After four charged days at Cape Town Fashion Week, two indulgent wine tasting tours, and a thrilling wildlife safari, Port Elizabeth’s laid back coastal beat provided the perfect setting for winding down our recent trip to South Africa. Known as “The Friendly City,” PE is more chilled out than Cape Town and Johannesburg, while still offering plenty to do as you prepare to head home. Here’s out list of the top 5 ways to spend your time in South Africa’s scenic Nelson Mandela Bay.
With its warm Eastern Cape waters and pleasant climate, PE is a popular South African beach destination. What better way to kick back and relax than spend a day on the beach? PE also offers a variety of water sport activities for those looking for an extra kick of action, including jet skiing, parasailing and scuba diving.
South Africa’s townships are the sad legacy of a brutal Apartheid past. While they are generally poorer and less developed than the country’s affluent urban centers, the townships can nonetheless be colorful and vibrant cultural hubs that are well worth a visit for a different burst of local flavour.
Speaking of flavour, like everywhere else we went in South Africa, Port Elizabeth offers some fantastic eating. The surprise highlight for us was the outrageously delicious braai from Lifa & Mafa Butchery in Zwide township. The braai is a remarkably simple and typically South African concept with delicious results. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Step 1: Roll up to the butchery.
Step 2: Pick out and buy your freshly cut meat. At check out, choose whether you want a sauce, or like us, a dry spice rub. It’s a secret recipe, of course.
Step 3: Grab your box of freshly seasoned meat and walk around the back of the building. It’s not much to look at, but this is where the magic happens. Rows of hot grills are kept burning and ready throughout the day, waiting for your business. No gas or charcoal here – just good ol’ fashioned wood fires.
Step 4: Pick a grill and get cooking. Or like us, let this dude cook for you. Trust me. Let him do it.
Step 5: Fifteen minutes later, pick up your box, drop off a tip, and get ready for some of the best grilled meat you’ve eaten in your life. No plates, no utensils – just finger lickin’ goodness :)
Despite our best efforts, we were unable to track down any lions on our safari at Pumba Reserve. After the build up of excitement, however, we refused to leave South Africa without seeing at least one, even if it meant cheating. Just 30 kilometers outside Port Elizabeth is Seaview Lion Park. Not quite a game reserve, but bigger than a zoo, Seaview let’s you drive through guarded bushlands where giraffe,zebra and antelope freely roam about.
The main attraction of the park, however, is the Lion and Tiger camp where the park protects and rehabilitates Siberian Tigers and White Lions. Although it’s not exactly in the wild, watching an adult lion sauntering up to you, eyes firmly locked onto yours and separated only by a thin electric fence is more than enough to make the hairs stand up on your neck.
Seaview also has a sanctuary where cubs and other wildcats are housed, sure to elicit a few awwwws from even the toughest of nails.
And of course, no holiday is complete without a little shopping. PE’s quaint Richmond Hill area offers some great shopping options, dotted with charming boutiques perfect for picking out unique gifts and souvenirs. In particular we liked Decor on Irvine for its quaint home furnishings as well as the Safari inspired Melvill & Moon.
Connoisseurs of luxury fabrics will be happy to find out that South Africa produces nearly 2/3 of the world’s Mohair, a prized silky yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat and used in the manufacture of fine clothing and home furnishings. Check out Hinterveld for an excellent selection scarves, shawls, blankets and more in a variety of textures and colors.
And just like that – our trip comes to an end. Thank you South Africa for the wonderful memories!