Top 5 Volunteer Getaways in the Eastern Cape and Surrounds

By Bianca Eke, Conservation Experience Consultant for Worldwide Experience 

The Eastern Cape is an exciting travel destination with hidden gems around every corner. Whether you’re looking for malaria free Big 5 game reserves, unspoiled beaches, wine routes or cultural attractions – we have got it all here for you in the Eastern Cape or a short road trip away.

I have been living in the Eastern Cape for 26 years and personally made it my mission to explore as much of my home province as possible, here’s my list on the Top 5 things to do during your off time whilst volunteering in the Eastern Cape:

1. Visit Addo Elephant National Park

A personal favorite of mine, probably because I have spent hours driving around with my books and learning about all the species from the flightless dung beetle to the African elephants whilst studying for my FGASA level 1 (which you may be doing if you’re joining our Game Ranger Training Partner). AENP is the only place in the world where you have the opportunity to view the Big 7 whilst participating in activities in the area; from kayaking and sandboarding to quad bike riding and horse riding. For further information and to learn about the park, its species and activities, visit South African National Parks website: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/

2. Drive up the Garden Route to Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is a seaside town a mere 2 hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth set in the world famous Garden Route. This is my personal favorite on the Garden Route but this could be because of my sheer love for good food, wine and adventure. Start your morning off with a canyoning adventure at Africanyon and then just across the road you’ll find yourself deep in the vineyards for a scrumptious lunch and craft drinks at Newstead Wines. With so much to do, you won’t find yourself bored here: https://www.plett-tourism.co.za/

3. Spike your adrenalin levels in Tsitsikamma

Tsitsikamma is tucked between the mountains and the ocean and is an oasis for adventure seekers. Stay in a quirky backpackers in the area or opt for a more luxurious cabin – Tsitsikamma has it all. Tsitsikamma National Park is an area of the Garden Route National Park, on South Africa’s southern coast. It encompasses a
marine reserve, deep gorges and local vegetation like the Big Tree, a towering yellowwood. The Mouth Trail crosses a suspension bridge over Storms River where you can join Untouched Adventures on a kayaking and lilo adventure down a stunning gorge or you can hike The Otter Trail which leads to a waterfall in the first section of the Otter Trail (I wouldn’t recommend this for the very mature volunteers unless you’re very fit). The park is also home to small mammals, including bush pigs and plenty of dassies. If you’re looking for a nearby seaside area to stay, I would recommend Natures Valley for the most pristine beaches. Tree topping and Segway also come highly recommended as well as a Bungy Jump off the highest commercial bungy bridge in the world; there is literally something for everyone. http://www.tsitsikamma.info/listing/bloukrans_bungy_35

4. Hogsback

After many years, I recently got to experience Hogsback and all of its enchantment again and it didn’t disappoint. If you’re a lover of forests and all things natural, this is one place that won’t dissatisfy. Within the densely forested mountains that are famous for its many waterfalls and panoramic views, you’ll find many different hiking routes, natural products at Essential Amathole, crystals just a way down the road, the arboretum for the tree lover, the Eco-Shrine, Labyrinth and a few adventure activities at Hogsback Adventures. I stayed the most amazing cottage called Danesworld, it was cozy yet spacious and modern yet rustic. We awoke to valleys covered in mist and cows grazing outside our farm cottage – it was splendid! Look out for the Samango Monkey and the Cape Parrot (who is critically endangered) while you’re here as they’re not a common occurrence across South Africa.

5. Wild Coast

I had never been to the Wild Coast as an adult until one year I decided to explore it about 4 times. Another favorite of mine, due to its proximity and safety would have to be the Jikeleza route – this is the “tame” route of the wild coast and boasts over 50 tourism attractions with over 28 unique types of accommodation; everything from boutique hotels to backpackers, this “mild-to-wild bush-to-beach route is perfect for the adrenaline junkie or for those wanting to escape from the beaten” (Discover Eastern Cape: 2018). Chintsa, which is just a short drive from East London has amazing beaches that can be explored on foot or by horse, boasts an amazing brewery called Emeraldvale Brewery and just down the road, you’ll find the Areena Resort where I had the opportunity of meeting Abby, the tame giraffe who ambles around the reserve and comes up for a giraffe snog every now and again. You can travel further up the Wild Coast which just gets more beautiful yet wilder and driving can be dangerous due to bad roads and the animals strolling over these roads. Read more about the Wild Coast here: http://www.visiteasterncape.co.za/ destination/routes/wild-coast/