Eastern Cape in South Africa

The Eastern Cape, although far less visited than many parts of South Africa, is a fascinating region of wild, empty beaches, forested mountains and the sun-baked plains of the Karoo. Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), a major industrial centre, has surprisingly good beaches, and acts as a gateway to the Garden Route, the lush coast stretching towards Cape Town, and Tsitsikamma National Park. A short drive from here is Jeffrey's Bay, where the long beach and perfect waves attract surfers from around the world.

To the north is a variety of game reserves and national parks, including the extended Addo Elephant National Park, the third largest game reserve in the country, where lions have been introduced among its famously large herds of elephant. It's now the only place in South Africa where you can see the Big Seven - elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard, whale and shark. Nearby, a clutch of newly created private game reserves have been restocked with animals not seen in the region for more than 150 years.

Further inland lie the mystical landscapes of the Amatola Mountains and the Mountain Zebra National Park, which is a haven for the endangered mountain zebra. In the north is the sharply contrasting Karoo, with its surreal semi-desert conditions and quirky 19th-century towns.

During the Apartheid era the eastern region was referred to as the Transkei, the former homeland for the Xhosa people. These days the area is known as the Wild Coast because of its rugged, virtually deserted coastline. The area is far less developed than much of South Africa's coast, and most of the people live in rural settlements and work on the land. Instead of full-blown resorts, there are small seaside villages backed by protected stretches of verdant coastal forest and windswept dunes.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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