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Eastern Cape

October 21, 2011 by CTGManager

Just as the climate and terrain of the Eastern Cape varies tremendously from the dry Karoo to the rolling hills of Transkei, so the economy of the province changes between its different districts. Each district has its own strengths, challenges and opportunities.

Tourism has great potential for further development in this open region, linked to the strong outdoor attractions of the Southern Drakensberg and Lake Gariep.

Local government elections in December 2000 heralded a new system of district and local municipalities nationally and in the province. The new municipal boundaries were deliberately drawn to include the diverse conditions and economies of the province. Local municipalities cover both towns and surrounding rural areas. Five out of the six district municipalities of the Eastern Cape include areas that are in the former Transkei or Ciskei.

District and local municipalities will have an important role in local economic development (LED) through provision of public services and through development projects, especially in the poorest areas. They have drawn up Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) to identify their priorities for supporting economic and social development.

The larger district municipalities are taking on growing responsibilities for infrastructure, including rural roads, water and sanitation, and housing. The 38 local municipalities will in time become the main point of delivery for social services, including education, health and welfare. The districts and metropole include the following local municipalities (with main towns in brackets):

Theo only metropolitan city in the Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela Bay – incorporating Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch – is situated on the South Eastern coastline of South Africa.

The official gateway to the Eastern Cape, this affordable, fun-in-the-sun family focussed metropolitan city is situated 736km east of Cape Town. It boasts the honour of having the fourth best climate in the world for a coastal city.

Nelson Mandela Bay is South Africa’s fifth largest city in terms of population and the second largest in terms of area, covering an area of 1,952km².It is the economic capital of the Eastern Cape and a popular tourist destination. The population of 1,5-million has earned the city the name – The Friendly City. The predominant languages spoken in this city are Xhosa, English and Afrikaans.

Appointed the 2010 host city for the World Cup, Nelson Mandela Bay boasts architectural profiles of Victorian, art deco and modern buildings, which reflect a changing history – reshaping its profile to fit the mould of a world-class tourist destination while meeting the service needs of its citizens.

Accessibility is a key factor with the city reached by excellent national roads and the revamped Port Elizabeth Airport – now the fourth largest airport in the Airports Company South Africa domestic network.

An agreeable climate here sees temperatures range between 18ºC to 20ºC in summer and 8ºC to 20ºC in winter. With sea temperatures as warm as 21ºC and rarely colder than 14ºC in winter – Nelson Mandela Bay is an internationally-acclaimed holiday, water sports and triathlon centre.

Positioned at the start of the Sunshine Coast tourism route, the metro is surrounded by over a million hectares of malaria-free game reserves.

Leisure facilities in Nelson Mandela Bay including swimming beaches, art galleries, museums, the Bayworld oceanarium and the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex. There are also yacht clubs, golf clubs, diving and riding schools, restaurants for various tastes, township tours and shopping centres round off the tourist experience.

Striking a balance between modernity and quality of life, the metro boasts world-class education, hospitals and an automotive industry that serves global markets.


About 1200 meters above sea-level, the Buffalo River drains the forested Amathole Mountains of the Eastern Cape and cuts an eastward path across the coastal plateau to the Indian Ocean. It slides into the sea in East London – South Africa’s only river port.

Buffalo City’s 2510km2 municipal area is a grouping of urban developments within an aspirant metropolitan corridor which stretches from the port of East London in the east, to Dimbaza in the west and includes Eastern Cape’s capital, Bhisho, historical King William’s Town, South Africa’s second largest township Mdantsane and the industrial hub of Berlin – a town established by German military settlers in the 1800s when British government encouraged European settlement in the area.

The area comprises a coastal plane and a hinterland coastal plateau and lies between 300 and 500 metres above sea level. Buffalo City’s natural environment coupled with its attractive and expansive landscape, and coastal planes, form a valuable base for quality of life.

With a population of approximately 800000, Buffalo City has a considerable number of disadvantaged communities inside and outside the formal boundaries. It is one of the Eastern Cape’s two major centres and is the headquarters of the Amathole district.

