Sunbathe on the coast of the Indian Ocean, drive through the Karoo Desert and see elephants roaming the plains within the diverse areas of this province.
Explore desert, forest, mountain ranges and beach-lined coast, the varied natural landscapes of Eastern Cape, South Africa’s second-largest province. Nature is the province’s biggest draw, especially with the many opportunities to see Africa’s “Big Five” animals: elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion. Eastern Cape’s coastline also features some of South Africa’s largest cities.
Begin your exploration in Port Elizabeth, South Africa’s fifth-largest city. Located on a bay of the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast, this beautiful span of well-developed sandy beaches is lined with resorts. Just west of Port Elizabeth is Jeffrey’s Bay, with Paradise Beach, widely considered to be the area’s best beach. Surf or dive off the coast amid colorful coral reefs.
While the Sunshine Coast is one of the most developed areas of the Eastern Cape, it offers easy access to wilder regions. Head along the northeast shore to reach the Wild Coast, which features grassy hills, cliffs and small rural villages along the Indian Ocean. Trek inland through the Addo Elephant National Park, to spot plentiful wildlife including over 600 elephants on a 440,000-acre (180,000-hectare) plot of grassland and mountains.
In the inland wilderness, find the Great Karoo, a vast desert that prevented early Cape Town settlers from moving into the interior of South Africa. Visit the Valley of Desolation, a picturesque desert valley crowned by the cone-topped Spandou Kop Mountain and striking 390-foot-tall (120-meter) rock formations. In the evening, enjoy some of South Africa’s best stargazing.
Eastern Cape encompasses an area long inhabited by the Xhosa people. Xhosa is the most widely spoken language in the province. While most tourist attractions feature resources for English speakers, it may be difficult to communicate with locals if you visit a rural village.
Fly into Port Elizabeth from any of South Africa’s major cities to begin your trip to the Eastern Cape. While rural, the province features a good network of roads and railways, so it is easy to get around once you arrive.