Renowned for its great beaches, malaria-free parks and reserves, wildlife and proud heritage and culture, the Eastern Cape offers tourists extreme action sports to gentle flower trails, heritage museums, game reserves and parks. The Coastal Route covers the entire length of the Eastern Cape Province stretching across a number of districts. The route starts at Tstsikamma and includes famous attractions such as the Tsitsikamma National Park, Addo elephant National Park, the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, the rich heritage of Frontier Country, the picturesque village of Hogsback and the Amatola Mountains before reaching the unspoilt beaches of the Wild Coast.
Access to the area is afforded via a number of ports dotted along the coast, a well maintained road network (freeways, highways, main roads and feeder roads), or through two airports at Port Elizabeth and East London. The route is subdivided into a number of sub-routes, each with their own unique features and characteristics.
A journey through the Baviaanskloof (Valley of Baboons) is an extraordinary experience that takes you through dramatic scenery and cultural sites that showcase the remarkable prehistory and history of the region. It is a place of contrast with pools fringed by white sands, hot, spekboom–clad slopes and fynbos covered mountains. In contrast, you also find cool, forested kloofs that are cut by crystal clear streams with rushing waterfalls and kudu browsing through thornveld in lower lying areas.
The ancient San people were drawn to the wild and lush beauty of the forested Tsitsikamma region where Cape fold mountains, carved by steep river gorges, plunge down to a rugged coastline. When visiting the area you quickly realise why it is called the 'place of the sparkling waters'. Beautiful indigenous forests are home to century old trees such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood, Hard Pear, Ironwood and Kamass. The area has a number of adventure activities on offer ranging from bungee jumping to tree-top canopy tours and a number of ocean-based activities, making it an ideal family destination.
The Kouga Region is not only home to the surfing capital of South Africa - Jeffrey’s Bay, it also home to the spirit of the Khoisan people, the world’s oldest cultural group. Visitors can experience a unique fusion of ancient and modern cultures, pristine coastline and a vibrant, fertile river valley nestled between three mountain ranges. Walk along kilometres of unspoilt coastal dune fields, or share in the exhilaration of hundreds of dolphins at play as they patrol this stretch of the Indian Ocean, joined by giant Southern Right whales during the winter months. Activities like hiking, birding and a range of water sports cater for a wide variety of interests and families alike.
Frontier Country is the meeting ground of the Xhosa, Khoi San, Afrikaner and English-speaking groups. A fascinating, unique cultural history has developed as a result. Nine frontier wars were fought in the area over almost a century between 1779 and 1878.
Frontier Country is one of the most diverse ecological regions in South Africa, with a variety of biomes that provide unspoilt and spectacular scenery. Thousands of hectares are devoted to nature and game conservation, bringing with them the return of great herds of wildlife to the places where they once roamed freely. This malaria-free region is fast gaining local and international popularity for excellent game-viewing with a variety of private reserves that include the Big Five.
The Sunshine Coast offers a diverse range of experiences from safaris to adventure travel, beautiful beaches and game lodges offering Big 5 game viewing, rich historical sites and scenic splendour. Bursting with adventure and coastal charm, it comprises rivers, lakes and lagoons, sub-tropical forests and countless quaint seaside hamlets just waiting to be explored.
Renowned as a watersports Mecca, it boasts some of the most unspoiled and beaches in the country, but with the warm Indian Ocean and over 500km of beaches it is also easy to just sit back and relax.
Amathole Mountain Escape:
Set against the majestic and forested Amathole Mountains – stretching from Stutterheim in the west to Adelaide in the east – Amathole Mountain Escape offers a world-class playing field for hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking and other adventure sports.
A plethora of wildlife in the area also provides the ideal opportunity for game-viewing. Camping, some of the best 4x4 trails and visits to cultural villages are some of the activities available on this route. The Amathole area is alive with history - from colonial forts and battlefields to the myths and legends of the Xhosa. Museums include the King William's Town's Amathole Museum (that boasts the famously informative Xhosa Gallery). The University of Fort Hare in Alice, former president Nelson Mandela's alma mater, houses a stunning collection of African art.
