East London / South Africa

East London / South Africa


The port city of East London is located in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. Together with two other cities, it forms the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. According to the last census (2011 census), East London had a population of 267.000. More than 755.000 people lived in the metropolitan area. The metropolis of East London is bounded by the Buffalo River and the Nahoon River, which flow into the Indian Ocean. The metropolitan area surrounded by nature is located in the south of the Amatola Mountains. It has nature reserves and remarkable coastlines. The sun of South Africa and the extensive beaches of the Indian Ocean have rightly given the region the adorning nickname "Gateway to the Suneshine Coast".

East London viewEast London view


story in brief

East London and its port were originally established as a British military post known as Fort Glamorgan in the first half of the 19th century. In 1857 and the years that followed, around 2.000 Germans moved to the region in search of salvation. The men among the settlers had previously served in the British-German Legion during the Crimean War. The Germans - among them many farmers and craftsmen - made a significant contribution to the development of the region in the years that followed. The achievements of the German settlers are honored on the lake promenade with a stone monument and five metal plaques.

The business location of East London

The port of East London played an important role in moving goods inland during the British colonial rule. The goods were primarily agricultural products such as leather and sheep's wool. In the further course, the city developed into an important business location. Currently South Africa's only river port is said to be the country's fourth busiest port.

Silo facility on the Buffalo River

Silo facility on the Buffalo River


In addition to agriculture, the economic focus is currently on the segments of trade, services, production and tourism. An outstanding example of the manufacturing industry is the Mercedes Benz East London plant, which currently employs 3.300 people. According to the Mercedes-Benz Group, it is part of the global production network for C-Class vehicles alongside the lead plant in Bremen. C-Class sedans are produced on the Indian Ocean for right- and left-hand markets. Mercedes Benz Cars announced five years ago that it wanted to invest 600 million euros in the production site. The Mercedes branch means that car suppliers settled in East London. The entire industrial complex is within sight of the cruise ships on the west bank of the Buffalo River.

Mercedes factory and new cars ready for shipment


Mercedes factory and new cars ready for shipment


Mercedes Benz East London plant - the car transporter is waiting


Mercedes Benz East London plant - the car transporter is waiting 


In accordance with its economic importance, East London is well developed in terms of transport. The city has a domestic airport and good road and rail links.

East London is also a major tourist center. There are plenty of large, attractive hotels.

East London - hotel complex


East London - hotel complex


East London - hotel complex by the Aquarium


East London - hotel complex by the Aquarium 


The city benefits from its location on the Indian Ocean, proximity to the Amatola Mountains and, most importantly, consistently good weather all year round. Tourism advertising describes the beaches as among the most beautiful in the world. Individual beach sections - such as Nahoon Reef - are surfer and kite surfer's paradise. The beach areas are so important that international competitions are held there. Other stretches are loved by sunbathers simply for their vastness and pristine nature.

Beacon Bay - Eastern BeachBeacon Bay - Eastern Beach


East London - cultural offerings

East London is the administrative center of the metropolitan area, and thus a major employer. The school offer is widely staggered. The city administration maintains primary and secondary schools and ensures that children from disadvantaged backgrounds participate in education. Of course, the range of schools on offer also includes private schools. East London is the site of one of four campuses for the state, Mthatha-based Walter Sisulu University. Finance, marketing, management and other sciences are taught.

The city is known for its vibrant jazz scene and art galleries. East London has museums and historic sites. Music festivals and cultural events are also part of the recurring cultural offerings.

points of interest & sights

As already indicated, East London takes full advantage of its scenic surroundings. Tourists do not necessarily visit the Eastern Cape for exceptional urban or cultural attractions. The town is a base for exploring the mountains and small resort towns such as Hogsback and Stutterheim. Not to mention the beach experiences.

