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.