers can visit breathtaking coasts, various national parks and reserves or learn more about the history and importance of the famous city of Port Elizabeth.

The Eastern Cape is located in the southeast of South Africa, east of Cape Town and south of Lesotho. The province is one of most untouched regions of the country. Guests get a special insight into ancient Africa. Culturally, the Eastern Cape is influenced by the Xhosa whose most famous personality was the politician and activist Nelson Mandela. According to CRM (Centre for Travel Medicine), the Eastern Cape region is declared malaria-free. With almost 170,000 km², the Eastern Cape is the second largest province in South Africa. Although Port Elizabeth and East London are the largest cities in the province, the city of Bhisho (just under 140,000 inhabitants) has been declared the capital of the region.

Profile

Name
Eastern Cape

Location
South East South Africa, between Cape Town and Lesotho

Size
approx. 170,000 km²

Animals
More than 70 mammals such as lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes as well as white sharks and whales, plus over 450 species of birds

Best travel time
Well accessible all year round

Highlights
National parks and nature reserves such as Addo Elephant National Park, Camdeboo National Park or Mountain Zebra National Park, as well as a variety of leisure activities and tours in Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay

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Visiting the Eastern Cape

Location, geography and climate

The Eastern Cape borders the Western Cape Province to the west, the Northern Cape to the north, Lesotho to the northeast and KwaZulu-Natal to the east. With about 170,000 km² it is the second largest province of the country. Scenically, the Eastern Cape is very diverse and in many parts untouched. Wide beaches, evergreen jungle forests and mountainous regions at an altitude of over 2000 m are just some of the diverse biomes of the province. The southwestern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains begin in the east.

While the inland climate is dry, the coastal regions are often windy and there are heavy rainfalls during the rainy season. Summers are warm with average temperatures of 26 °C. Winters are also mild, especially in the coastal regions, with average lows of 10 °C at night. The sea temperature is between 20 and 25 °C all year round thanks to warm currents.

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Flora and fauna

Addo Elephant National Park is probably the most famous safari destination in the Eastern Cape. You can see breathtaking herds of elephants (over 600 individuals), large herds of buffalo (over 400 individuals) as well as various species of antelope and cats of prey. When it comes to birds, the Eastern Cape is often overlooked. However, the Eastern Cape offers a bird list of almost 900 species, thanks to its diverse habitats.

In the water there is a lot to discover as well. The coastal region is home to dolphins, seals, various sharks, humpback whales and southern right whales. On an island off Port Elizabeth is also the world's largest breeding colony of Cape penguins.

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The various habitats also benefit the flora. In Addo National Park itself, 5 of South Africa's 9 biomes are represented – from Albany thickets and fynbos to forests, Nama-Karoo (high desert landscapes) and the coastal belt of the Indian Ocean which consists of beautiful dunes and grasslands. Also the famous floristic region of the Cape extends along the Garden Route to the Eastern Cape. Over 9000 plant species are part of the region.

Highlights

Wildlife enthusiasts should not miss Addo Elephant National Park. Camdeboo National Park also offers a unique experience. The park is divided into two parts and is situated in the mountainous region. It fascinates with a captivating field and cliff landscape. Some of the cliffs rise to heights of well over 100 m. You can also see klipspringers, springboks, meerkats and many other animals that have adapted to the special landscape of the park. Another highlight is the Mountain Zebra National Park. The park was established as a protected area for the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra. Cape Mountain Zebras are among the rarest large mammals. Apart from zebras, there is a whole range of other animals to be seen, such as various antelope species, cape buffaloes, brown hyaenas, chacma baboons, cheetahs, lions – to name a few. However, there are only just a few of roads in the park.

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The Eastern Cape is also the right destination for all adventurers. Especially in Port Elizabeth and East London, visitors can enjoy countless leisure activities. The beaches in Port Elizabeth are suitable for water sports activities such as fishing, surfing, diving or sailing. There is also a museum. From the many surrounding resorts and East London you can book walking tours to the nearby mountains. Besides a museum, there are some historical sightseeing spots to visit in East London. Further places worth seeing are the Sunshine and Wild Coast as well as the Nelson Mandela Museum and Uitenhage where more historical buildings can be admired.

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