This undeveloped region, dotted with rural Xhosa villages, has been locked in a time capsule since thousands of Xhosa-speaking tribes trekked over the centuries to meet up with the Khoi near the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers further west. It is from the Khoi that the Xhosa language derives its unmistakable clicks, found in as many as one-sixth of all spoken and written words.
Adventure activities include hikes, horse trails, game watching, cliff jumping, abseiling, quad biking, mountain biking, salt water fly fishing, river and sea fishing, canoeing, surfing, boat-based dolphin watching and other water sports. It is a haven for snorkelling and scuba diving enthusiasts. Apart from the coins, crockery, cannons and other relics to be discovered, divers can also view the bounty of sea life here.
Also see Wild Coast Jikeleza Route.
Topped by citrus village of Kirkwood and meandering down to the thorny bushveld of the famous Addo Elephant National Park, the Greater Addo Route also includes the thorny Noorsveld around Darlington Lake and the bleached dunes of Alexandria. The region is a gem of diversity and located just 40 minutes drive from Port Elizabeth.
The region includes attractions such as the Greater Addo Elephant National Park that incorporates a 120 000ha marine reserve to form the world’s first Big Seven Reserve (Southern Right Whales and Great White Sharks have been added to lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant). The park’s 400 or more elephants are descendants of just 11 refugees from the ivory carnage of the 1970s. The route also incorporates the Alexandria dunefields, the largest shifting dunefiels in the Southern Hemisphere.
In addition to the regions described above. The Coastal Route is also home to Nelson Mandela Bay. Nelson Mandela Bay acts as a gateway to the Coastal Route for visitors that fly into the province.
Nelson Mandela Bay:
Nelson Mandela Bay, which covers the greater Port Elizabeth area, boasts some of South Africa’s richest history. It has been described as the crucible of cultural South Africa, as all the different cultures (San, Khoi, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Xhosa, Afrikaners) met here at some time or another in the past. It is also one of the very few places in Africa where you can see the Big 7 in one game park – the Big 5 land mammals (elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino), southern right whales and great white sharks. It is also one of the only malaria free safari destinations in Africa, which makes it incredibly sought after, especially for family safari holidays with children.
Unique African animal experiences are a big attraction in the area: at Addo Elephant Park you can see herds of up to 200 elephant walking across the land, and at Sea View Park you are able to see white lions and hold the cubs.
The coastline along the Nelson Mandela Bay is another differentiator that sets the area apart as an ideal and appealing tourism destination, with approximately 40 kilometres of clean sandy beaches to stroll along, a variety of dive sites and coral reefs, whale and dolphin watching (sometimes from the beach!), and coastal hiking and horse riding trails. Along this coastline you can also find the biggest colony of gannets and the biggest colony of penguins (African blackfooted penguins) in the world. Humewood beach has Blue Flag status, and Alexandria dunefields has the largest shifting dunes in the southern hemisphere.
Alongside the natural features of the coastline are a number of other unique protected areas and nature experiences. There are five biomes in the area to explore, a fynbos flower trail in Van Stadens Nature Reserve, a birding hotspot at the Swartkops estuary and Settlers Park in the middle of the city.
Five centuries ago, in the age of exploration, Portuguese explorer Bartholomieu Dias set sail from Portugal on his way to India, and found the tip of Africa – the Cape of Good Hope. On the same journey, in 1488, he made his way eastward around the southern coast of Africa, and found Algoa Bay – modern day Port Elizabeth or what has in recent years been renamed Nelson Mandela Bay.
Discovered in the 15th century, Algoa Bay was initially just marked on the map as a resting station with fresh water for passing ships. The word “Algoa” simply meant “on the way to Goa (India)”. Two centuries later, in 1652, it became part of the Cape Colony of the Dutch East India Company – who still used it as a base en route to India. 150 years later, the British came onto the scene, eventually taking over the Cape Colony, and renamed the area Port Elizabeth, turning it into a small seaport town. It is the second oldest port in South Africa, after Cape Town.
It was only in 1820, when 4000 British citizens came to settle in the Port Elizabeth area to secure the British hold over the Colony, that Port Elizabeth really made it onto the map. With the settlers came their culture – the first rugby and cricket tests were played in Port Elizabeth; two sports that South Africa represents on world champion level.
