Some may say that Port Elizabeth is not a destination in South Africa but Jonker from Firefly Photos would disagree. Having worked in the tourism industry for over 20 years he’s gotten to know his home city well and agreed to share a day showing me some of the sights.
We started with a history lesson at the pyramid and lighthouse in the Donkin Reserve, a proclaimed open space set aside in the early 1800s by Sir Rufane Donkin. He named the city after his late wife Elizabeth. The mosaic walkway, added later, depicts what can be seen and done in Eastern Cape of South Africa and is part of the Route 67 Art project.
The Voting Line
Many local artists contributed pieces for this ongoing project that pays tribute Madiba’s 67 years of service to South Africans and to draw more people to this historic area of Port Elizabeth. The Voting Line, cut from metal, shows Nelson Mandela with fist raised in triumph leading the people to vote on April 27, 1994. The silhouettes wrap around in a circle and figures were created from photos of actual people
Port Elizabeth owes its origin and development in a large measure to the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820. The historic buildings from the 1800s display the late Victorian architecture of the times and are protected as Heritage sites.
Fort Frederick, name after the Duke of York, was built in 1799 to defend the the mouth of the Baakens River against possible landing of French troops yet never fired a shot.
Port Elizabeth also offers inviting green spaces like St George’s Park which includes paths, arbors, ponds, a conservatory, an outdoor theater and bowling greens.
The Cape Recife Nature Reserve provides great bird watching opportunities, access to the sea for fishing and a lighthouse which marks the northeastern edge of the Nelson Mandela Bay.
Also part of the Reserve is the South Africa Marine Rehab and Education Center, or SAMREC. Director Libby Sharwood is devoted to the unfortunate penguins and bird life brought in who’ve been tied up in fishing lines and such. One penguin who lost a foot is a permanent resident and helps educate children and adults about problems that wildlife faces. I was happy to seen a lacking of birds at the rehab until Libby told me it’s because they population is dwindling due to the ocean currents change outside their range caused by climate change.
Jonker took me on a short walk through the Red Location shack settlement, a place where I would have never ventured alone. Townships are usually located at the edges of towns and cities and house a close community of Black Africans. Although friendly we were warned to be alert and careful.
The nearby Red Location Museum of the People’s Struggle was designed to be both a monument to South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and an integral part of community life in a township where one of the first public acts of defiance against apartheid occurred in 1952.
A very interesting and informative day tour yet the highlight was meeting Jonker’s family and enjoying a braii (BBQ) at this home. After I made his children honorary Grand Canyon Junior Rangers they gifted me with a soft and beautiful deep blue mohair scarf.
After three days in the city of Port Elizabeth I continued my journey to the quiet of Wild Spirit Backpackers Lodge surrounded by the magical Tsitsikamma forest.