Province & Region
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If you only have a week in the Eastern Cape, the big choice has to be between a coastal and an inland break. The coastline can be roughly divided into the undeveloped northern Wild Coast between East London and Port Edward, and the gentler southern Sunshine & Tsitsikamma coastlines from East London to Storms River.
The Wild Coast still enjoys a traditional way of life. The landscape is dotted with low-density mud-brick and thatch homesteads – although some of these are slowly making way for modern brick structures. The lifestyle is pastoral. The tranquil scenery often belies the hardship of coping with no running water, poor sanitation and cooking on open fires. Poverty and population pressure usually go hand in hand with pollution, a problem that is not improved by inadequate service provision. The northern part of the Wild Coast, in particular, suffers from this.
That said, many homesteads are freshly painted and well maintained. It is clear that the social development effort that has been invested in this, the poorest of South Africa’s nine provinces, is bearing some fruit.
When travelling bear in mind that there is no road infrastructure to speak of along the coastline. Hopping from one coastal destination to the next involves a long drive to the ‘main road’, a short traverse along this road, and then another long drive back to the next destination. For example, you can walk between Mazeppa Bay and the Qora river mouth in just over an hour – while the 80km drive takes about two and a half hours. If anything, this adds to the charm of the place.
You can walk for miles along the beaches and cliff faces of the coastline and be free of motorised traffic. However, it does mean that it takes time to drive between destinations. It is undoubtedly better to choose one or two destinations for a break than to try and fit in more.
The Sunshine and Tsitsikamma coastlines have better road and logistical infrastructure, and are easier to get around. Beaches are beautiful and less congested in high season than elsewhere in the country.
Large tracts of the interior of the Eastern Cape are given over to the plains of the Karoo Heartland around towns such as Graaff-Reinet, Cradock and Nieu-Bethesda. Here the landscape is utterly beautiful in its starkness.
For some this is an acquired taste; others immediately wax lyrical about the open vistas, the clean air and the crisp clear nights. Nowhere on earth do the stars seem closer than here.
Further south are two of the province’s flagship reserves. In addition to the land-based Big 5, the Addo Elephant Park boasts the southern right whale and the great white shark among its attractions. You are only likely to see the whales between September and November and the sharks almost never – but it is a nice thought.
The Baviaanskloof wilderness area is more rugged in character. It is a stark land, lightly populated. Come equipped for an extended stay off the beaten track.
The northern end of the province encompasses the southern foothills of the Drakensberg. Although not as imposing as the better known KwaZulu-Natal side of the ‘berg, it does boast magnificent mountain scenery and is arguably the top fly-fishing spot in the country.
Articles & Blogs
Run WildValda 2:00pm 23 Oct
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Terence Vrugtman
It’s 06.15 when we disembark the taxis at Maden Dam, pose for a quick photo then shuffle off into the dense forest. We’re running the Hobbit, a 90km trail run that broadly follows the route of the Amatola Hiking Trail. Billed as the toughest trail in South Africa, the mountainous route from Maden Dam to Hogsback takes hikers six days and commands respect. We - and 32 other crazy trail runners- hope to complete the course in two.
In keeping with the spirit of the event, there’s no fanfare. Although the Hobbit is timed, it’s not a...
Malaria in RhodesValda 9:16pm 14 Aug
By George Brits
The Rhodes area has had some of its best late summer rains in a long time this year. After a stupidly long absence, we thought it a good idea to look up old haunts and re-acquaint ourselves with the magical art of waving a stick around. (Fishing images from an earlier trip, as will become apparent later).
We arrived at the farm Balloch in the Wartrail district late on Sunday afternoon, fresh from two weeks in the Kruger National Park. This is obviously not our normal route, but it involved a best friend’s daughter getting married, an eldest son who was keen to...
Wildcoast Wildrun 2017Valda 9:55pm 13 Feb
Pics Mark Sampson
The Wildcoast Wildrun® takes 80 runners on three-day boutique running holiday along South Africa’s Wild Coast, a slice of unfenced coastal paradise. From footprint-free golden beaches along a warm ocean, to rolling grass headlands and delicate coastal forests teeming with life.
Each year, the event becomes embedded in the hearts of its participants, and the 2017 edition will be no less memorable than previous years. In particular, the perfect weather conditions and competitive jousting at the sharp end set this year apart.
Following a night at Kei...
Swim for RiversValda 12:16pm 17 Dec
Pics courtesy Swim for Rivers
Main pic above: The start at St Francis Bay Marina, from L to R: Vuyo Zondani (NSRI Waterwise Academy), Mandy Uys, Joy Roach, Nicky van Nierop and Andrew Chin - with NSRI Waterwise and NSRI St Francis crew.
