The Eastern Cape Province is situated in the most south-eastern area of South Africa, and includes part of the Karoo semi-desert, and a coastline along the Indian Ocean. The Eastern Cape is well known for its natural landscape, including the beaches and resorts, and a subtropical rainforest. Jeffery’s Bay in the Eastern Cape forms a part of the country’s wildest coastline, with a stretch of the coast named the Wild Coast.
The Eastern Cape encompasses part of the former homeland of the Xhosa tribe. Nelson Mandela (who was Xhosa) was born in Qunu, a small rural village, which is also the location of his burial site, where the state funeral was held after his death in 2013. The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre is also situated there. The second state president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki also hails from the Eastern Cape.
In contrast to the prominent tourism sector along the coastline and some of the country’s most luxurious resorts and homes in areas such as Saint Francis Bay, the Eastern Cape is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. This is a result of most of the area consisting of small subsistent farms owned by the poor majority of the population.
The capital city of the province is Bhisho, although the largest city is Port Elizabeth, which along with East London forms the two economic centres of the province. The Eastern Cape’s infrastructure and economy is dependent on, and the result of a strong automotive manufacturing industry and the popularity of local harbours.
Eastern Cape Demographics
Land size: 168,966 square kilometers
Population size: 6,562,053 people
Population race breakdown: 86.3% black African, 8.3% coloured, 4.7% white and 0.4% Indian/Asian
Languages spoken: 78.8% Xhosa, 10.6% Afrikaans, 5.6% English, 2.5% Sotho
Top 3 Nature and Game Reserves – Eastern Cape
Tiffindel Ski Resort
Tiffindel is the only ski resort in South Africa and one of only two ski resorts in Africa. The resort re-opened in 2013 after re-acquisition by new owners and a renovation. The resort is open for skiing and snowboarding in winter months and is a nature retreat in the summer months when visitors can hike amongst unique alpine flowers and enjoy the views from the Ben Macdhui Mountain, the highest peak of the Drakensburg Mountains situated in the Cape.
Tsitsikamma National Park
The national park is situated on the Garden Route and is famous for its many hiking trails, including the Otter Trail. The world’s highest bungee jump, the Bloukrans Bridge is located near the park.
Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant Park is the third largest national park in South Africa and is situated nearby Port Elizabeth. The conservation park serves over 120,000 visitors annually and is the home of several endangered black rhinos, 600 elephants and several other species including lions, antelope, Cape buffalo and hyenas.
Top 3 Places to go to in the Eastern Cape
Nicknamed “The Friendly City” and “The Windy City”, Port Elizabeth is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors are attracted by the city’s golden beaches, situated at the end of the Cape Garden Route. Whale watching is a popular past time for tourists in the PE, which is also the commerce centre of the Eastern Cape.
Grahamstown was established as a military outpost by the British who feared an attack on the Cape Colony by the Xhosa people who lived east of the town. Today, the city is known for its culture and creative atmosphere as well as being the host city for the well-celebrated annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival which takes place every winter in June/July. SciFest, a national science festival takes place in the city in March and April. Rhodes University, one of the best tertiary institutions in South Africa is also based there.
East London is the second largest city in the province after Port Elizabeth and is also the location of Port Rex, the country’s only river port, which is located on the Buffalo River and was established in 1879. East London is also the home of the four-time world female surfing champion Wendy Botha, which has made the town famous for its surfing beaches. The city also has a Formula One racing Circuit, the Prince George Racing Circuit, where the Formula One World Drivers’ Champion Jody Scheckter began his racing career.
The Eastern Cape has a beautiful coastline and encompasses the Southern Drakensburg Mountains, both of which will intrigue any nature lover. The art culture and history add to the attractiveness of the area, making it a must-see province of South Africa.