You know Cape Town and its famous flat-topped mountain, Johannesburg’s city hustlers, the wild Kruger Park and the coastal scenes of the Garden Route, but there is one South African destination that often slips below the radar of tourists and locals alike: Gqeberha. Those in the know recognise this part of South Africa as a world-class safari destination, where high-end luxury accommodation and exceptional wildlife experiences await.

Located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, the coastal city of Gqeberha (until 2021 called Port Elizabeth, also known affectionately as PE) is home to South Africa’s third-largest port. The city with the small towns of Uitenhage and Despatch comprise the metropolitan area of Nelson Mandela Bay.

So what makes this gem of the Eastern Cape so special? Beyond Gqeberha itself, which is steeped in history, tradition and culture, the area is a paradise for nature lovers. Its coastline, lapped by the clear and temperate waters of the Indian Ocean, is one of its biggest drawcards. Visitors can enjoy an array of watersports, including surfing, sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding and scuba diving, or simply relax on Hobie Beach, Humewood Beach or Kings Beach (all Blue Flag beaches). This coastal area is also home to southern right whales, great white sharks, Bryde’s whales, bottlenose dolphins, Cape fur seals and many other marine species.

Just outside Gqeberha, lush landscapes lure birders, hikers and wildlife lovers. The Cape Recife Nature Reserve is home to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), where you may have an opportunity to see the release of rescued penguins, while Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve to the west boasts a stunning array of indigenous plants.

Most importantly, Gqeberha is the gateway to the Lalibela Game Reserve and an exceptional safari experience. Just an hour’s drive through rolling green hills from Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport (make sure to stop off en route at the famous Nanaga Farm Stall), Lalibela Game Reserve offers visitors one of the finest game-viewing experiences in the country, and luxury accommodation across six unique lodges.


Lalibela is a malaria-free reserve spanning five biomes, a feature that allows for an array of wildlife habitats sustaining a dense population of free-roaming wildlife, including the iconic Big 5 (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo and leopard), cheetah, hippo and giraffe, and antelope such as wildebeest, zebra, blesbok, impala and eland. The twice-daily game-viewing experience at Lalibela is unparalleled – it’s normal to see giraffe, elephant, lion, hippo, buffalo and cheetah all in one drive, while your highly trained guide drops fascinating facts about the animals and the surrounding area with its rich floral kingdom.

Each of Lalibela’s six luxury lodges offers a distinct and unique safari experience. For family-friendly fun, Mark’s Camp is the perfect place, while Tree Tops and Inzolo Lodges offer secluded indulgence amid untouched surroundings. Lentaba Lodge’s relaxed and welcoming offering overlooks a bushveld valley, while the five-star Kichaka Lodge and Mills Manor both take the safari experience to a new level of sophistication and opulence.

Most notably, a trip to Lalibela is more than just a safari experience: it’s a commitment to nature and the people of South Africa. At core, Lalibela is a conservation project, meaning all profits are reinvested in preserving this natural wonder, and supporting the development and upskilling of nearby communities.