Five intrepid open water swimmers have conquered seven of the estuaries in the Eastern Cape to raise awareness around the poor state of our country’s rivers and to highlight the urgent need to restore them. The athletes set off from the mouth of the Kromme Rivier in St Francis Bay on Saturday 14 October and completed their...
The Dolphin TrailValda 3:10pm 26 Nov
Pics Janine Smith
People walk through nature for various reasons. Some for the therapy of walking through naturally scented paths- the aroma of the indigenous forests and coastal fynbos areas is charming. Others walk for a passion, to lose weight, to unwind…
Walking in Tsitsikamma is an adventure. Hikers get to walk the Dolphin trail in luxury. ‘They can traverse the Tsitsikamma with well- trained local guides’ according to the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park’s Area Manager, Bulelwa Msengi.
First to be accredited with Green Flag status, the...
Snow in the Eastern CapeValda 5:09pm 15 Oct
The cold weather has brought snow to the Eastern Cape mountains. Tiffindell Ski Resort saw a snowfall of 30cm on the morning of Tuesday 10 October and continued snowfall resulted in South Africa’s only ski resort being isolated for a few days. South Africa’s High 5 passes were closed; Carlisleshoek, Volunteershoek and Naude’s Nek passes were closed and Ben McDhui mountain pass was closed. Conditions were expected to improve with South Africa’s High 5 Passes reopening by the weekend so now’s the ideal time to head up to Tiffindell to see the fresh snow, build snowmen and have some snow fun...
Otter Trail Run 2016, Presented by SalomonValda 7:06pm 13 Dec
The Otter Trail is one of South Africa’s most pristine and popular 5-day hiking trails, traversing the coast between Storms River and Natures Valley on the Garden Route. Once a year, Magnetic South puts on a bucket list race as South Africa’s elite trail runners welcome a few international counterparts to race this relentlessly technical 42km route in 8 hours or less.
It was another Retto year, the Otter in reverse. On Friday 14 October participants took part in a 4.8km prologue in order to be seeded for the following day’s race. This seeding system enables a staggered start, getting...
In the Heart of a Super PodValda 4:01pm 20 Mar
Words Gerhard Horn, Photo credit: Land Rover
Land Rover recently invited Leisure Wheels to join marine biologist Monty Halls while he investigated the annual sardine run. What we encountered was beyond belief.
What’s the most beautiful thing you have ever seen? Think about that for a few seconds and decide on a single moment that blew your mind – a moment that you’ll treasure and that will stick in your mind for the rest of your life.
That’s what we went in search of when Land Rover invited Leisure Wheels along on the Shoals of Agulhas expedition,...
Eastern Cape LoveValda 9:55pm 13 Mar
Words and pics Franki Black
The world’s largest pineapple stood before me in yellow and green greatness. I positioned myself a good few metres away from it and seized the moment to snap a selfie. Bathurst – that quirky historic village situated in the heart of the Eastern Cape near Port Alfred – is big pineapple country. It’s so big that the pineapple farmers in the area decided to construct a giant four-story replica of their most-prized crop. Inside the giant pineapple are information boards illustrating the ins and outs of the pineapple industry and a small shop with juicy...
Bruce Arnett Wins Skyrun Presented by SalomonValda 9:58pm 10 Dec
Pics Jazz Kuschke
Bruce Arnett won the 2015 Skyrun presented by Salomon over 100 kilometres from Lady Grey to Wartrail Country Club in a time of 13h56m. “I’m happy I can still win after all these years,” commented the veteran of 17 Skyruns after the event. “I was the oldest of the elite runners out there, so I’m well chuffed to be the first one in,” he said. Christiaan Greyling, AJ Calitz and Pedro Caldereu DeLa Barca finished joint second in a time of 14h57m.
“There was a lot of mist initially,” explained Arnett. “I didn’t switch on the GPS because I love navigating by my...
In Search of Snow and the Magic Fly BoxValda 9:55pm 25 Oct
Words Alan Hobson pics courtesy of Angler & Antelope
Emotions are stirred when one thinks of, sees and feels snow, certainly in areas where it is an irregular occurrence. Call it a brain freeze if you like, but I have always had the desire to catch a trout either whilst it is snowing or in snowy surrounds. It just has a magical allure that makes cold, icy thoughts vanish.
The power rendered to one creating or tying your own flies also takes on magical proportions in a never-ending fly-fishing journey in the quest of designing that 'ultimate fly', which magically produces...
Playing the SlotsValda 7:27pm 9 Aug
Words Marion Whitehead, pics Marion Whitehead, Gallo/Getty Images, AfricaMediaOnline
The dim waters of the mountain pool were more than brisk: I shrieked with shock as I plunged in. The dark stream had most likely never seen the sun as it seeped its way out of the bowels of the earth and collected in a slot canyon incised in the side of the Baviaanskloof valley. The towering cliffs that almost met overhead were fringed with ferns and rock-strangling fig trees, ensuring not even a glint of a sunbeam crept in to warm the small pool.
