Where else can you surf the world’s biggest waves, ski down the only snow slopes in Africa, go on a `big seven’ safari, visit the birthplace of Nelson Mandela and bungee the highest bridge in the southern hemisphere? The Eastern Cape, of course!

The second largest of South Africa’s nine provinces, the diverse Eastern Cape landscape ranges from the dry desolate Great Karoo to the steamy forests of the Wild Coast and the Keiskamma Valley. The shoreline of this province extends from the Umtamvuna River in KwaZulu-Natal, to the Storms River mouth on the scenic Garden Route.

Despite it’s colonial past, the Eastern Cape remains the homeland of the Xhosa speaking nation.

  The Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape climate varies considerably but has a year-round holiday climate. The Eastern coastal regions enjoy hot summers and moderate winters and the urban capital Port Elizabeth experiences a daily average of 7 hours sunshine. The Northern regions are much cooler. Certain areas receive rain throughout the year, albeit erratic.

The Eastern Cape offers 800km of untouched and pristine coastline along with some of the world’s best beaches. Port Elizabeth, alone, has 40km of magnificent beaches and, with its perfect combination of warm water, calm sea and fair breezes, it is one of the best sailing venues in the world, and a magnet for all beach and water sports enthusiasts.

Whether you are visiting the exclusive Shamwari Game Reserve, the Addo Elephant Park, the Mountain Zebra National Park or the Tsitsikamma National Park, the Eastern Cape offers unequalled game viewing.

Addo Elephant National Park boasts the most concentrated elephant reserve in Africa – the reserve is home to a herd of over 300 elephants.

The Tsitsikamma National Park, also known as ‘the place of much water’, is one of the Eastern Cape’s famous National Parks – offering up a spectacular combination of temperate forest, rocky ravines and breathtaking ocean views.

  Port Elizabeth - Friendly City on the Coast

There's a sense of antiquity and history about Port Elizabeth (PE). This is 1820 British Settler country and numerous monuments pay tribute to its English heritage. Restored Settler houses are now beautiful homes, and the Sir Rufane Donkin lighthouse still stands proud on a hilltop overlooking the city - named after his wife Lady Elizabeth.

Port Elizabeth's attractions are both numerous and diverse, with an emphasis on outdoor and nature activities. The city's trump card is its beautiful beaches and warm ocean. With calm waters and fair breezes, the coast is perfect for swimming and watersports.

At Bayworld on the beachfront, visitors can view performing dolphins and seals. A snake park and a museum, depicting cultural and natural history, is also in the Bayworld complex. No 7 Castle Hill, one of the oldest surviving Settler cottages in the area, is nearby, as is the perfectly intact stronghold - Fort Frederick.

Moving offshore, Port Elizabeth offers excellent fishing and scuba-diving possibilities and game-fishing from deep-sea boats.

PE shopping hotspots include Greenacres and The Bridge as well as Walmer Park. The liveliest nightlife can be found at The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World, right on the beachfront. This extensive complex includes entertainment, shopping, dining and gaming.

If you need to get in touch with your wild side, Addo Elephant National Park is not too far away from the city lights. This park is considered to be the most biologically-diverse park in the world. Addo is home to the Big Seven, which includes the terrestrial Big Five of lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo as well as whales and great white sharks.

Photographs and information © South African Tourism