Bay of two ports:
Following the arrival of British settlers in 1820 the harbour achieved port status in 1825 with the appointment of a harbour master and collector of customs a year later. In 1836 a surfboat service was provided for the handling of cargo and passengers, with the first jetty constructed in 1837. Forty years later in 1877 Port Elizabeth had developed into the principal port of South Africa with annual exports valued at the equivalent of R6 million.
Today, Nelson Mandela Bay is the only city in South Africa to have two major seaports, and boasts the most significant loading facilities in the southern hemisphere.
The Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) is a multi-billion dollar initiative which involves the recently established deepwater Port of Ngqura, and customized for heavy, medium and light industries.
The Port of Ngqura is the first port in the world to have a fixed embedded jet pump sand bypass, and will complement the existing deepwater ports in Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay in South Africa.
Evidence of the power struggle to claim land in this Exploration Era is seen in the historical buildings, monuments, forts and ports, such as The Donkin, Fort Frederick, the Campanile and the Light House. Originally, the area is the ancestral land of the San people, who had inhabited the area 100 000 years before the Portuguese, Dutch and then British arrived. Evidence of their occupation is seen at Van Stadens Nature Reserve, where there are Khoisan drawings. In the recent century, the Xhosa and Afrikaans were also living in the area, adding to his complex cultural mix of diverse people.
The effects of the apartheid regime were not lost on Port Elizabeth. Forced relocation of the non-white population under the Group Areas Act began in 1962, causing various townships to be built, which are still standing today. In 1977 Steve Biko, the black anti-apartheid activist, was interrogated and tortured by the security police in PE, before being transported to Pretoria where he died. Other notable deaths in the city during this time included the brutal murdering by the secret police death squad of the Cradock Four – school teacher turned political activist Matthew Goniwe and his three compatriots, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli.
The story of the freedom fighters dubbed the Cradock Four was turned into an award winning documentary in 2010 - 25 years after their assassination the Cradock Four are still inspiring the nation for positive change and equality.
The assassinations signalled the beginning of the end of the racist Apartheid regime. Within five years Nelson Mandela would walk free, and later lead the country to liberation in 1994.
“The death of these gallant freedom fighters marked a turning point in the history of our struggle. No longer could the regime govern in the old way. They were the true heroes of the struggle.”
Even back then Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elizabeth) lived up to its nowadays famous title as ‘The Windy City’, with over 300 shipwrecks occurring over the years in the bay as ships fought the odds against a rocky bay and gusty wind.
It’s no doubt that the natural and historical aspects of the area make it a must-see, but to add to its appeal, especially for the energetic people, Nelson Mandela Bay is known as Africa’s watersport capital.
With the 4th best coastal climate in the world, the beaches are alive with activity.
The wind conditions make it an ideal spot for watersports such as wind surfing, kite surfing and sailing. Activities such as bass fishing, rock and surf angling, dune boarding, surfing and diving are also very popular. Huge sporting events, notably the Ironman Triathlon, the EP Herald cycling race and SA Life Saving Championships, are held on and alongside the beaches.
An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25km) bike and a marathon 42.195km (26.219 mi) run, raced in that order and without a break. Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race.
Ironman Triathlon became known for its grueling length, harsh race conditions, and television coverage.
The international Ironman 70.3 series consists of over 50 races around the globe and the Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3 South Africa is now one of the biggest in the world. Athletes come from far and wide to take part in the Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3 South Africa, and those athletes who have secured their place have taken the first step in what unfolds to become an incredible journey of self exploration and self discovery.
It’s all about the sacrifice and dedication just to be able to stand on the starting line; the extreme lows you experience out on the course and the inspirational moments when the crowd spurs you on. It’s about that moment of clarity when you summon energy from your innermost reserves you never knew you had, facing the biggest challenge of all – the race against yourself; and it’s about the sheer elation in crossing the finish line.
For more information visit www.ironmansouthafrica.com.
