Part Coastal Temperate, Part Mediterranean Climate 169 580 sq km / Pop 6 600 000 Algoa Bay, the Eastern Cape’s primary port, was settled by the ancestors of the San as long as 100 000 years ago and they were only displaced or assimilated by the forebears of the current dominant language group, the X ...
Part Coastal Temperate, Part Mediterranean Climate 169 580 sq km / Pop 6 600 000
Algoa Bay, the Eastern Cape’s primary port, was settled by the ancestors of the San as long as 100 000 years ago and they were only displaced or assimilated by the forebears of the current dominant language group, the Xhosas, as recently as 2000 years ago.
The province’s 800-kilometre coastline stretches from the Tsitiskamma Forest along pristine beaches and through forests and river gorges to Port Edward on the Mtamvuna River where it abuts with KwaZulu-Natal. The small towns and villages of the province’s interior offer some of the country’s best heritage tourism opportunities and history tours, not to mention staggering scenery. Who said that the central South African Karoo was flat and boring? They never stood on top of the Lootsberg and looked at the view! And the Transkei is still arguably South Africa’s most unspoilt region, with traditional life barely impinged upon by the ravages of industrialisation.
That industrialisation, which was to lead eventually to Port Elizabeth’s being known as the Detroit of South Africa for its vehicle manufacturing, effectively started in the small settlements of Bathurst and Grahamstown when the 1820 settlers joined the small groups of Boers who had migrated this far west and began to build farming communities.
Large numbers of Boers felt the consequent need to move further northwards as a result of British interference, and thus the province became the launch-pad for the many groups heading out on the Great Trek into the interior which would, in turn, lead to the establishment of the Boer republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State.
Nowadays, with the exception of Port Elizabeth and East London, its two major cities, much of the Eastern Cape consists of farming towns and communities, concentrating principally on sheep, goats, cattle and ostriches. Growing conservation areas and national parks have also led to the establishment of some significant wildlife populations.
Prickly Pear Festival (March) Uitenhage, 15 000 people worshipping the spiky fruit
Sasol SciFest (March) Grahamstown, a scientists’ think tank and talking shop
National Arts Festival, (June) Grahamstown, SA biggest cultural event. Serious stuff and a Fringe on the fringe.
Billabong Surfing Champs (July) Jeffrey’s Bay – climb a-board
Kirkwood Wildlife Festival (July) Kirkwood – game show and auction
Jansenville Goat and Mohair Show (November) – drum majorettes and a shearing demonstration (shearing goats, not drummies).
Features, creatures & Flower power
Chokka – the local calamari is said to be the best (sorry, Falkland Islands) but most of it is exported. St Francis Bay is probably your best bet
Roosterkoek – savoury bread from the braai. An old Eastern Cape speciality
iQhilika – local mead. Choose from dry, sweet, herbal and chilli. Not even King Arthur was offered such a range of choices
One million hectares of malaria-free game viewing in the Addo National Park and surrounding private reserves
Tsitsikamma Forest – fynbos, canopied forest and dramatic river gorges. Find the giant Outenqiua Yellowwood. Spot rare birds including the Knysna Loerie and the elusive Narina Trogon. Follow the Ratel Trail
The Zuurveld or Sour Veld around Grahamstown – some of the most challenging farmland in the world. Count the sheep and fall asleep!