With 68km of coastline and 10 estuaries, Buffalo City is a charming travel destination and access point to the tourist corridors of the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast.

On the economic front, Buffalo City plays a vital role as a centre for trade, commerce and industry for the densely-populated and underdeveloped rural hinterland. The East London Industrial Development Zone is well on track.

In addition, educational institutions like the Walter Sisulu University and the University of Fort Hare, together with other primary and tertiary institutions, provide a diverse and sound education for the population.


Dotted with names such as Berlin, Stutterheim, Humberg and Potsdam, you will be forgiven for thinking that you’re looking at a map of Germany. The towns and villages around Buffalo City are all testimony of the history between Germany and Buffalo City.

The connection began in 1857 when 2500 German soldiers enlisted in the British army were stationed here. It continues strongly today in the presence of a DaimlerChrysler South Africa (DSCA) manufacturing plant and a German Lutheran church which holds two German services a month.

Local historian Keith Tankard, who is working on a commemorative publication to mark 150 years of German presence in the region, says that British Kaffraria Governor Sir George Grey designed a frontier policy to swell the expatriate community by 25 000. Grey knew that farmers with wives would create a sustainable populace for economic growth. It would also impact on containing the Frontier Wars against the Xhosa who opposed the wholesale occupation of land they viewed as equally theirs. His efforts to encourage British settlers had marginal success because the industrial revolution meant work was plentiful in Britain.

The first step in achieving his plan came to fruition when Britain faced an untimely defeat against Russia in the Crimean War. German soldiers who had fought for Britain, while their own country stayed neutral, were not welcomed home. Furthermore Britain was obliged to pay them for another year and so dispatched them to the Eastern Cape, setting up a string of military bases bearing German names.

When half left to fight for Britain in a mutiny in India, Grey went over his superiors’ heads and brought 5000 German families, about to seek greener pastures in America, to the Eastern Cape.

Today their presence is immortalised in a German monument on the beachfront which features a family with a bonneted woman and child staring out to the sea that brought them here.

International factory Da Gama Textiles prints original German print fabric which Border Historical Society member Gabriele Schuch recalls her grandmother wearing. Nowadays the fabric is called shweshwe and is very Afro-chic.

The German community still holds an annual Weihtsmarkt (Christmas market) and Easter market where traditional fare is sold.Maintaining some traditional aspects of their culture may be a comfort to modern German families in East London while on contract to DCSA.

The DCSA plant represents a significant investment in East London and is the city’s single biggest employer. Its history began when Car Distributor Assembly (CDA) was established in 1949 and began assembling Mercedes Benz in the mid to late 1950s.

In 1984 CDA became Mercedes Benz of South Africa and the only plant outside Germany to manufacture engines. In 1998 Daimler-Benz AG and the Chrysler Corporation merged and DCSA, which manufactures left hand drive vehicles for world markets and keeps the strong link between Buffalo City and Germany alive, was born.

And it is this strong bond on which Buffalo City is launching its 2010 Soccer World Cup bid to host the German national team.


The Amathole, which means “the calves of the Drakensberg” in Xhosa, is a municipal district which lies in the central coastal portion of the Eastern Cape. This refers to the pastoral way of life of the rural Xhosa communities who still graze their colourful Nguni cattle on her foothills today.

With a population of 1 660000 and covering an area of 23 675km², the extremely diverse Amathole covers important settlements including Buffalo City together with other smaller towns. Its boundaries stretch from the Great Fish River in the south to the Dwesa/Cwebe Nature Reserve in the east. They also stretch north past Hogsback and take in the towns of Bedford, Seymour, Cathcart, Ngqamakwe, Dutywa and Elliotdale.

Mild and temperate climate, the rolling grasslands and hills, unspoiled estuaries, malaria-free game reserves, and wildly beautiful coastline – these features all add to this region’s diversity.

About two-thirds of the district is made up of former homeland areas with cultural tourism and agricultural potential. The new Industrial Development Zone at East London, aimed to boost exports and jobs, has significantly boosted the district by drawing local and foreign investment.

