The Eastern Cape, lying on the southeastern South African coast, is a region of great natural beauty, particularly the rugged cliffs, rough seas and dense green bush of the stretch known as the Wild Coast. The province’s diverse climates and landscapes range from the dry and desolate Great Karoo to the lush forests of the Wild Coast and the Keiskamma Valley, the fertile Langkloof, renowned for its rich apple harvests, and the mountainous southern Drakensberg region around the town of Elliot.
The latter anomaly has fallen away with amendments to municipal and provincial boundaries. The province is mainly made up Xhosa speaking people. Xhosa people are divided into several tribes with related yet distinct heritages. The main tribes are amaMpondo, amaMpondomise, amaBomvana, amaXesibe, amaHlubi, abaThembu, amaBhaca and amaMfengu. The name “Xhosa” comes from that of a legendary leader called uXhosa. There is also a fringe theory that, prior to that, the name Xhosa came from a word meaning “fierce” or “angry” in a San language. The Xhosa refer to themselves as the amaXhosa, and to their language as isiXhosa. IsiXhosa is South Africa’s second-most-populous home language, after isiZulu, to which isiXhosa is closely related.
The Eastern Cape was one of the first areas settled by the Portuguese in 1488 and by the British in 1820. It was the site of many wars between the local Khoisan and Xhosa’s as well as the British, Dutch and Germans. This rich cultural heritage has been preserved in some of the region’s smaller towns including Bathurst, Grahamstown and Cradock. Nelson Mandela’s birthplace lies just south of Mthatha in a cluster of villages known as Qunu. This is where the former president spent his early childhood. The Eastern Cape is home to many other struggle heroes including Walter Sisulu, Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko, Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo.
The malaria-free Eastern Cape is one of the few places in the world where visitors can get close to the Big 7 in real life. The Great White shark and seasonal Southern Right whale complete the Big 7 which also includes buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. There are hundreds of game farms throughout the Eastern Cape which offer luxurious five star accommodation and Big 5 safaris.The Eastern Cape’s natural diversity ranges from the evergreen Tsitsikamma Forest, with its renowned Otter Trail, to the rugged Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, the southern slopes of the Drakensberg and the imposing Great Karoo. The Eastern Cape offers visitors every type of outdoor experience.
It’s main features are its spectacular coastline, lapped by the temperate Indian Ocean. With long stretches of unspoilt sandy beaches, rocky coves, secluded lagoons and towering cliffs, the coast is the province’s main tourist attraction.