Travel Guide

The Eastern Cape is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bhisho.

It was formed in 1994 out of the "independent" homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, as well as the eastern portion of the Cape Province. Landing place and home of the 1820 settlers. It is partly the traditional home of the Xhosa, and the birthplace of many prominent South Africans, such as Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko and Charles Coghlan.

Eastern Cape
Mpuma-Koloni (Xhosa)
Oos-Kaap (Afrikaans)
— Province of South Africa —
The Province of the Eastern Cape, Motto: Development through Unity




Country - South Africa

Established - 27 April 1994

Capital - Bhisho

Area - 168,966 km2 (65,475.2 sq mi)

Highest elevation - 3,019 m (9,905 ft)

Lowest elevation - 0 m (0 ft)

Population (2011) - Total 6,562 million - Density 38.5/km2 (99.7/sq mi)

Website -



The Eastern Cape as a South African Province came into being in 1994 and incorporated areas from the former homelands of the Transkei and Ciskei as well as what was then the Cape Province. This resulted in several anomalies including the fact that the Province has four High Courts (at Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Bhisho and Mthatha) and enclaves of Kwa-Zulu Natal in the province. The latter anomaly has fallen away with the amendments to municipal and provincial boundaries.

The Eastern Cape gets progressively wetter from west to east. The west is mostly semi-arid Karoo, except in the far south, which is temperate rainforest in the Tsitsikamma region. The coast is generally rugged with interspersed beaches. Most of the province is hilly to very mountainous between Graaff-Reinet and Rhodes including the Sneeuberge (Snow Mountains), Stormberge, Winterberge and Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains). The highest point in the province is Ben Macdhui at 3001m. The east, from East London towards the Kwa-Zulu Natal border is lush grassland with intermittent forest. This region, Transkei, is rolling hills punctuated by deep gorges.

Eastern Cape has a shoreline in the south on the South Indian Ocean. In the northeast, it borders the following districts of Lesotho:

Domestically, it borders the following provinces:

Climate is highly varied. The west is dry with scarse rain during winter and summer, with frosty winters and hot summers. The Tsitsikamma to Grahamstown receives more precipitation, which is also relatively evenly distributed and temperatures are mild. Further east, rainfall becomes more plentiful and humidity increases, becoming more subtropical along the coast with summer rainfall. The interior can become very cold during winter, with heavy snowfalls occurring at times in the mountainous regions between Molteno and Rhodes.

  • Port Elizabeth: Jan Max: 25°C, Min: 18°C; Jul Max: 20°C, Min: 9°C

  • Molteno & Barkly East: Jan Max 28°C, Min 11°C; Jul Max: 14°C, Min: -7°C

The landscape is extremely diverse. The western interior is largely arid Karoo, while the east is well-watered and green. The Eastern Cape offers a wide array of attractions, including 800 km of untouched and pristine coastline along with some particularly splendid beaches, and " big-five" viewing in a malaria-free environment.

The Addo Elephant National Park, situated 73 km from Port Elizabeth, was proclaimed in 1931. Its 743 km² offers sanctuary to 600 elephants, about 280 Cape buffalo and black rhino of the very scarce Kenyan sub-species. The original park has subsequently been expanded to include the Woody Cape Nature reserve that extends from the Sundays River mouth towards Alexandria and a marine reserve, which includes St Croix Island and Bird Island. Both are important breeding habitat for Cape Gannet birds and Penguins.

The province is the location of South Africa's only ski resort, Tiffindell, which is situated near the hamlet of Rhodes in the Southern Drakensberg on the slopes of the highest mountain peak in the Eastern Cape (3001 m).

The National Arts Festival, held in Grahamstown is Africa's largest and most colourful cultural event, offering a choice of the very best of both indigenous and imported talent. Every year for 11 days the town's population almost doubles, as over 50,000 people flock to the region for a feast of arts, crafts and sheer entertainment.

The Tsitsikamma National Park is an 80 km long coastal strip between Nature's Valley and the mouth of the Storms River. In the park the visitor finds an almost untouched natural landscape. Near the park is the Bloukrans Bridge, which is the world's highest bungee jump.

Jeffreys Bay is an area with some of the country's wildest coastline, which is backed by some of Africa's most spectacular sub-tropical rainforest. Famous for its "supertubes", probably South Africa's longest and most consistently good wave, it's charged with a surf vibe as relaxed as it is friendly, and this tends to soften the effect of the wealthy set who have made this part of the coast their own.

Aliwal North, lying on a splendid agricultural plateau on the southern bank of the Orange River, is one of the country's most popular inland resorts and is famous for its hot springs.

The rugged and unspoilt Wild Coast is a place of spectacular scenery, and a graveyard for many vessels.

The Eastern Cape remains one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. This is largely due to the extreme poverty found in the former homelands, where subsistence agriculture predominates.

There is much fertile land in the Eastern Cape, and agriculture is important. The fertile Langkloof Valley in the southwest has enormous deciduous fruit orchards, while sheep farming predominates in the Karoo. The Alexandria-Grahamstown area produces pineapples, chicory and dairy products, while coffee and tea are cultivated at Magwa. People in the former Transkei region are dependent on cattle, maize and sorghum-farming. An olive nursery has been developed in collaboration with the University of Fort Hare to form a nucleus of olive production in the Eastern Cape.

The basis of the province's fishing industry is squid, some recreational and commercial fishing for line fish, the collection of marine resources, and access to line-catches of hake.

The two major industrial centres, Port Elizabeth and East London have well-developed economies, based on the automotive industry. General Motors and Volkswagen both have major assembly lines in the Port Elizabeth area, while East London is dominated by the large DaimlerChrysler plant. The largest construction project in Africawas at Coega, about 20 km north of Port Elizabeth, where a new harbour was built. It is expected that this development will give the province a major economic boost.

With two harbours and three airports offering direct flights to the main centres, and an excellent road and rail infrastructure, the province has been earmarked as a key area for growth and economic development. Environmentally friendly projects include the Fish River Spatial Development Initiative, the Wild Coast SDI, and two industrial development zones, the West Bank in East London and, near Port Elizabeth, Coega - the largest infrastructure development in post-apartheid South Africa. Plans for the development of the area as an export-orientated zone include the construction of the deepwater Port of Ngqura as an export orientated harbour.

Other important sectors include finance, real estate, business services, wholesale and retail trade, and hotels and restaurants.




1. African Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary - Telephone: +27 (0)83 270-3397

2. Cape Recife Lighthouse - Port Elizabeth

3. Day Trip in Sibuya Game Reserve - Telephone: +27 (0)46 648-1040

4. Eat-Out at Pickwick's Oven - Telephone: +27 (0)46 625-0350

5. Great Fish Point Lighthouse - Port Alfred

6. Hike the Sacramento Trail - Sardinia Bay

7. Horse Safari on the Fish River - Port Alfred - Telephone: +27(0)46 675-1271 or +27 (0)82 433-5662

8. Jam Sessions at Imbizo Jazz Cafe - Telephone: +27 (0)83 493-7002

9. Jeffreys Bay Shell Museum - Telephone: +27 (0)42 293-1945

10. Jeffreys Bay Surf Museum - Telephone: +27 (0)84 240-1741

11. Drumming at Imbizo Café - Telephone: +27 (0)83 493-7002

12. Learn to Surf - Telephone: +27 (0)73 509-0400

13. Kite Flying - Telephone: +27 (0)46 624-4432

14. Potter's Place - Telephone: +27 (0)42 293-2500