The Wild Coast, Sunshine Coast, Frontier Country and Amathole Mountain Escape tourism routes fall within the boundaries of this district. The Wild Coast is synonymous with rolling green hills dotted with traditional Xhosa villages, the rugged coastline and adventure tourism.

Famous for being the cradle of South Africa’s democracy, is the home of educational institutions such as Fort Hare University and Lovedale College which produced struggle leaders such as former President Nelson Mandela, the late Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko and current President, Thabo Mbeki and Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Legend of early settlers and Xhosa kings, San paintings and a wealth of African art collection at the University of Fort Hare and traditional villages add to the region’s heritage and history collection.

Peppered with little German and British settler towns including Bedford, Adelaide, Fort Beaufort, Stutterheim, Hamburg and Cathcart, Amathole includes eight local municipalities and 21 former magisterial districts. Tourism is concentrated along the coastal strip which gives way to the pristine green hills of rural areas includes hidden away treasures such as Haga Haga, Chinstsa, Kei Mouth and Morgan Bay. And it is served inland by the Great Fish River reserve complex and beautiful Amathole mountain range.

Access to the Amathole district is served by the East London Airport, the East London river port, the good N2 and N6 national roads and a rail network.

THE DISTRICT OF DIVERSITY< The Amathole district is probably the most diverse of all the districts in terms of geographical profile and urban spread. The district moves from the misty Amathole mountain range down to a well-watered Wild Coast and includes semi-arid Karoo, thornveld, succulent and thicket areas. The region has a mild and temperate climate, unspoiled estuaries, afro-montane forests, waterfalls and malaria-free game reserves serving agriculture and tourism. Tourism is concentrated along the beautiful coastal strip in the provincial tourism regions of the Sunshine Coast and Wild Coast. And it is served inland by the Great Fish River reserve complex and beautiful Amathole mountain range. The Amathole region derives its name from the Xhosa word amathole which means “calves of the Drakensberg”. This refers to the pastoral way of life of the rural Xhosa communities who still graze their colourful Nguni cattle on her foothills today. Amathole is home to the only commercial river port city in South Africa, East London, which – together with the provincial capital of Bhisho, Mdantsane and Dimbaza – forms the Buffalo City local municipality. Buffalo City is the most populous local municipality in the country. About two-thirds of the district is made up of former homeland areas with cultural tourism and agricultural potential. The new Industrial Development Zone at East London, aimed to boost exports and jobs, has significantly boosted the district by drawing local and foreign investment. Fort Hare University, based in Alice and with a campus in East London, is one of the oldest universities in Southern Africa. Famous ex-students include President Thabo Mbeki, former president Nelson Mandela, the late Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko and Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Access to the Amathole district is served by the East London Airport, the East London river port, the good N2 and N6 national roads and a rail network. Regarded as the cradle of democracy, Amathole is the place where a spirit of independence was kindled in indigenous people through a succession of chiefs and struggle heroes of the apartheid era. This history forms part of a growing heritage tourism drive today. 5. ALFRED NZO DISTRICT

At just7 952km², the north eastern Alfred Nzo district is the smallest district in the Eastern Cape. Its boundaries stretch from the Lesotho border in the north to KwaZulu-Natal in the east. It is bordered by OR Tambo district in the south and Ukhahlamba district in the west. Alfred Nzo has a relatively small population of approximately 544 000 people and a relatively high density of 69 people per square metre. The first language is Xhosa, but the use of Sesotho and Zulu is significant in some areas. Boundaries and therefore statistics may change once a final decision is taken on border redemarcations affecting Matatiele.

The seat of Alfred Nzo is Mount Ayliff . Key towns are: · Mount Ayliff · Matatiele · Mount Frere


Although it is the smallest district in the Eastern Cape – just 7 952 km² – Alfred Nzo district is steeped in history and has a growing international reputation as an idyllic trout fishing spot.

It is named after ANC stalwart Alfred Nzo who was the organisation’s longest serving secretary-general from 1969 to 1991. He was also the first Foreign Affairs Minister of a non-racial and democratic South Africa.

