The Eastern Cape of South Africa is known for many things – its gorgeous beaches, scrubby vegetation, friendly folk and temperate weather. However, it remains one of the quieter regions in terms of tourism because it lacks the funds needed to create a bustling hubbub of activity and attractions. But, this has its own advantages, as the Eastern Cape is a quiet retreat with an endless array of things to see and do.
Here are my top 10 best-kept secrets of the Eastern Cape …
- SAMREC (Port Elizabeth) – this is a rehabilitation facility for penguins, nestled in the beauty of the Cape Recife Nature Reserve. Algoa Bay is the biggest breeding ground in the world for the African Penguin, making such a rehab resource essential to their survival. It is only R25 for adults and R15 for children and pensioners, and SAMREC is open every day from 09h30 until 17h00. At 14h30, the penguins are fed by volunteers, which is always a very special treat to watch.
- Tsitsikamma Treetop Canopy Tours – soar above the lush Tsitsikamma forest from the safety of a zipline harness. This is both adrenalin-inducing and undeniably peaceful, as you are immersed in the lush greenery of nature, albeit up to 30 metres above ground. Professional guides are there to help and to provide fascinating information on the fauna and flora of the area.
- The Valley of Desolation (Graaff-Reinet) – this is a national monument within the Camdeboo National Park, known for its geological splendour. Dolerite columns surge upwards and appear to balance precariously as they loom over the magnificent landscape below. This area attracts dozens of mammal species and hundreds of bird species.
- Kwantu Private Game Reserve and Volunteer Project – this reserve is, undoubtedly, gorgeous. However, it’s a little different to the rest because of its Volunteer Programme. This programme invites willing volunteers to be part of conservation initiatives, playing an active role in being a part of the animals’ lives and the reserve’s excellent work.
- Addo Raptor & Reptile Centre – witness the power of some of Africa’s most impressive hunters. Live shows of trainers interacting with some of the world’s deadliest creatures is sure to clear up the many misunderstandings and myths around these beautiful species. Visit the Raptor centre next time you are in Addo!
- The Red Location Museum (Port Elizabeth) – witness the horror and feel the trials of forced removals and other parts of the apartheid regime at this township-based museum. It will reveal the life stories of those that lived through the experience, conquering it with sheer willpower and determination, as well as those that did not survive.
- African Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary (Jeffrey’s Bay) – African Dawn is the home of hundreds of bird species that required treatment or rehabilitation. These include Knysna Loeries, eagles, vultures, Scarlet Ibises, and many more. In addition, there are cheetahs, lynx and other wild animals that enjoy the peace and serenity of spacious enclosures and attentive staff members. There is place for picnics and barbecues alongside some of the parrot aviaries for a beautiful day in the countryside.
- Cat Conservation Trust (Cradock) – dedicated to the smaller wild cats of South Africa, this organisation focuses on education and conservation. These cats include the Caracal, African Wild Cat, Black-footed Cat and Serval.
- South End Museum (Port Elizabeth) – as part of a community that was, at one time, one of PE’s most vibrant, the South End Museum is dedicated to those that once lived in this suburb. These people, all non-white, lived in harmony, enjoying a family-oriented way of life. Then, under the apartheid regime, forced removals took place and wrenched them away from their homes and friends. This is their story.
- Paradise Beach (Jeffrey’s Bay) – the sleepy seaside town of J-Bay, as it is affectionately known, is renowned for its magnificent beaches and, even more importantly, the ideal surfing waves that these boast. Paradise Beach offers miles and miles of pristine sands, warmed by the sun and lapped by cool Indian Ocean waters. This is the perfect way to escape city life.