Wednesday 21 August 2019

Take the coastal road trip of a lifetime in the Eastern Cape

Morgan Bay Cliffs
Morgan Bay Cliffs

Rachael Taylor Fawsitt

The Eastern Cape of South Africa is blessed with a coastline that is so incredible it attracts wanderlusters from all over the world.

Known as the ‘wild’ province, life here remains naturally beautiful and perfect for those who enjoy the great outdoors. Rugged cliffs, sheltered bays and wild beaches are just some of the things that are waiting for you in South Africa’s Wild Coast.

Tour guide and coastal wanderer Siseko Yelani has devoted the past 10 years to taking guests on journeys around this magical region. He says that the area is as rich in natural beauty as it is in culture and that the local people help to provide a wonderful experience for visitors.

“I’ve been a tourist and cultural guide for the province of the Eastern Cape of South Africa since 2009. My job in two words – it’s crazy! It involves organising the whole tour experience. From the start to the very last day when the client departs. I love getting involved with the communities here, they play an active role in tourism and I love that so much. I get to showcase how we live as South Africans and how we live as Xhosa people in the Eastern Cape.”

Wildlife adventures

Siseko says that the unspoiled and wild terrain makes the Eastern Cape the perfect place to have some unforgettable outdoor adventures.

“The Eastern Cape is very natural with its coastline and the waterfalls. Visitors get to see our destinations in their natural form. For outdoor activities, you can do things like hiking trails where you walk along the coast. You can hike from one lodge to the next in about four or five hours. That’s one activity that is very popular in this area. Activities like canoeing and horseback riding are also very popular. You can go crazy and do some cliff jumping into natural pools too.”

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Transkei River, Wild Coast

Hikers have lots of trails to choose from in this region. For coastal views, check out the Wild Coast Walk or for a challenging forest hike, the Amatola Hiking Trail is a 100km trail that takes you into an ancient and indigenous rainforest.

For those who prefer to travel in comfort, there are also lots of 4x4 trails where you can take in the sights as you drive. However, you will still have to get sand between your toes if you want to really enjoy the beaches as, rightly so, they are off limits to drivers. South Africans take the preservation of their wildlife very seriously, which is partly why there are still so many natural experiences to enjoy there.

“Traditionally we have been very concerned with the environment and conservation, so you will find there are certain types of trees and certain types of plants that hold significant roles into our day to day lives.

“The area is coastal and has some huge mountains. There are many different biomes, meaning you get the grassland and the forest. It’s very diverse. It’s warm because we are on the Indian Ocean side. The waters and temperatures are really favourable for outdoor activities. These things make it so different to other areas.”

The warm waters make this region ideal for those who love to snorkel and take in the local aquatic life. It is also a diver’s paradise with lots of shipwrecks ready to be explored - you can even search for lost treasure in these parts!

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Siseko Yelani

Bucket list sights

There are many things to put on your bucket list when visiting the Eastern Cape and The Hole in the Wall, which stands tall in Coffee Bay, is a must see for anyone travelling to the area. This natural arch is steeped in local legend and is of huge significance to the Xhosa people to this day.

“You can walk up close to it. It’s a huge rock and the constant bashing of the sea waves has managed to dig a hole within that big rock in the ocean. It’s a phenomenal thing.”

Morgan Bay is another key destination for those looking to make the most of South Africa’s wild landscape. The cliffs here have over 600 climbing routes and at their highest peak drop 50m into the ocean. If you are really lucky, you may even see some dolphins playing in the surf below you while you climb.

As well as boasting an abundance of wildlife and natural attractions, the region is also home to Port Elizabeth, a city which is fondly referred to by locals as Friendly City. The city is a great place to begin your journey of Eastern Cape and is a urban oasis amongst the wild surrounding areas.

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Sunrise on the Wild Coast

History

The history of the province takes in ancient tribes and modern day heroes. Many will know it as the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, who was a driving force behind the changes that shaped South Africa into the Rainbow Nation it is today. Visitors can take a trip to the village where Mandela grew up and see where the Father of the Nation came from. Siseko says that visiting the village is a great way to discover local and authentic cuisine.

“Local cuisine is very big. Yesterday we had a media tour with local newspapers where we went to Mvezo, which is the home village of Nelson Mandela. We got to walk around his village and have the local cuisine – the normal food that the people here eat on a day to day basis. That creates a real interest for visitors. We’ve noticed that they want to visit South Africa and eat like Africans.”

If you are looking to go somewhere that boasts a flawless balance between culture and wildlife, then look no further than the Eastern Cape. Local guides like Siseko are just waiting to show you exactly what the region has to offer and what makes it so special.

“I highly recommend someone to visit because we have a unique tourism offering. We come to offer you something different to the big cities - we give that home environment which is highly rooted in culture.”

Fly to East London or Port Elizabeth to explore the Wild Coast. Book your holiday to South Africa now.

Sponsored by: South Africa Tourism

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