Valley of Desolation, Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape

Wild and beautiful: explore the Eastern Cape

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Regarded as South Africa’s ‘wild’ province, the Eastern Cape features expanses of untouched beach, bush and forest that yield a plethora of visitor activities and attractions.

Stretching from the snow-capped peaks of the southern Drakensberg to the lush forests of Tsitsikamma and flanked by the Indian Ocean, it's not surprising the Eastern Cape, South Africa, is described is a province of great extremes.

Its natural diversity is second to none: the Eastern Cape incorporates parts of all seven ecological zones that occur in South Africa and features all three of the country's biodiversity regions, which is further enhanced by its 820 kilometres of untamed, if not wild, coastline.

This heralds a colourful assortment of fauna and flora, including Africa's Big Five an abundance of birdlife, with hundreds of recorded species and a rich and varied marine life, including 27 species of whales and dolphins. The Eastern Cape is steeped in cultural and historical significance and stories of Xhosa kings, early settlers, cultural conflicts and frontier battles abound. As the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, the province is also noted for its role in fuelling the fight for African democracy.

How to get here

Fly to Port Elizabeth International Airport: 5 South African airlines offer domestic flights to Port Elizabeth from all other major local cities, or hire a car from your current South African location.

What's happening

The Eastern Cape's Nelson Mandela Bay was a host city of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, and hosted 8 World Cup matches, including a quarter-final. Tourism Month takes place during September each year, with a range of visitor-oriented activities being held across the province. Five-day painting and drawing holidays are held in the Karoo between April and June, and August and October each year. Jeffrey's Bay hosts the Billabong Pro international surfing event every July.

Who to contact

For visitor information, accommodation and tour operators:

The Eastern Cape Tourism and Parks Agency:
Tel: +27 (0) 43 705 4400


The Eastern Cape offers a wide range of accommodation, from budget-friendly back-packer accommodation to five star luxury getaways.

What to eat

The Eastern Cape is renowned for its fresh seafood, so a seafood platter or two is a must. Its cultural and heritage routes also include visits to traditional African villages, where authentic African cuisine can be enjoyed.

Best time to Visit

The months between September and May offer the best travelling weather.


To assist visitors in exploring the province, Eastern Cape tourism routes have been established. These not only highlight its wealth of natural beauty and deep historical roots, but a number of must-see Eastern Cape attractions  as well.

Visit Tsitsikamma and do the world's highest commercial bridge bungee jump or renowned Otter Trail see the Sundays River Valley with the world-famousGreater Addo Elephant National Park and 120 000 hectare marine reserve; or stopover at the aptly named Wild Coast, birthplace of Nelson Mandela and home to the Nelson Mandela Museum.

Do the Frontier Country route and see the sites of Britain's longest colonial war or the Karoo Heartland and immerse yourself in the intriguing geology of the region, including the awe-inspiring Valley of Desolation. Looking for snow? Head out on the Friendly N6 route and visit the southern Drakensberg mountains.

Wild, beautiful and totally absorbing - a world of wonder awaits the visitor in South Africa's Eastern Cape.

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