The smallest of the six districts, much of the area exceeds 1 000 meters above sea level. Rainfall is high and winters can be bitterly cold. It is one of the few areas in the Eastern Cape that experiences snow in winter.

Agriculture is the principal economic activity and provides 12% of formal employment. High rainfalls and the temperature ranges between summer and winter make the area suitable for forestry and there are extensive plantations in Umzimkhulu and Maluti.

Alfred Nzo district municipality was one of 13 municipalities earmarked by President Thabo Mbeki as nodal points for rural development. This year, national government announced the go ahead for the Umzimvubu catchment and management project and the timber industries cluster in the Ugie and Maclear districts – two major ones for the Eastern Cape.

These were identified as major projects that would impact on accelerated and shared growth, and provide 13 000 jobs, give people water rights they lacked and boost agriculture.

Tourism is limited now, but has potential for growth. The district has spectacular mountain scenery in the southern Drakensberg. A trans-frontier park between South Africa and Lesotho is planned for the Maluti area of the southern Drakensberg, but will require greatly improved access roads. Cultural tourism has potential for development. Government services play a major role in the economy, providing 46% of value added and 50% of formal employment.

Although tourism is limited, the district’s major towns offer first-class accommodation and opportunities to learn about the first tribes to settle there, plus other points of interest.

A trans-frontier park between South Africa and Lesotho is planned for the Maluti area of the southern Drakensberg, but will require greatly improved access roads. The area offers a winter wonderland seasonal experience.

The Alfred Nzo district is peaceful and pastoral, a place of high rainfall, lush forests and towering mountains. This is what makes the Eastern Cape such a rare treasure – from endless stretches of golden beaches to arid plains, snow-covered mountains and lush forests – you are treated to a spectacular kaleidoscope of scenery in just one province.

See Africa from a different view. Discover what each of our diverse districts has to offer.


Cacadu district municipality is situated in the western portion of the Eastern Cape. It is the largest district in the province, approximately 60 000km² in size. Cacadu’s boundaries stretch from Bloukrans River in the west to the Great Fish River in the east, Nieu-Bethesda in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south.

The majority of its 388 201 people speak isiXhosa. English and Afrikaans are the next, most widely spoken, languages.

Cacadu incorporates nine local municipalities and four portions called District Management Areas (DMAs). Cacadu’s nine local municipalities and their key towns are:

• Baviaans (Steytlerville, Willowmore) • Blue Crane Route (Cookhouse, Pearston, Somerset East) • Camdeboo (Aberdeen, Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda) • Ikwezi (Jansenville, Klipplaat)
• Kouga (Hankey, Humansdorp, Jeffreys Bay, Oyster Bay, Patensie, St Francis Bay) • Kou-Kamma (Joubertina, Kareedouw) • Makana (Alicedale, Grahamstown, Riebeeck East)
• Ndlambe (Alexandria, Bathurst, Boknes, Bushmans River, Cannon Rocks,Kenton-on-Sea, Port Alfred) • Sundays River Valley (Addo, Kirkwood, Paterson)

Nelson Mandela Bay municipality – a concentrated urbanisation and inter-city activity area comprising Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch – is excluded from Cacadu.


A hinterland that traverses semi-desert plains, long mountains, rain-forests and golden beaches to reach an azure sea. The Cacadu district in the western reaches of the Eastern Cape is largely driven by agriculture and tourism.

A wide, unspoiled district; Cacadu is a fine agricultural and malaria-free game viewing area with a geographical profile that hosts all seven of South Africa’s plant biomes.

The climate sees temperate winter rainfalls of 500mm to 700mm annually along the coast with the dry interior supported by the Sundays and Fish Rivers, fed by the Orange River Project – allowing viable, irrigated farms.

Accessibility is a key asset to business and tourism in Cacadu.

Situated at the tail end of the Garden Route, Cacadu can be accessed by air travel via the airports of Port Elizabeth and George and the smaller airstrips of Graaff-Reinet and Plettenberg Bay.