Being inside a slot canyon feels a bit...
Down by the RiverValda 8:24pm 19 Apr
Words and pics Marion Whitehead
This jolly bunch is always ready to party and the small Eastern Cape seaside town’s 125th birthday last year was celebrated with a regatta, an anything-that-floats derby, a grub crawl and a grand parade along the riverbank, joined by a fleet of antique tractors from the Bathurst Agricultural Museum nearby.
The popular holiday destination was once an important river port, with tall-masted sailing ships mooring at the wharf. When dredging the Kowie River mouth became too expensive, smaller fishing vessels dominated the port – until local fishing...
Sun International’s Stunning Nkandla DealValda 12:10am 1 Apr
Words Ken Quero
Sun International has been on the prowl, and in March of this year announced the acquisition of casino resort group Peermont for a staggering R9.4 billion. The jewel in the crown is the iconic Emperor’s Palace, one of the largest casino hotels in Africa. According to Sun International’s chief executive Graeme Stephens, this will significantly expand its South African portfolio.
But it seems that this is just the beginning. Sun International may be in the final throes of closing a second deal.
According to a confidential dossier that was...
Hobbit Trail Run - King of TrailsValda 5:48pm 15 Feb
Words & pics: Mark Sampson, Thribe Media
Just the name ‘Hobbit Trail Run’ conjures up ideas of mystical creatures in a faraway place covered in mist-covered mountains and lush forests. When you then hear that it's in Hogsback, in the Eastern Cape, well, then the ideas just get an additional stoke of the coals.
Towering mountains covered in forests, both indigenous and pine, rivers and streams, waterfalls and mushrooms, birds frolicking and unique inquisitive monkeys observing you as you make your way along the single track, and so the list continues. Run...
Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy…Valda 7:44pm 6 Jan
Pics Shaen Adey, Lloyd Edwards, Michelle van Aardt, Sakkie du Preez, www.mype.co.za
Despite its glorious beaches and magnificent mountain backdrop Port Elizabeth is often overlooked as an adventure holiday destination. But the Friendly City at the eastern end of the Garden Route has much to offer lovers of the outdoors. If you’re heading there for a summer holiday add some of these adventures to your bucket list.
Summertime or wintertime...
Lupela LodgeNightjar Travel 6:30am 26 Aug
We had recently spent a couple of days with our friendly, salt of the earth hosts, Denise and Alf Ross (www.nightjartravel.com/accommodation/lupela-lodge) on the banks of one of my favourite South African streams, the Karingmelkspruit. Unfortunately the devastating drought conditions had taken their toll on the river, which was down to a mere trickle between the larger deeper pools. Conditions that were currently being experienced over most of the inland, central to eastern...
Karoo Acacia, Trout and a Favourite StreamNightjar Travel 6:30am 19 Aug
Karoo Acacia, Trout and a Favourite Stream
I had just returned from a road trip for a family celebration in Port Elizabeth. On the return journey I managed to use up some accumulated brownie points and sneak in a little flyfishing among the Karoo Acacia. It is my belief that a road trip or any trip for that matter, isn’t complete unless it involves flyfishing at some stage – not that difficult because if it’s wet there is almost always something to tempt with a fly.
Alan and Annabelle Hobson were our welcoming, friendly hosts at their comfortable and quaint...
The Magic of All PossibilitiesValda 9:55pm 20 Apr
Words and Pictures Marion Whitehead
“I always knew I could do this,” grinned Patrick Smith impishly, as he fashioned a pegacorn from wire mesh and concrete in his garden studio. “It’s a unicorn with wings.” He’s made so many sculptures of mythical creatures that they’ve populated the large garden he and his wife Suzanna created since they retired to Hogsback. Their wonderland, Camelot Fairy Realm, is now a drawcard in this little mountain village in the Eastern Cape’s Amatola Mountains, and children who visit often are allowed to buy season tickets.
It’s not quite what...
Hiking the Dunes and Coastal ForestEastern Cape Adventures 10:30am 27 Feb
Hiking the dunes and coastal forest
A hike through coastal forest, where old man’s beard covers the branches and birds play hide and seek, is magic. Add to this the mystery of life these dunefields witnessed centuries ago, and you've got yourself a priceless experience.
My friend Maggie Langlands and I enjoyed this archeological walk at Dune Ridge Country House the other day. The pathway is cut open just wide enough to have a comfortable walk, with bush pig droppings and recently hatched eggs a reminder that we are the visitors, and should only leave our...