There are about half-a-million people living in Buffalo City and the surrounding townships. The township of Mdantsane, 20km from the city, was established in 1962 as part of the government’s racist apartheid policies. The objective of these townships or locations was to provide living space for cheap African labour on the outskirts of urban areas. It is now the largest town in the area, with a population of more than 250 000. It is the second-largest township in South Africa after Soweto.
Buffalo City boasts with a variety of tourist attractions and is rich in cultural and natural resources. The 68km of coastline includes 10 estuaries, conservancies, natural heritage sites, rocky shores and 14 sandy beaches. It is also South Africa’s only river port, set on both the broad Buffalo and Nahoon Rivers and has the Gonubie River flowing around it. It is known as the gateway to the region’s tourist corridors namely the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast.
Reasons to visit
The area is well suited to community tourism, ecotourism and historical tourism, especially that relating to the anti-apartheid struggle as many of South Africa’s past and present political leaders hail from the region. King Williams’ Town was home to Steve Biko, South Africa’s father of Black Consciousness.
The Indian Ocean coastline is one of the main features of the Eastern area, the warm Mozambique current that flows past the coastline results in mild to warm water, good for swimming and fishing. The East London Museum probably has some of the most comprehensive natural history exhibits in South Africa, including the first coelacanth.
The coelacanth (Latimeria chalummae) is a primitive fish that has fins resembling stumpy legs. Until a specimen was caught off the Chalumna River near East London in 1938, the coelacanth had only been known from fossil remains and was believed to have been extinct for some 80-million years.
There is a long-standing tradition of beadwork in the area and many examples of this art can be seen along the route. Tourists interested in arts and crafts will have the opportunity to view fine examples of this ancient art.