Port Elizabeth is the main city of Nelson Mandela Bay and the Eastern Cape. It is a coastal town that is also known as the Friendly City and, when visitors have been here and met the locals, there is no confusion as to why it has earned this name. Although Port Elizabeth has always been one of the quieter cities of South Africa, it continues to grow as a very popular tourist destination, particularly over the summer holidays when the hotels in Port Elizabeth are filled to capacity and its spectacular beaches are littered with bronzed bodies and families playing on the white sand.
Another of Port Elizabeth’s main tourist attractions is the wildlife to which it and its surrounds are home. There are a number of game reserves and parks in and around Nelson Mandela Bay that continue to welcome tourists from all over the world. In these, animals like elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes and zebras are commonly found. This entire region is malaria free, making it ideal for families with little ones.
Some of the most popular game reserves in the area include …
The Addo Elephant National Park
This park, about an hour’s drive outside the heart of Port Elizabeth, is home to around 500 African Elephants, as well as lions, buffalos, warthogs, a host of antelope, an array of bird species and the endemic Flightless Dung Beetle. There is a wonderful bird hide, which invites avian enthusiasts to be concealed behind the reeds and watch the myriad of bird species over the water. Braai and picnic facilities at the edge of one of the watering holes make for a stunning place to relax between game drives.
Shamwari Game Reserve
This park is a luxurious escape from the real world. Opulent facilities are complemented by a huge variety of wildlife and magnificent landscapes. Game drives with experienced rangers are so rewarding, and visitors can expect to see rhinos, elephants and leopards, which are guaranteed to make for fantastic photographs. This is a popular reserve for weddings, events and corporate functions, thanks to its world-class amenities.
Kragga Kamma Game Park
In the heart of the Port Elizabeth smallholding suburb of Kragga Kamma is this surprisingly well populated reserve. The self-drive courses through the reserve allow visitors to get close to the wildlife, enjoying the wildest African animals within these scenic surrounds. There is also a restaurant and curio shop, as well as elevated walkways that cross over some enclosures for a very special encounter with the fauna.
Pumba Private Game Reserve
For a retreat from the buzz of city life, Pumba is a private reserve that remains a favourite amongst tourists and PE locals alike. It is home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) and combines the luxury of a private reserve with the delight of the African bushveld. Guided game drives can be rounded off with a trip to the on-site spa for a real treat.
Other popular reserves near the centre of Port Elizabeth include Amakhala Game Reserve, Kariega Game Reserve, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve and Lalibela Private Game Reserve.