Addo Elephant National Park

This is one of the few reserves in the world that offers the Big Seven – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, great white sharks and southern right whales. The 164 000ha park, which is situated near Port Elizabeth, is rated as one of the best places in Africa to see elephants up close. It also has the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape gannets, rare flightless dung beetles, 1 000-year-old cycads, and hundreds of pastel-coloured proteas.

Cambedoo National Park

This stunningly beautiful reserve falls within the Karoo and is home to rare plants and wildlife. It almost completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet, the oldest town in the Eastern Cape. Its most famous attraction, however, is the Valley of Desolation, made up of spectacular dolerite pillars. Prehistoric fossils have been discovered on the floor of the valley. There are plenty of animals to be found, including the bat-eared fox, meerkat, vervet monkeys and Cape mountain zebra.

Baviaanskloof wilderness area

The Baviaanskloof mega-reserve is a natural, unspoilt mountain kingdom. The 200km-long Baviaanskloof, the Valley of the Baboons, is so named because of the large numbers of baboons in the area. Spectacular plant and animal life compete for attention.

Tsitsikamma National Park

This park forms part of the Garden Route National Park. The area is home to a delicately balanced marine eco-system and some excellent whale and dolphin viewing sites. Inland, the indigenous rain forest harbours 116 types of giant tree, including giant Outeniqua yellowwood trees – the largest of which is said to be over 800 years old and has a circumference of almost 9m.

Beaches

The Eastern Cape has some of the best beaches in the world. This is the ideal region for sun-worshippers, water-sports junkies and nature-lovers. The province’s Sunshine Coast is a coastal belt stretching from Tsitsikamma to East London, offering glorious, sunny weather and access to beaches, lagoons, rivers and sheltered bays. From April to December much of the Eastern Cape coastline is ideal for spotting southern right whales as they follow their annual migration route.

Game viewing

The Eastern Cape is known as a Big Seven (the Big Five plus southern right whales and great white sharks) destination, one of the very few places on Earth that can claim this title. There are plenty of reserves that offer great game viewing.

The Mountain Zebra National Park, situated outside Cradock, was established to protect the smallest zebra in Africa, the mountain zebra. It is home to dozens of other species including cheetah, Cape buffalo and black rhino.

The Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth is one of only a few places on Earth that offers the Big Seven. It is also one of the best places in Africa to see elephants up close.

Also definitely worth visiting if you’re looking for a luxurious bush experience is the internationally renowned and award-winning private game reserve, Shamwari Game Reserve. It has become a favourite among international celebrities: golfer Tiger Woods got engaged there, and actors Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage and John Travolta have all visited.

The Mkhambathi Nature Reserve features a waterfall that drops straight into the sea. Here you can see eland and wildebeest wander along the coast, rare blue duiker and a Cape vulture colony.

The Great Fish River Nature Reserve is home to black rhino, hippo, Cape buffalo, elephant, lion and a number of antelope species.

Mkhambathi  Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape

Here you can see eland and wildebeest wander along the coast, rare blue duiker and a Cape vulture colony.

Great Fish River Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape

Home to black rhino, hippo, Cape buffalo, elephant, lion and a number of antelope species.

Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape

Established to protect the smallest zebra in Africa, the mountain zebra. It is home to dozens of other species including cheetah, Cape buffalo and black rhino.

Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape

One of only a few places on Earth that offers the Big Seven. It is also one of the best places in Africa to see elephants up close.

Shamwari Game Reserve, Eastern Cape

Award-winning luxury accommodation in the heart of malaria-free big game country. Here, game-viewing and responsible tourism go hand-in-hand.

Natural attractions

The Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, which stretches from the Mtamvuna River in the north to the Great Kei River in the south, is a superb destination for travellers looking for something a little off the beaten track. It is an untamed wilderness of wild, picturesque beaches, cliffs, sheltered bays, and rolling hills and valleys; it is also one of the few places you’ll see cattle chewing the cud on the beach.

Along this coast is a small town by the name of Hole in the Wall, which gets its name from a rocky archway just off the coast that’s been carved out by the waves over millions of years.

For those interested in marine life, southern right whales on their way from Antarctica to warmer waters frequent the Eastern Cape coastline between May and December each year. There are numerous spots along the coast that make for great whale-watching. Bottle-nosed dolphins are also a frequent sight along the coast.

Further inland, the wide open spaces of the Karoo Heartland cocoon towns such as Cradock and

Graaff-Reinet. This is a dry, untouched area, offering stunning landscapes as well as game.

Main centres

Port Elizabeth

Know as the Friendly City, the Windy City, or simply PE, Port Elizabeth was founded as a town in 1820 to house British settlers. It is the second-oldest city and the fifth-largest in South Africa. Life here revolves around the ocean. The city caters for everyone, and is known as a great family vacation centre.

East London

This charming port city is also known as Buffalo City because it lies between the Nahoon and Buffalo rivers. It is the only river port in the country. The East London Museum has some fascinating displays, which include the last known dodo egg in the world.

Jeffreys Bay

Jeffreys Bay, or J Bay, is situated in the heart of the Sunshine Coast. It is famous as one of the best surfing spots in the world, and in July each year, the world’s top surfers flock to the city for the Billabong Pro event. But the town also has more to offer – there’s skydiving, sandboarding, and whale and dolphin watching.

Grahamstown

Grahamstown, about 130km from Port Elizabeth, is home to the oldest independent newspaper in South Africa, Grocott’s Mail. The city is best known for the annual National Arts Festival, held each July, which is recognised as one of the biggest cultural events in Africa.

Graaff- Reinet

This is the only city in South Africa to be surrounded by a national park – the Cambedoo National Park. Founded in 1786, Graaff-Reinet has been a traveller’s oasis in South Africa’s semi-arid desert – the Karoo – for more than two centuries. It has magnificent examples of Cape Dutch architecture.

Port Alfred

Port Alfred is a popular holiday destination along the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast. There’s plenty to do here, including taking in its great beaches, water sports (kitesurfing and water-skiing) and diving among the reefs off the coast. The popular Fish River Sun is about 20 minutes’ drive from Port Alfred.

KentononSea

This little village is a popular holiday destination. There are great beaches, rock pools and sheltered bays with plenty of opportunities for water sports like fishing and canoeing. From April to December the village is a good place to do some whale watching. It is also close to a number of inland game reserves.

Port Elizabeth is home to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, a sports venue that hosted matches during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.