Enquire Enquire

South Africa - Eastern Cape

The birthplace of Nelson Mandela, the Eastern Cape is scattered with traditional African villages and offers exemplary game reserves. Its long Sunshine Coast boasts a rugged beauty too.

At the end of the Garden Route, the Eastern Cape’s capital, Port Elizabeth, enjoys first-class beaches, distinctive Victorian terraces and plenty of trendy places to dine and drink. Here too, visitors can understand a little of the region’s history at the Red Location Museum and its culture at the Metropolitan Art Museum.

The region is becoming one of the fastest growing nature conservation areas in South Africa and the main highlight of the Eastern Cape is its malaria-free game reserves. Addo Elephant National Park is a sure shot for those wishing to witness the large mammals alongside the rest of the Big Five, while endangered black rhino, cheetahs and zebras can all be spotted at Mountain Zebra National Park.

For travellers seeking adventure, it abounds in the Eastern Cape. A visit to the Drakensberg Mountains excites with ancient rock paintings and the chance to cycle through the dramatic landscape. Tsitsikamma Forest National Park offers exceptional views of ocean, craggy cliffs and dark green undergrowth, while along the coast, among the miles of unspoilt beaches, is the world-renowned waters of Jeffrey’s Bay - second to none for South African surf.

Visitors wishing to learn of the country’s history will want to visit Qunu and Nelson Mandela House, the museum dedicated to the great man, and travel to KwaZulu-Natal to meet the traditional tribe and get an understanding of this fine destination.

eagles_crag_-_shamwari
The award-winning private Shamwari Game Reserve is malaria free and is situated at the end of the Garden Route. Home to an impressive array of indigenous wildlife and luxury lodges.
villa_lobengula_-_shamwari
The award-winning private Shamwari Game Reserve is malaria free and is situated at the end of the Garden Route. Villa Lobengula is a truly classical African experience.
bayethe_tented_lodge_-_shamwari
The award-winning private Shamwari Game Reserve is malaria free and is situated at the end of the Garden Route. Bayethe Lodge, offers the ultimate in luxury tented accommodation.
bush_lodge_-_amakhala
Amakhala Game Reserve, near Port Elizabeth is the ideal, malaria-free choice for your 'Big 5' safari destination. It is a great location for travellers visiting Cape Town, the Winelands and the famous Garden Route.
kichaka_private_game_lodge
Set between two streams in a lush bushveld valley, Kichaka Lodge is an exclusive luxury lodge located within a 'Big 5' game reserve, in the malaria-free Eastern Cape of South Africa.
long_lee_manor_-_shamwari
This extensive private game reserve is home to an impressive array of indigenous wildlife and six luxury lodges. The reserve is also home to the Born Free Foundation.

This gracious Edwardian Manor House echoes traditions of the past offering ...
pumba_private_game_reserve
Lucky visitors to Pumba may see the rare and majestic white lion. Game drives here are offered in luxury safari vehicles, accompanied by expert game rangers. Together you will search for game in the 17,000 acre reserve where the 'big 5' are resident.
riverdene_lodge_-_shamwari
Part of the award-winning private Shamwari Game Reserve which is malaria-free and is situated at the end of the Garden Route. Riverdene Lodge is a colonial African experience in an elegantly restored frontier homestead.
sarili_lodge_-_shamwari
With African travel becoming a family affair, Shamwari Game Reserve has opened Sarili Lodge, a new luxury lodge ideal for families.
settlers_drift_lodge_-_kariega_game_reserve
The latest addition to the family-owned private Kariega Game Reserve, is Settlers Drift which is a unique 5-star luxury tented lodge. This exclusive lodge is perfectly positioned, on an incline, to afford stunning views over Bushman's River and the m...
river_lodge_-_kariega_game_reserve
Kariega is a family-owned and operated game reserve set in 22,000 acres of pristine wilderness in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, near Port Elizabeth, thus forming a natural extension to Cape Town and the Garden Route.
ukhozi_lodge_-_kariega_game_reserve
This family-owned and operated private game reserve spans 22,000 acres of pristine African wilderness, incorporating the picturesque Kariega and Bushman's Rivers.
kariega_main_lodge
This family-owned and operated private game reserve spans 22,000 acres of pristine African wilderness, incorporating the picturesque Kariega and Bushmans Rivers. Kariega's game lodges offer a unique combination of awesome big 5 game viewing with an e...
safari_lodge_-_amakhala
Amakhala Game Reserve, near Port Elizabeth is the ideal, malaria-free choice for your 'Big 5' safari destination. It is a great location for travellers visiting Cape Town, the Winelands and the famous Garden Route.
sibuya_game_reserve_&_lodge
Sibuya, one of South Africa's most unique safari destinations, has more navigable river than any other game reserve in South Africa. Consequently as a birding destination it is hard to beat: there are nearly 400 different species.
the_homestead_-_kariega_game_reserve
The Homestead is a private lodge offering secluded comfort and luxury. With a dedicated game ranger and chef, guests have the flexibility to plan their day according to their own specific needs.
woodbury_lodge_-_amakhala
Amakhala Game Reserve, near Port Elizabeth is the ideal, malaria-free choice for your 'Big 5' safari destination. It is a great location for travellers visiting Cape Town, the Winelands and the famous Garden Route.
leeuwenbosch_country_lodge_-_amakhala
Amakhala Game Reserve, near Port Elizabeth is the ideal, malaria-free choice for your 'Big 5' safari destination. It is a great location for travellers visiting Cape Town, the Winelands and the famous Garden Route.
woodbury_tented_camp_-_amakhala
Amakhala Game Reserve, near Port Elizabeth is the ideal, malaria-free choice for your 'Big 5' safari destination. It is a great location for travellers visiting Cape Town, the Winelands and the famous Garden Route.

