Known to the locals as Buffalo City, East London lies on the Indian Ocean coastline between Buffalo River and Nahoon River; the only river port in South Africa. Don’t be fooled by the city’s small airport; flights to East London happen between 20 and 30 times daily.
Old fashioned in values and laid back in allure, East London is also wealthy in heritage. Both Nelson Mandela and former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki has their roots in the Eastern Cape, and less than three hours’ drive out of the city, Nelson Mandela is buried in his ancestral home called Qunu.
An appealing city to say the least, the stretches of sandy beaches is a surfer’s paradise where international surfing competitions are held annually, and sand-boarding on Bonza’s Bay on a rainy day is a hit with visitors. Areas surrounding the city, namely Wild Coast and inland to the Amatola Mountains are popular destinations as well. Water sports like sailing, water-skiing, boardsailing and boating provide year round entertainment, while lagoons are every bit of paradise you imagine it to be. And if that’s not for you, here’s a selection that might interest you.
Nahoon Point Nature Reserve – A community project restored the area after a 120 000 year old footprint was discovered. Here you can enjoy a 12km walk of footpaths and boardwalks. Amidst the marine, coastal dune forest, estuary and inter-tidal systems, you’ll also find an interpretation centre and restaurant along the way.
Ann Bryant Art Gallery – Promoting the work of prominent Eastern Cape artists, this gallery promotes the artistic awareness of cultural diversity. Set in an old Edwardian-styled house, you will find a collection of 20th Century, predominantly of Victorian and Cape Dutch style, South African paintings.
AV8 Helicopters – Book a chartered flight and revel in the fabulous aerial shots set against this splendid African backdrop. Flights depart from East London airport.
Queens Park Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Close to the city centre, in the Queen Park Zoological Gardens, you will find the zoo. The striking mix of indigenous and exotic vegetation is home to about 50 mammal species including white lions and chimpanzees, including a variety of birds, reptiles and fish that are on display. As if the kids won’t love this enough, they have their very own children’s playground.
De Kraal 4X4 – About 15km outside of East London is various self-driving trails ranging from 8km to 35km along the most beautiful mountain route. Quad bikes are also permitted along these trails. De Kraal Outdoor Adventures offer paint-ball facilities and a serene area where you can soak up the Eastern Cape air and do some fishing.
The Lion Park – Pack a picnic basket and you can enjoy the afternoon in the company of white lions and two Bengai tigers. If you’ve got small kids, don’t forget to bring along apples and carrots for the touch farm where the kids can feed the animals.