The Eastern Cape is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bhisho, but its two largest cities are Port Elizabeth and East London. It was formed in 1994 out of the "independent" Xhosa homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, together with the eastern portion of the Cape Province. Landing place and home of the 1820 settlers, the central and eastern part of the province is the traditional home of the Xhosa people. This region is the birthplace of many prominent South African politicians, such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Chris Hani, Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko and Charles Coghlan.
The Eastern Cape as a South African Province came into being in 1994 and incorporated areas from the former Xhosa homelands of the Transkei and Ciskei, together with what was previously part of the Cape Province. This resulted in several anomalies including the fact that the Province has four superior courts (at Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Bhisho and Mthatha) and enclaves of Kwa-Zulu Natal in the province. The latter anomaly has fallen away with the amendments to municipal and provincial boundaries.
The Eastern Cape gets progressively wetter from west to east. The west is mostly semi-arid Karoo, except in the far south, which is temperate rainforest in the Tsitsikamma region. The coast is generally rugged with interspersed beaches. Most of the province is hilly to very mountainous between Graaff-Reinet and Rhodes including the Sneeuberge (English: Snow Mountains), Stormberge, Winterberge and Drakensberg (English: Dragon Mountains). The highest point in the province is Ben Macdhui at 3001m. The east from East London towards the Kwa-Zulu Natal border – a region known as Transkei – is lush grassland on rolling hills, punctuated by deep gorges with intermittent forest.
Eastern Cape has a shoreline in the south on the South Indian Ocean. In the northeast, it borders the following districts of Lesotho:
- Mohale's Hoek – west of Quthing
- Quthing – between Mohale and Qacha's Nek
- Qacha's Nek – east of Quthing
Domestically, it borders the following provinces:
- Western Cape – west
- Northern Cape – northwest
- Free State – north
- KwaZulu-Natal – far northeast
The landscape is extremely diverse. The western interior is largely arid Karoo, while the east is well-watered and green. The Eastern Cape offers a wide array of attractions, including 800 km of untouched and pristine coastline along with some particularly splendid beaches, and "big-five" viewing in a malaria-free environment.
The Addo Elephant National Park, situated 73 km from Port Elizabeth, was proclaimed in 1931. Its 743 km² offers sanctuary to 170 elephants, 400 Cape buffalo and 21 black rhino of the very scarce Kenyan sub-species.
The province is the location of South Africa's only ski resort, Tiffindell, which is situated near the hamlet of Rhodes in the Southern Drakensberg on the slopes of the highest mountain peak in the Eastern Cape (3001 m).
The National Arts Festival, held in Grahamstown is Africa's largest and most colourful cultural event, offering a choice of the very best of both indigenous and imported talent. Every year for 11 days the town's population almost doubles, as over 50,000 people flock to the region for a feast of arts, crafts and sheer entertainment.
The Tsitsikamma National Park is an 80 km long coastal strip between Nature's Valley and the mouth of the Storms River. In the park the visitor finds an almost untouched natural landscape. Near the park is the Bloukrans Bridge, which is the world's third highest bungee jump.
Jeffreys Bay is an area with some of the country's wildest coastline, which is backed by some of Africa's most spectacular sub-tropical rainforest. Famous for its "supertubes", probably South Africa's longest and most consistently good wave, it's charged with a surf vibe as relaxed as it is friendly, and this tends to soften the effect of the wealthy set who have made this part of the coast their own.
Aliwal North, lying on a splendid agricultural plateau on the southern bank of the Orange River, is one of the country's most popular inland resorts and is famous for its hot springs.
The rugged and unspoilt Wild Coast is a place of spectacular scenery, and a graveyard for many vessel.
The Eastern Cape Province is divided into 38 local municipalities and one metropolitan municipality: