Wild Coast & Sunshine Coast
Delight in over 800 km of pristine coastline along the warm Indian Ocean of the Eastern Cape. Take in the thrill of abundant wildlife in over 40 game reserves, explore its heritage routes and trails and discover its unique history, authentic cultural experiences, frontier forts and ancient rock art.
This spectacular eco-tourism destination boasts extremely rich biodiversity of national and international significance with seven of South Africa’s nine biomes, over 3,500 endemic plant species found nowhere else on earth, many internationally recognised birding areas and diversity of natural terrain offering unique wilderness and coastal experiences.
One of the plus points of the Eastern Cape is that it is a malaria-free area, which is the answer for those who are not keen on entering the game reserves up north in the Kruger Park. Choose between national parks such as the Mountain Zebra, Camdeboo or the Addo Elephant National Parks, or the many private game reserves with accommodation varying from luxury 5-star and comfortable 4-star to budget 3-star lodges.
Addo Elephant National Park
Before the 1700s the Eastern Cape was teeming with wildlife and elephants. But hunting for ivory between the 1700s and the 1900s had exterminated most of the elephants in the area.
With the development of farmlands, elephants were declared a nuisance in damaging crops and many more were shot before 1920. When only 11 elephants remained, they suddenly got publicity and sympathy and a huge area of land was proclaimed as the Addo Elephant National Park. Slowly the elephant numbers grew to 100 in 1979. Today there are over 600 elephants in the Park.
The last of the buffaloes were also protected and Eland, Burchell’s zebra, warthog, black rhino, hippo and mountain zebra were introduced and the park further expanded to the Greater Addo Region. Through the combined efforts of the SA National Parks and donor agencies the Park has expanded to its present size of over 148 000 ha. The end result makes the Addo the third largest National Park in South Africa after the Kruger and Kgalagadi Parks and the only Park in the world to showcase the “Big Seven”– apart from the usual Big Five, (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino) also the two largest sea animals, (whales and sharks) as it now stretches down to the south coast.
Guided safari game drives on open vehicles are available or drive your own or rental car on a self-drive game drive (which is not allowed in the private game reserves).
For travellers coming from the Western Cape, the rugged Baviaanskloof Hartland situated between the Kouga wilderness and the Baviaanskloof Mountain range is a unique place to visit. Explore this vast area of unspoilt wilderness stretching through ancient hills and historic farms. Take on a challenging 4×4 or hiking route, be mesmerized by beautiful starry nights, experience innovative and unique accommodation and enjoy the local residents’ warm hospitality and interesting stories.
The Wild Coast is in the south-eastern part of South Africa and stretches 250 very rugged kilometres from the Kei River in the south to the Mthamvuma River on the border of KwaZulu-Natal. Its hilly terrain and political history have made it less accessible and less open to development than the rest of SA, and this, together with the unpredictable waves and rocky shores that have wrecked so many ships over the centuries, gives it its name.
The area is home to the Xhosa people, the country’s second-largest tribal group. During the last half of the 20th Century the area was known as the Transkei and was administered as an “independent” homeland by the Apartheid government of the day. It is now part of the country’s Eastern Cape Province but, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the country, has retained a traditional ethos, with tribal justice being dispensed by the King and his Chiefs and Headmen. Another result of its troubled past is that the area has largely escaped western-style building and industrial development. In fact, it has retained such an “African” feel that it is popular as a movie location for films set in the remotest parts of the continent.
Port St Johns
The idyllic town of Port St Johns is the unofficial capital of the Wild Coast and is often referred to as its “Emerald Gem.” Its location is probably the most exotic in the country, with a dramatic approach through the golden cliffs lining the Umzimvubu River (SA’s 4th largest) and surrounded by thousands of hectares of rare Afromontane jungle, with mile upon mile of pristine beaches and spectacular cliffs stretching into the distance. Port St Johns was named after the Sao Joao, a Portuguese caravel which was wrecked here in the 16th Century.
Today the town remains the biggest on the Wild Coast, and actually consist of two hamlets, First Beach and Second Beach, separated by a 5 km jungle- and village-lined road.
Due to its isolation in the midst of so much jungle, Port St Johns’ climate is unique. This unique forest type, Afromontane forest, is one of the few remaining patches left on earth. It contains subspecies of flora and fauna found only here, in particular the extremely rare southern subspecies of the endangered Samango Monkey, several troops of which are seen daily around the town. Cape Parrots, which are dependent on the predominantly Yellowwood forests, are also present – some of the estimated 300 remaining in the wild.
International surfers flock to catch the legendary waves in Jeffreys Bay – a paradise of sunshine, aloes, dolphins, shells, perfect points and classic reefs. The Supertubes is world renowned for its great waves and has attracted the annual Corona Open J-Bay surfing contest. If you’re not a pro yet, stay long enough to sign up for some surfing lessons.
Surfers and others, who found it hard to leave such an idyllic spot have turned Jeffreys Bay into a year-round fun place to be, creating a thriving local craft industry besides the surf shops on just about every corner. The bustling town is bordered on both sides by nature reserves and rivers. Soak up the sunshine, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and have a wonderful stay.