East London - Eastern Beach
The expanse of Eastern Beach
East London - Eastern Beach
East London - Orient Beach

In comparison, the sights of the city seem to us to be of little importance. The following facilities are mentioned most frequently:

East London Museum

The museum focuses on the natural and cultural heritage of the Amatola region and two tribes. Spectacular is the prepared specimen of a fish of the coelacanth species (Latimeria chalumnae) that was believed to be extinct more than 70 million years ago. A live specimen was netted by fishermen near East London in 1938. Another fossil worth seeing is a mammal-like reptile that lived almost 230 million years ago.

Also of note are the 124.000-year-old human footprints found at Nahoon Point. These and remains of a skull indicate human life in the region before primeval times.

Nahoon PointNahoon Point


Heroes Park with the German Settlers Memorial

The unadorned Heroes Park on the boardwalk at the foot of Signal Hill commemorates the contribution German settlers made to the city in the mid-19s with a granite monument depicting a family and five plaques. – A second monument of Heroes Park is a three meter high bronze sculpture of a faceless man. The work by Italian artist Francesco Perilli, called "Multicultural Man", is located in six cities on six continents.

Heroes Park - German Settlers Memorial
Heroes Park - German Settlers Memorial
Heroes Park - German Settlers Memorial
Heroes Park - the bronze sculpture of the Multicultural Man

East London Aquarium

It's not a towering aquarium looming alongside the Indian Ocean. We have visited more interesting, better equipped and larger aquariums. The facility is worth a visit for its penguin colony. About 20 African penguins are raised each year. The young animals are exported to all countries in the world. Pelicans are kept in a small aviary.

East London Aquarium - African Penguins
East London Aquarium - African Penguins
East London Aquarium - African Penguins
East London Aquarium - African Penguins

The museum also acts as a care station for injured, oily or stressed marine animals. Every year, a few hundred seabirds, turtles or dolphins that wash up are treated, nursed back and released back into the wild. Feeding the seals is popular with visitors.

A detour to the outside wooden promenade of the aquarium is recommended. Eleven meters above the Indian Ocean, visitors can take in the imposing coastal landscape or watch humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins between August and November. A blue flag will be raised when whales have been sighted.

East London Aquarium - seen from the sea
East London Aquarium
Wooden promenade of the aquarium
East London Aquarium - Viewpoint

Excursions to the surrounding area

A recommended excursion destination is the Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, 40 kilometers from the cruise ship berth. With a bit of luck, four of the African Big Five can be observed from the off-road vehicle in the malaria-free zone. Guided and commented hikes are also offered.

Encounter in the animal reserve


Encounter in the animal reserve


Ruminating Cape buffalo in the wildlife sanctuary


Ruminating Cape buffalo in the wildlife sanctuary 


East London – the cruise destination

Cruise ships appear to very rarely stop in East London. Ships dock on the Buffalo River at a desolate pier next to the stately King's Warehouse and Customs House. There is no cruise terminal. Everything takes place in the open air. Within sight of the terminal, huge car transporters dock on the opposite side of the river, taking new Mercedes cars to their destinations.

King's Warehouse at the cruise ship berth


King's Warehouse at the cruise ship berth


livestock carrier at the cruise quay


livestock carrier at the cruise quay 


The port exit and the way up to East London do not inspire much confidence. On board the cruise ships there is a warning against robberies. Unlike other South African ports, there are no taxis or external tour operators. Cautious natures - like us - are well advised to book an organized tour in advance with independent tour providers or on board the ships. Or you can let the shipping company take you to Eastern Beach by shuttle bus. The final stop is the Aquarium or the German Settlers Memorial. You feel safe at the front of the beach, the promenade known as the "Esplanade" and at the mini-mall Windmill Park. The situation is different with the more distant beach area, which should be avoided for safety reasons.

East London - Harbor Gate

East London - Harbor Gate


Conclusion

We hate to say it: In contrast to Port Elizabeth we don't like East London as a cruise destination. Apart from shore excursions in the wider area, the port city offers little variety. East London does not meet our expectations and expectations of a cruise ship destination. The cruise companies seem to think similarly: in the coming year, nine mostly smaller cruise ships have been registered in East London.

May 2023

Book a shore excursion East London / South Africa

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