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Port Elizabeth – the capital of the Eastern Cape lying approximately one hour’s drive from Addo. Main attractions including the humming beachfront promenade, filled with seaside restaurants, ethnic markets and an entertainment complex. History also features in Port Elizabeth with the old city centre displaying beautiful colonial buildings and Route 67, an artistic meander celebrating the life of famous freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.
Sunday’s River Valley – perfumed by the scent of citrus fruit and adorned with a blush of roses. A great place to explore on foot for a couple of hours and enjoy quaint sights and a good selection of farm-styled eateries
Alexandria – one of the Eastern Cape’s best hiking destinations featuring coastal forests, sand dunes and archaeological delights.
Jeffreys Bay, St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis – three coastal villages along the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Route that deliver sand, sea, sun and surfing. This is the home of the famed Bruce’s Beauties and top international surfing competitions where renowned surfers are known to hang out and the stresses of city life melt away.
Various private game reserves such as Kariega, Sibuya, Amakhala and Shamwari.
The Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve – for spectacular nature and walking, hiking and biking trails. This incredibly scenic gorge lies deep between the Baviaanskloof and the Kouga mountains and includes a UNSECO World Heritage area. It holds seven of South Africa’s eight biomes and ranks as one of the most biodiverse areas in Southern Africa, as well as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Tsitsikamma forest area, Storms River Gorge, and Garden Route National Park – offering picturesque and ethereal natural beauty at its best. Highlights here include The Big Tree, one of the oldest and largest Yellowwoods in the word; the challenging Otter Trail for intrepid hikers; the picturesque Storm’s River Mouth; and Plettenburg Bay, South Africa’s coastal playground for the cool and trendy.
Today Addo stands as the third largest national park in South Africa and has come a long way since its inception in the early 20th century. Protecting the resident elephant herds of the Addo area become a necessity in 1919 after local farmers instigated a mass cull of elephant populations in order to protect their agricultural crops. Just over 10 years later all but a handful of elephants remained, and the building blocks of the Addo Elephant National Park were laid.
At present the park hosts a thriving elephant population, although visitors will notice that most of the female elephants no longer have tusks. Although the jury is still out on the exact reason for this, popular opinion holds that this phenomenon is due to the original massacre that took place in Addo as well as poaching, and that the female elephants have adapted in order to protect their survival.
Although often overshadowed by the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape has much to offer. Its moderate climate, wealth of natural unspoilt beaches, forests, mega reserves, and splendid selection of flora and fauna are ideally suited to outdoor lovers and those seeking adventure activities. On its border lies the Bloukrans Bridge where the world’s highest bungee jump provides head rushing thrills, while the nearby Storms River gorge offers river rafting, tree top canopy tours and gentle lilo floating tours.
At its centre lies Port Elizabeth, one of the major seaports in South Africa founded in 1820 by the British settlers. Historical settler influences such as No 7 Castle Hill, one of the oldest surviving settler cottages; the Campanile Memorial, a 52-metre tower that stands sentinel over the harbour; and the Donkin Reserve are all interesting points to visit. Meandering through the city is Route 67, a collection of 67 art pieces celebrating the years Nelson Mandela devoted to public life, while the scenic beachfront has an excellent stretch of sandy shoreline and wide selection of restaurants and places to stay.
Further inland is Qunu, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s most beloved freedom fighter and late president, where rich cultural history lies waiting to be explored. In his famous book The Long Walk to Freedom Mandela describes Qunu as a place echoing with happy and carefree childhood memories where he played with his friends in the river and carried out his youthful herd boy duties, as well beginning his school career. The village also holds Madiba’s final resting spot, in a place personally selected by him, where his spirit remains for eternity on property owned by his family.