East London: Eastern Cape's jewel

One of the most rewarding inter-city journeys in South Africa, bar the Garden Route, is a road trip between Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth – both host cities for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Apart from the beauty of the drive along the coast, there are many awe-inspiring towns ready to be visited on the way. One such place is East London, which is just under three hours from Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.

The coastal town of East London might not be one of the nine 2010 FIFA World Cup™ host cities, but it is making strides to attract football fans who will be looking for places to travel in June and July. East London is home to acclaimed cricket sensation, Makhaya Ntini, who was also one of the draw assistants at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final Draw in Cape Town last year.

“Our accommodation, tourism and hospitality establishments have lined themselves up to receive those that will be staying and passing by East London during this period. On the outskirts of our city, our communities are ready to showcase to tourists the unique cultures and ‘ubuntu’ that South Africans are renowned of,” the spokesperson for what is also known as Buffalo City, Samkelo Ngwenya, told FIFA.com.

“One of our biggest advantages to travelers is our centrality in South Africa," Ngwenya said. "We are less than two-hours away by air from all major Cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban), and a three-hour road trip from Nelson Mandela Bay where eight games will be taking place."

Football has always competed with rugby and cricket in this part of the country. Probably the most famous footballer to emerge from East London is former Bafana Bafana player, Brendon Augustine, who was part of the team that went to South Africa's first FIFA World Cup in 1998. Less than 20km from East London is the Mdantsane township, the second biggest township in South Africa. The township has produced most of the country’s boxing former world champions with the likes of Welcome Ncita, Vuyani Bungu, Masibulele Makhepula and others all being from there. The most spoken languages are isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans.

FIFA.com takes a look at some key attractions in the area.

Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve
Situated 30km outside East London, Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve is one of the prime tourists attractions in this city. The Game Reserve includes game drives and luxury accommodation. You can also enjoy mountain biking, hiking and other activities. Since it’s only five kilometres from the beaches and a river, it also offers canoeing, 

Chill at Chintsa
One of the most impressive places in East London is Chintsa – the vast area that lies along the shores of the Indian Ocean. It is a perfect holiday destination with lots of places to go to. One such place is the Buccaneers backpackers – which is seated between Chintsa East and Chintsa West. Regarded as one of the best backpackers in South Africa, this is one of the prime-tourist destinations in the country. You will also find a number of retuarants and other holiday destinations that include Dwa-dwa Park, Crawfords Beach Lodge and Mangaliso Guest House.

Enjoy the many beaches
Amognst the favourite activities for the locals is to take a walk along the beach at some of the city’s many beaches. When in East London, you have plenty of choices. Your first stop might be the Orient and the Eastern Beach that are situated next to the majority of the city’s hotels at the beach front. However, you can also explore on a number of options including Nahoon Beach, Gonubie, Beacon Bay and other surrounding areas.

One of the places that is popular with tourists is the Kaiser’s Beach and the Cove Rock – few kilometres from the city (en route to Port Elizabeth). You can enjoy a nice swimming and surfing experience at these beaches.

Visit the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance
In South Africa, Steve Biko is regarded as a legend – the man who fought against white-domination and is credited for being the brains behind the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. Biko was killed in police custody in 1978, and his story was told in the classic movie, Cry Freedom, which brought his name to international status. It is one of the movies that awakened the world to the suffering and injustice of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Biko was born in King William’s Town – about 25 minutes drive from East London, and his statue now stands tall next to East London’s City Hall.