Map

The Eastern Cape is a provincial area on the east coast of South Africa. The capital, Bhisho, is home to many governmental departments, though the two largest cities in the region are Port Elizabeth and East London. Both cities lie on the coast of the Indian Ocean, offering spectacular views of marine wildlife. 

At the west of the province, the Great Karoo region, the climate is dry and arid; it becomes steadily wetter and greener as you move further east. There are temperate rainforests and beaches perfect for sunbathing along the coast. Most of the province is covered in rolling green hills, with mountainous terrain intersecting the region. The highest point here is Ben Macdhui Mountain, reaching 3,001m into the sky. With a diverse landscape and rugged geography, the Eastern Cape is a joy to explore. 


The Eastern Cape is home to the Xhosa people, an ethnic group that had resided in the area long before the first white settlers landed in 1820. In the 19th century, interactions between the Xhosa and the settlers often escalated into conflicts, resulting in many tribes being uprooted and forced to relocate.  

In 1994, the region was declared an official South African Province, combining the original Xhosa homelands of Transkei and Ciskei. Initially, this caused some confusion as there were multiple official governmental offices within the province. This was later remedied with subsequent amendments to municipal and provincial boundaries, and with Bhisho being established as the main seat of government.   
 

The Eastern Cape is home to an abundance of wild animals which roam free in national parks and game reserves in the area. A holiday in the Eastern Cape means you’ll have excellent opportunities to see the Big Five (Cape buffalo, lion, elephant, rhino and leopard), along with giraffes, zebras, hyenas and warthogs. 

Coastal cites such as Port Elizabeth and East London are great holiday destinations to spot lively whales and dolphins enjoying themselves in the ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for the multitude of seabirds, such as albatrosses, petrels, cormorants and African penguins too! 

In addition to varied fauna, the Eastern Cape also boasts a multitude of endemic plant life, including many rare shrub and flower species which are on the edge of extinction. To get the best of Eastern Cape, check out this Big 5 & Eastern Cape Coastal Explorer tour


Since the Eastern Cape is so varied, with differing climates and geography, it is difficult to describe the weather for the region as a whole. In general though, the Eastern Cape has a transitional climate and does not have a distinct summer or winter season, remaining fairly mild all year round.

In the northeast, towns like Port St Johns experience long, warm days, but also receive a lot of rainfall. The Great Karoo, in the west, sees hot summer months and relatively moderate winters. As the altitude rises in towns with close proximity to the mountain ranges, you can expect cooler temperatures.

The frequent sunshine in the east lends its name to the Sunshine Coast, the coastal region of the Eastern Cape. Port Elizabeth is a city that enjoys much of it, up to eight hours a day throughout the year. In winter, temperatures range between 7C and 20C, and can reach up to 26C during summer.

Overall, the weather within the Eastern Cape is always fairly moderate, and although it varies across the province due to the different climate zones, it never reaches extremes, making it a year-round holiday destination. 


There is much to do in the Eastern Cape, from a selection of pristine beaches to explore along the coast, to beautiful national parks filled to the brim with exotic African wildlife. One of the most popular Eastern Cape holidays is this Big 5 & Eastern Cape Coastal Explorer tour

Port Elizabeth is one of the most interesting cities in the region. A holiday in the Eastern Cape may see you relaxing on gorgeous sandy beaches in Port Elizabeth. Here, you can also learn more about apartheid at the Red Location Museum, head out on a coastal boat tour to spot whales, and see some of the country’s most popular wildlife, including rhinos and cheetahs, at the malaria-free Kariega Game Reserve. For a touch of luxury in the Eastern Cape, upgrade to the 5-star Settlers Drift Lodge in Kariega Game Reserve. 

Another big draw to the area is the Addo Elephant National Park, where big game such as elephants, black rhinos and Cape buffaloes roam the plains. If it’s endangered stripy equines you’re after, the Mountain Zebra National Park definitely delivers. For an authentic Eastern Cape holiday experience, Somak offers an exciting full-day tour to Addo Elephant National Park and Schotia Private Game Reserve. 

For those who enjoy epic adventure and dramatic landscapes, the Drakensberg Mountains do not disappoint. This impressive mountain range offers ample trekking opportunities and even the chance to take part in a bike tour around the peaks. In addition, the walls in the sandstone caves dotted around the mountains boast ancient Bushmen rock paintings that showcase the fascinating history of the region. 
 

Top Itineraries

big_5_&_cape_coastal_explorer

Big 5 & Cape Coastal Explorer

6 Nights

This self-drive holiday is perfect for the first time visitor to South Africa or for those restricted by time.

safari_&_city_package

Safari & City Package

7 Nights

With four nights in Cape Town to explore this vibrant, cosmopolitan city and 3 nights in the wonderful Kariega Game Reserve to gaze in awe at the magnificent wildlife, this is a holiday to remember for a lifetime.

For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Current travel health information can be found by visiting www.travelhealthpro.org.uk a resource set up by the Department of Health.

The advice can change on all sites so please check regularly for updates.