Nelson Mandela Bay, in the scenic Eastern Cape Province, comprises the towns of Port Elizabeth, Despatch and Uitenhage; Port Elizabeth being the largest and most popular as a tourist destination. The gorgeous beaches and temperate climate of this area makes it an excellent summer vacation spot. The entire province is diverse in terms of its natural fauna and flora, making for magnificent landscapes and idyllic backdrops to any visit. However, it also boasts a number of game reserves that are only a short drive from the city centre.
Some of the best known of the local game reserves around Nelson Mandela Bay include:
The Addo Elephant National Park
Proclaimed in 1931, Addo has grown and developed to be the third-largest national park in the country. Today, it covers about 180 000 hectares and is home to around 500 free-roaming African elephants, as well as a host of antelope, rhino, zebra, hyena, buffalo, and lion. The bird life is impressive, giving avid birdwatchers plenty of opportunities to spot some exciting species. This is also the only place in the world in which the flightless dung beetle can be found. Addo includes geographical features like the Zuurberg Mountain Range, Sundays River and its valley, and the Bushman’s River. Addo is only 72 kilometres from the Friendly City, as Port Elizabeth is known, and has barbecue and picnic spots, a number of water holes with lookout points, a bird hide, restaurant, curio shop and camping grounds. Guests can conduct self-driven tours around the well-mapped routes in the reserve or can opt for formal tours in safari vehicles.
Pumba Private Game Reserve
Another malaria-free reserve just outside Nelson Mandela Bay, Pumba is a luxurious getaway for anyone that is in need of some pampering. The accommodation here enjoys a 5-star rating, and the cuisine on offer follows suit. This reserve is nestled away in the gorgeous foliage that characterises the Eastern Cape. Game drives, bush walks, bird-watching expeditions, hikes and night safaris are all on offer. In addition, the spa makes the Pumba experience extra special for its invigorating and revitalising treatments. Pumba’s wildlife includes lions (tawny as well as white), leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, buffalos, many different antelope and over 250 different bird species. None of these animals are confined in cages, but are allowed to enjoy their natural environment freely.
Shamwari Game Reserve
The luxurious Shamwari Game Reserve has hosted some of the world’s top celebrities, and it is no wonder when one considers its outstanding attention to detail and to providing a uniquely African experience. A personal game ranger will ensure that your group (which is kept small for personalised attention) gets to see as much of the wild African fauna and flora as possible. In addition to the reserve and its animals, Shamwari is also home to the two Born Free Cat Sanctuaries, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and the Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre. The accommodation is opulent and welcoming, making for a most comfortable stay.
Lalibela Big 5 Game Reserve and Safari Lodge
Lalibela is proud to boast five ecosystems, each uniquely beautiful. Thus, the vistas that surround this lodge are absolutely magnificent and delightfully varied. The reserve spans about 7 500 hectares and has a wonderful array of wild animals. These include the Big 5 (the elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino) as well as the hyena, cheetah, lynx, zebra, warthog, giraffe and many more. These animals roam freely through the reserve, enabling safari-goers to spot the wildlife species within their natural environment. Lalibela is only an hour’s drive from Nelson Mandela Bay.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Meraj Chhaya