The Eastern Cape is the second largest of South Africa’s nine provinces and incorporates five ecological zones – ranging from lush evergreen forest to rugged mountain and dry savannah. Port Elizabeth is the largest city in the province and its domestic airport is the fourth busiest in South Africa, providing a gateway to the regions many game reserves and tourist attractions. The Eastern Cape happens to be the fastest growing nature and conservation area in South Africa, offering the best in malaria-free, Big 5 wildlife safaris.
In the 19th century most land in the Eastern Cape was used for stock farming. Fearing for their families and livestock, settlers living in the area began hunting and exterminating the surrounding African wildlife. In the last few decades there has been a radical change in the attitude toward wildlife conservation. This shift has been coupled with an increase in private game reserves across the continent, not excluding the Eastern Cape.
So where to within the Eastern Cape? Let’s look at some of the top reserves:
Addo Elephant National Park is a diverse wildlife conservation park situated close to Port Elizabeth and is one of the country’s 19 national parks. Addo is home to more than 600 elephants, 400 Cape buffaloes, over 48 endangered black rhinos, as well as lion and spotted hyena. The largest remaining population of the flightless dung beetle is also located within the park!
The Amakhala Game Reserve is renowned for its truly unique topography and wildlife. This reserve offers a wide variety of 3, 4 and 5-star owner-managed experiences. The park offers guests a choice of 10 luxury accommodation options, day and night game viewing trips under guidance of professional game rangers, and the opportunity to see the Big Five, as well as cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and plenty of antelope species.
Shamwari Game Reserve is one of the most successful private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa. Shamwari incorporates 6 luxury lodges, all of which are 5 star graded. Each one, has its’ own unique energy and essence, designed in harmony with their surroundings. In addition to a Big 5 safari experience, guests have the opportunity to enjoying a first-hand encounter with their passionate on-site vets, who care for young, injured and abandoned animals, which are to be re-released back into the wild.
Lalibela Game Reserve and Safari Lodge spans 5 ecosystems, resulting in a breath-taking diversity of flora and fauna. Blessed with vast African plains, Lalibela has multitudes of zebra, giraffe, warthog, impala, wildebeest, blesbuck and various other antelope species. Lalibela brings you the charm of authentic Africa and is a perfect blend of the formal and informal with five different lodge options.
Kariega Game Reserve is a family-owned and operated game lodge incorporating 10,000 hectares of pristine African wilderness, as well as two abundant rivers – the Kariega and the Bushmans rivers. The reserve offers five safari lodges to suit all needs.
Eco friendly Pumba Game Reserve provides an intimate African safari experience never to be forgotten. The reserve is home to Africa’s Big 5 as well as rare white lion, hippo, hyena, cheetah, giraffes, various antelope and more than 300 bird species. Guests get a real feel the heartbeat of nature as they explore the reserve in custom land rovers or on guided walking safaris. Water Lodge offers waterfront chalets overlooking Lake Cariega while Bush Lodge is set on a floodplain with scenic mountain views offering luxury thatch and glass chalets.
Sibuya Game Reserve is an eco destination that is positioned approximately 130 kms from Port Elizabeth or East London. Guests are either based at one of the two solar-powered, secluded luxury tented camps tucked away in the forest on the banks of the Kariega River or at stunning Bush Lodge situated just outside the main Reserve in a pristine, densely forested valley.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is a 22,000 hectare pristine private wilderness that stretches either side of the Great Fish River. Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is home to five award-winning safari lodges and villas, each with its own distinctive charm and character. Families or small groups of friends can choose to enjoy an entirely intimate and exclusive safari experience at one of Kwandwe’s three gracious sole-use safari villas.
Samara Private Game Reserve is a passionate conservation undertaking, the leader in its area and a catalyst for change in the Great Karoo region of South Africa. Samara is a 2.5-hour drive from Port Elizabeth and just 40 minutes from the historical town of Graaff-Reinet, rich in culture and heritage. The reserve encompasses 70,000 acres of wilderness in the Great Karoo, and offers guests everything from game drives, guided walks, mountain biking, bird watching and wilderness picnics.
Kwantu Game Reserve offers a value for money Big 5 African adventure with five-star hospitality. It is home to five of the seven biomes and boasts a past as rich as its abundant wildlife population. The game reserve also allows for day visit trips which include experiencing the Big 5 and the abundance of wildlife, birds and flora the reserve has to offer.
South Africa’s magical heartlands, the Eastern Cape is a must-visit destination.