Shipping is serviced by the Port Elizabeth harbour and the deepwater Port of Ngqura on the Coega River, 20km east of Port Elizabeth. Cacadu can be accessed by road from Johannesburg via the N1, from Cape Town via the N2 and through Noupoort on the N10 via Cradock.

Geographically, Cacadu consists of a narrow coastal plain with longitudinal mountains separating the coast from the Karoo. This environmental diversity leads to an equally diverse range of economic projects.


Chris Hani municipal district lies at the heart of the Eastern Cape. The second largest of the province’s district municipalities is covers an area of 37 111km². Its population numbers about 823 000 giving it a low population density of 22 per square kilometre. The majority of its people speak isiXhosa. Its boundaries stretch between the Ukhahlamba district in the north, OR Tambo district in the east, Amathole in the south, Cacadu in the south-west and a small stretch of the Northern Cape province to the north-west. The district is divided into eight local municipalities. The seat of the district is Queenstown.

The local municipalities have been grouped into six health districts: · Lukhanji · Inxuba Yethemba · Intsika Yethu · Emalahleni · Sakhisizwe · Ngcobo

Key towns pegging this district are Cradock, Middelburg, Queenstown, Elliot and Cofimvaba. Chris Hani’s executive mayor is Mafuza Sigabi.


Rare zebras, aloes, game farms, mohair, heritage and hospitality beats at the heart of Chris Hani. The Chris Hani district – the geographical heart of the Eastern Cape – is characterised by a changing topography that slopes down from the southern Drakensberg Mountains and crosses the eastern grasslands to the Karoo. It is named after assassinated freedom fighter Chris Hani and it offers game reserves, rock art, fossils, farmstays, heritage and agriculture.

Key towns pegging this district are Cradock, Middelburg, Queenstown, Elliot and Cofimvaba. The second-largest of the districts, Chris Hani, it is largely rural with one urban area around Queenstown-Lukhanji .The Friendly N6 tourism route winds southwards through the district while the eerily beautiful Karoo Heartland straddles it.

Key tourism gems include the Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock, one of South Africa’s great conservation success stories. The town of Cradock has the Olive Schreiner House (former home of the renowned author of Story of an African Farm), the Dutch Reformed Church (built as a replica of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields in London) and the beautifully restored 19th century artisan cottages, the Tuishuise. The longest known gallery of San rock paintings in South Africa exists on the Denorbin farm between Barkly East and Elliot and the Ruth Lock Shell Art Gallery in Queenstown displays one woman’s lifework in the form of intricate shell sculptures.

Livestock farming is the predominant activity in Chris Hani district followed by the economic sectors of tourism, forestry, mining, agri-processing, brick-making, real estate and retail. Queenstown – originally a military outpost – is the commercial, administrative and educational centre of a prosperous farming district dominated by cattle. Farms around Middelburg and Cradock ply mohair, mutton and wool while commercial black farmers are concentrated around Cofimvaba and Ngcobo. Queenstown is also a manufacturing centre producing furniture, wood and processed dairy products. The district is rich in Aloe Ferox from which commercial skincare products are made and food processing occurs around Cradock and Middelburg. “Stop over” tourism is serviced by guesthouses and farmstays.


OR Tambo district municipality lies in the north-east region of the Eastern Cape. Its boundaries stretch from the Indian Ocean in the east to the rolling hills of the former Transkei in the west, to the Mbhashe River in the south and KwaZulu-Natal in the north. It has the second-highest population at an estimated 1,5-million and a population density of 90 per square kilometre. The district covers an area of about 16 000km², about 9% of the province. The seat of OR Tambo is Mthatha.

OR Tambo is divided into seven local municipalities: · King Sabata Dalindyebo · Nyandeni · Port St Johns · Qawukeni · Ntabankulu · Mhlontlo · Mbizana


OR Tambo stretches about 16 000 km2 and occupies nine percent of the Eastern Cape. It is birthplace and home to some of South Africa’s great leaders. Oliver Reginald Tambo, former ANC president after whom the municipality is named is a son of the soil, as is first democratic president Nelson Mandela – the Eastern Cape’s most famous resident. His home is easily spotted on the N2 in Qunu.