NMB’s sporting, medical and educational facilities are some of the best in South Africa. The stadium is the best run and most profitable stadium in the country, operating on ‘green’ technology, with its electricity supplied by wind turbines. The Bay is also home to St George’s Cricket Ground, which has hosted many international matches over the years. Golf and watersports are also among the reason why sports fans love the city. Specialised procedures and a great recovery environment make it appealing to the medical tourism industry too, and conferencing close to the beach or in a wildlife setting draw in many business people. The Feathermarket Hall is one of the most iconic conference facilities in the country.
Nelson Mandela Bay has a quaint small town atmosphere; the low density population allows for both marine and land nature areas to thrive close to the city. The water is drinkable and there are low crime rates, making it a safe and eco-friendly destination.
There is a variety of quality accommodation in and around the city, close to the beaches and nature reserves and a wide range of tours are on offer, from city and township tours, to cultural and architectural, to marine and scenic tours.
Accessibility is a huge bonus - all of the historical and natural wilderness attractions are within an hours drive from the airport. Nelson Mandela Bay is known by locals as “the 15 minute city”, where everything is only ever 15 minutes away. It’s easy to get around, not only because everything is relatively close, but also because of the airport, busses and kwela kwela system (taxis).
To compliment the natural side of things, you have a variety of other events and entertainment – restaurants, night clubs, the Boardwalk Casino, Art in the Park Market, The Sherwood Food Market, IRB Rugby 7s, The Jazz Festival, The Splash Festival and shows at the oldest Opera House in the Southern Hemisphere, to name a few.
Nelson Mandela Bay is the hub of South Africa’s motor industry, and is also the mohair capital of the country, and a huge contributor to citrus farming.
Nelson Mandela Bay is the home of South Africa's motor vehicle industry, boasting most vehicle assembly plants, General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, Continental Tyres and many more automotive companies. Most other industries in the NMMM are geared towards the motor vehicle industry, providing parts such as wiring harnesses, catalytic converters, batteries and tyres to the vehicle manufacturers.
All of the major vehicle makers are represented in South Africa, as well as eight of the world's top 10 auto component manufacturers and three of the four largest tyre manufacturers. Many of the major multinational companies use South Africa to source components and assemble vehicles for both the local and overseas markets.
Nelson Mandela Bay is also the gateway to the Baviaanskloof, which is a World Heritage Site and the third largest protected area in the country. Eight of the nine biomes in South Africa are found in the Baviaanskloof. The Baviaanskloof is renowned for its untouched natural heritage; visitors can hike in the Cape Fold Mountains, 4x4 along mountain roads, and experience big game such as buffalo and leopards in the untamed wilderness. This area is also renowned for the spekboom (an indigenous succulent plant) and a carbon sequestration programme has been established.
The Baviaanskloof Route encompasses the broader Baviaanskloof area, which contains a newly proclaimed World Heritage Site, and offers a mix of sights and activities relating to nature and culture.
This area has so much to offer and many stories to tell. Stutterheim, at the heart of the area, has a very interesting political past which allowed people to think that there was a way to deal with inequalities of the past. We also have a range of adventure tourism and cultural attractions and large amounts of arts and crafts all waiting to be discovered.
These trails are situated along the famous Garden Route. The area offers warm-water sea paddling with its associated marine life, as well as many lakes and estuaries to explore.
Buffalo City boasts a variety of tourist attractions and is rich in cultural and natural resources. The 68km coastline includes 10 estuaries, conservancies, natural heritage sites, rocky shores and 14 sandy beaches. There is a long-standing tradition of beadwork in the area.
This route spans the borders between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, providing travellers with the opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures – Basotho, English, Xhosa and Afrikaans.
The Fish River (Nxuba) Valley is located adjacent to a thriving game-farming area of the Eastern Cape. The Mbodla Eco-heritage Route adds an original, Afro-centric, environmental, cultural and heritage dimension to the region’s offerings.
This route is surrounded by dramatic mountains in the heart of the great Karoo and falls within the Nama Karoo Biome. This region is recognised for its herbal plant life, an exceptional variety of scarce birdlife and rock art from the San Bushmen. It is also one of the few, and best, places in the world where fossils are found.
En-route from Durban to Buffalo City, Port St Johns has numerous estuaries, bays and headlands. Small sandy bays and long stretches of open beach are found here, often near the mouth of large rivers like Umzimvubu River and Umngazana.