"NINE hundred kilometres of the most diverse coastline in the world" is the focus of a new tourism route that was launched here at Indaba 2012 by the last night by Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency last night.
The route stretches the length of the Eastern Cape coast from Umtamvuna River in the north-east to Tsitsikamma in the south-west, and the agency and their consultants, including Port Elizabeth-based tourism expert Peter Myles, have put together a package like no other.
Addressing Indaba delegates, which comprise tour operators from all over the world who do business in Africa, Myles used the hot-off-the-press coastal route map and spectacular photographs enlarged on an overhead projector, which had the audience gasping in awe at times, to run through some of the attractions.
The Eastern Cape’s wealth of estuaries, half the total in the country, and many of them still pristine, is the first thing that stands out, he said.
"On this part of the route, on the northern Wild Coast, there are elands on the beach and waterfalls tumble into the sea. And then there is the greatest shoal on Earth.”
This phenomenon, the sardine run, is increasingly becoming associated with the Eastern Cape, rather than further up the coast. It attracts a feeding frenzy of seabirds, sharks, orcas and other whales. It is thought now by many to challenge the great migration of the Serengetti in East Africa, and it is one of the reasons why more and more international marine film-makers are coming here rather than going elsewhere in the world.
Further south there are places like Bulungula Backpackers’ Lodge, a favourite of all the backpacker guides and one of the first such facilities to be registered by the social and environmental tourism watchdog Fair Trade.
"There’s the Mandela Museum in Mthatha, Canon Rocks, which has become a top spot for kite surfing, and Alexandria Dune Fields, the highest coastal dune fields in the world, and a potential world heritage site.”
From Addo Elephant National Park, with the southern-most breeding herd of elephants in the world, the traveller can drive further south to enjoy "the greatest right hand wave in the world” at Jeffreys Bay, and then zip-lining in the Tsitsikamma tree canopies.
The route is being marketed for self-drive tourists as well as visitors on package tours, he said.