...lies on the shores of the sweeping bay originally named Baia da Lagoa (Bay of the Lagoon) by Manuel de Mesquita PerestrÍlo in 1576, a reference to the lagoon at the mouth of the Baakens River.
A small settlement developed around Fort Frederick, built on the heights above the Baakens River in 1799 to prevent a possible landing by French troops. The history of Port Elizabeth is inextricably linked to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers - 4 000 emigrants who left Britain for the Eastern Cape in 21 ships between December 1819 and March 1820.
Sir Rufane Donkin, the Acting Governor of the Cape, visited the settlement on 6 June 1820; at his request, it was renamed Port Elizabeth in memory of his wife, who had died of fever in India two years earlier. An important city landmark is the 51,8-m-high Campanile, which was erected in 1923 to commemorate the landing of the 1820 Settlers.
Among the many other historical buildings and sites you will come across on South African holidays in Port Elizabeth are the row of double-storey terraced houses in Donkin Street, built between 1860 and 1880; the Pyramid in the Donkin Reserve, dedicated to Elizabeth Donkin; and the row of townhouses in Cora Terrace, built in the Regency style from about 1856 onwards.
The complex of Settler houses in Castle Hill is an interesting example of early Eastern Cape townhouses. No 7 Castle Hill, built in 1830, is the oldest house in the city and appropriately serves as a period-house museum. Facing the Market Square are the historic Library (1848), the statue of Queen Victoria and the City Hall (1862). An excellent way to appreciate the city's many historic buildings is to follow the Donkin Heritage Trail, linking 43 places of interest
SWARTKOPS RIVER ESTUARY
The Swartkops River rises in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains and flows for about 80 km before reaching the sea at Algoa Bay, 15 km north of Port Elizabeth. Over the last 16 km it forms a magnificent estuary, characterised by intertidal mudflats and salt marshes. The Afrikaans name means 'black hills', a reference to the dark colour of the vegetation and the shadows cast by the escarpment along the estuary's northern edge and the nearby hills.
The estuary is a popular recreational area with yachting, power-boating, boardsailing and canoeing enthusiasts, as well as anglers. It is also the most important estuary for waterbirds between Knysna Lagoon and Durban harbour, supporting up to 20 000 waterbirds a year. Among these are the rare African black oystercatcher, Caspian tern, greater and lesser flamingos and the bobtailed godwit.
Amsterdamhoek is a popular holiday resort situated picturesquely between the dunes and the estuary, and has numerous jetties jutting into the water. It was named after the Amsterdam which ran aground nearby on 15 December 1817.
Beyond the Swartkops River estuary lies a vast stretch of unspoilt sandy beaches and dunes, known as Port Elizabeth's 'northern beaches'. Three beach resorts, Bluewater Bay, Brighton Beach and St George's Strand, offer superb swimming, angling and surfing.
...is a small settlement which developed around the railway junction where the line branches off to the Sundays River Valley, and a picturesque stopover on South African holidays along the Garden Route. The Khoikhoi name is said to mean 'euphorbia ravine', a reference to the abundance of tree euphorbias growing in the area.
SUNDAYS RIVER VALLEY
The Sundays River Valley stretches for 64 km from Korhaansdrifpoort, where the river flows through the Zuurberge, to its mouth at Algoa Bay and varies in width from 1,6 to 6,4 km. The first farm in the valley was awarded in 1812, but it was James Kirkwood who realised the area's potential by irrigating the fertile alluvial soil. Between 1877 and 1883, he bought 21 farms, totalling 302 883 ha, and formed the Sundays River Land and Irrigation Company. After his death, the land was divided into smaller farms and an irrigation channel built.
In 1910, the Strathsomers Estate Company took over all the irrigation interests in the valley, and a few years later Sir Percy Fitzpatrick's company, the Sundays River Settlements Company, bought up a substantial part of the valley. Following appeals to the government for assistance to build a dam, the Darlington (formerly Mentz) Dam was completed in 1922, providing a supply of water more reliable than relying on flood irrigation. The valley is today one of the country's main citrus-producing regions, with lucerne being another important crop.
ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK
...was established in 1931 as a sanctuary for the eastern Cape's last surviving elephants. From a nucleus of 11 animals, the population has grown steadily and today the park is home to over 300 elephants. It is also a sanctuary for the East African subspecies of the black rhino, which was introduced in 1962 before the importance of genetic purity became accepted. These rhino could in future play an important role in the repopulation of game parks in East Africa. In 1995, seven black rhino of the western subspecies were introduced into the park, but they are kept separate to prevent genetic contamination.
Other large mammals to be seen include eland, red hartebeest and Cape buffalo - at one time, this was the only population of foot-and-mouth-free buffalo in South Africa. The park has played an important role in the reintroduction of this species elsewhere in South Africa and in Namibia. Dungbeetles are some of the park's smaller residents.
GREATER ADDO NATIONAL PARK
The protection enjoyed by the elephants in Addo has led to the need to expand the park. From its original size of 6 852 ha, the park has been increased to over 100 000 ha, and the planned Greater Addo Elephant National Park will eventually cover an area of 400 000 ha, stretching right down to the coast, including the Alexandria dunefields. The park will be able to support more than 2 500 elephants and will also offer visitors the opportunity to see whales and dolphins offshore.
Before the construction of the Olifantskop Pass north of Paterson, the route from Port Elizabeth into the interior took travellers over the Zuurberg Pass. The historic Zuurberg Inn, built in 1861 as a coaching inn, was badly damaged by a fire in 1902, but was subsequently rebuilt. From the summit, there are sweeping views northwards over the Great Karoo, with the vast expanses of Addo bush stretching to the south.
ZUURBERG SECTION OF THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK
Originally a state forest, the 21 121-ha Zuurberg was proclaimed a national park in 1985. It was amalgamated with the Addo National Park ten years later, and has since been enlarged through further land acquisitions. It is a rugged wilderness characterised by spectacular folded mountains, deep forested kloofs and a diversity of vegetation types. Visitors can explore the area on foot by following self-guided day walks or set off on an overnight horse trail.
Along the way, visitors may chance upon kudu, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck, grey rhebok, common and blue duikers and Cape mountain zebra. A family of hippo from the Kruger National Park was reintroduced into the Sundays River in 1992.
Established in 1879, the country village of Paterson was named after its founder, John Paterson. A prominent Eastern Cape personality, Paterson founded the Eastern Cape Herald newspaper in 1845 and played a major role in establishing the Grey Institute in Port Elizabeth.
SHAMWARI GAME RESERVE
...is the only privately owned Big Five reserve in South Africa that is located in a malaria-free area, making it very popular for South African holidays and safaris. Covering 18 000 ha, the reserve was opened in 1992 and has won several international awards for its conservation vision. The reserve has been stocked with over 5 000 animals; in addition to the Big Five, there are 18 antelope species and a large diversity of smaller mammals. Also of interest is Credo Mutwa's Kaya Lendaba (the house of stories), a traditional African arts and culture village depicting the culture and lifestyles of the Xhosa and other southern African peoples.
The programme for day visitors starts at noon with lunch on the game-viewing deck of the Conservation Centre. Designed in partnership with the Born Free Foundation, founded by actress and conservationist Virginia McKenna, the centre consists of a museum and educational facility. Lunch is followed by an hour-long visit to Kaya Lendaba, and visitors are then taken on a game drive under the guidance of an experienced game ranger. The programme concludes at around 18:30.
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