OR Tambo district has the second highest population, an estimated 1,5-million, and a high population density for a mostly rural district, 90 per square kilometre.
The climate is suitable for agriculture and timber; however, farming remains largely subsistent. It includes an area called Pondoland – one of the most fertile areas in South Africa – warm, good soil and frost-free. (It is said that the Pondo people were the creators of the now in-vogue African braided hairstyles.)

In Mbizana a successful sugar cane programme has been developed between the local municipality, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), community members, non-governmental organisations and international donors to expand the current 10 000 hectares under plantation. A recently established maize production project’s yields have far exceeded projections.The district has a relatively small formal economy compared to the rest of the province, providing 11% of value added.

Port St Johns is a highlight on the Wild Coast tour route and old world mariners and modern travellers in search of that special spirit have long admired its towering cliffs, where the Umzimvubu River breaks through in its final sweep into the Indian Ocean.

In an effort to accelerate development in the area and ensure that investors get value for money, the Port St Johns municipality has established the Port St Johns Development Agency. The agency is tasked with identifying economic activities that can lead to a better quality of life for residents.

The Port St Johns area has also provided backdrops for Hollywood films and the area has seen the likes of film stars Elizabeth Hurley, Lee Marvin and Roger Moore.

Part of the world-renowned Wild Coast falls within the OR Tambo district. In places, the Wild Coast route is an untouched environmental paradise, with undulating green hills rolling down to blue lagoons and rugged stretches.

One of the many traditional Xhosa villages to visit here is Jonopo Village at Qunu, which is about 7km from former South African president Nelson Mandela’s residence. It is situated on the N2, 34km from Mthatha. Some of the customs which visitors can experience are the Ibhoma (boy’s initiation), Intonjane (girl’s initiation) and the Isangoma (witch-doctor initiation), which are held in specially built rondavels (huts).


The northern Ukhahlamba district, covering an area of 26 518km², is bordered by Lesotho to the north-east and the Limpopo Province to the north-west. Ukhahlamba’s population figure stands at around 328 000. At 14 people per square kilometre it has the lowest population rate for all the districts. Xhosa is the main language. Key towns in the district are Aliwal North, Burgersdorp, Barkly East, Maclear and Mount Fletcher.

The seat of Ukhahlamba is Barkly East. The district comprises four local municipalities: · Elundini · Gar · Maletswai · Senqu


Ukhahlamba, meaning “Barrier of Spears” in Xhosa, is the indigenous name given to the mighty Drakensberg that runs into this northern district of the Eastern Cape. Bordered by Lesotho to the east and the Limpopo Province to the north-west; her flat grazing plains rise up to mountains which are dusted with snow in winter. The main natural features of this district are the winding Orange River, Lake !Gariep and the Southern Drakensberg boasting Southern Africa’s only snow ski resort at Tiffindell near Rhodes.

Popular with eco-tourists, Ukhahlamba has a rich fossil record, rock art, wonderful mountain biking, trout fishing, horse trails, 4×4 opportunities and quaint Victorian towns like Lady Grey and Rhodes – proclaimed a national monument in 1997.

The district includes Aliwal North, famed for its hot springs and Anglo-Boer War Garden of Remembrance while Lady Grey offers pretty churches, fossil trails and the renowned Lady Grey Arts Academy.

Lake !Gariep – shared by the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State – is a water sport enthusiast’s paradise, stretching 90km in length and 374 km² in size, and offering sailing, jet skiing and power boating. The 16 000-hectare Oviston nature reserve overlooks the Eastern shores of the lake. There are many community-based craft projects. Part of the Friendly N6 Route, with all its farmstays, runs through this district.

Ukhahlamba has a small economy – three percent of the provincial economy – with tourism and agriculture as the main drivers. Sheep, cattle and goat farming are predominant, followed by maize and potato farming. Irrigation takes place along the Orange River, the Eastern Cape’s main area for maize growing, and wheat is grown in the foothills of the Drakensberg. There are large forestry plantations around Maclear, Ugie and Mount Fletcher.