Cape Recife Nature Reserve, located at the tip of Algoa Bay near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, is a small reserve known for its incredible bird life and stunning natural beauty. The reserve is situated on a headland, offering visitors extraordinary views of the bay and its various rock formations. The open, wild stretch of beach is a unique feature, as it is located just five metres below sea level.
One of the main attractions of the reserve is its 130+ year-old lighthouse, which serves as a beacon for visitors and locals alike. The natural dune vegetation, rocky outcrops, and diverse bird life make for a truly mesmerizing experience. The reserve is only a 15-minute drive from Port Elizabeth, making it easily accessible for visitors.
Cape Recife Lighthouse
Cape Recife Nature Reserve offers visitors not just natural beauty and adventure, but also a chance to explore the area’s rich history. One of the main attractions of the reserve is the Cape Recife Lighthouse, a black and white striped tower that sits at the tip of the Thunderbolt Reef, an underwater rock formation that rises out of the dark waters of the south entrance to Algoa Bay. This lighthouse is located approximately 7 miles from Port Elizabeth, and it is an iconic landmark of the Eastern Cape coast.
The lighthouse was built in 1902, reflecting the cutting nature of the reef that separates the tides offshore. The black tarred linear road that leads up to the lighthouse separates the white wind-swept sands of the desolate beach. The lighthouse tower is 24 meters high and octagonal in shape, striped in broad black and white bands, and it is accompanied by a stark white rectangular maritime building, which serves as a contrast to the black roof, matching the protruding rocks.
The lighthouse is a functional and graphic representation, installed with irony on April Fool’s Day in 1851. It is now equipped with a fog signal, radio beacon, a red light (28º) and a flashing white light (332º) that shines every 30 seconds at a focal plane height of 28 meters above the high water mark, with a light power of 4 000 000 Candelas. The lighthouse serves as a warning system, keeping sunken ships in the history books, and the current sighting range of 29 nautical miles allows visitors to enjoy the view of the lighthouse and the surrounding ocean from afar.
The Cape Recife lighthouse is not only an architectural wonder but also a testament to the history of the Eastern Cape coast. Visitors can take a walk around the lighthouse and admire the unique composition of the landscape, which appears to have been choreographed by a team of designers wishing to inspire beach house interiors from exterior beach-side boldness.
The best way to explore the reserve is by taking the Roseate Tern Trail. This trail will lead you through the various habitats of the reserve, and a bird hide at the freshwater reclamation ponds makes it easy to spot a variety of birds. The mixed species tern roost on the headland past the lighthouse is another popular spot for birdwatching, especially during the winter months when you can spot the Roseate and Antarctic tern. Other birds commonly found in the reserve include Damara terns, African black oystercatchers, and African penguins.
Bushbuck Walking Trail
Cape Recife Nature Reserve offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. One of the most popular is the Bushbuck Walking Trail, which is situated within The Island Nature Reserve. This trail consists of a number of interlinking loops that are all circular for your convenience.
The majority of the trails are short and measure 1.5 kilometers, 3.4 kilometers and 7.6 kilometers. However, for those looking for a more challenging hike, the longest trail is 16 kilometers in length and takes about five hours to complete. Along the trail, hikers can take advantage of some excellent vantage points, such as a viewpoint that is reached by climbing up an iron ladder at the 8.5 kilometer mark, and a fire lookout at the 10.4 kilometer mark. The fire lookout offers excellent views of the forest and ocean, and on a clear day, visitors can see both St Francis Bay and Jefferys Bay in the distance.
Apart from the walking trails, The Cape Recife Nature Reserve also offers a variety of activities like bird watching, photography and beach walks. The Roseate Tern Trail, a bird hide at the freshwater reclamation ponds, and mixed species tern roost on the headland past the lighthouse are perfect for birdwatching. The reserve also offers a nine-kilometre walking trail that starts at the gate and takes visitors along the beach, through dune vegetation, and past the lighthouse.
Visitors can also enjoy a swim in the sea, take a picnic on the beach or spend a day exploring the many different habitats in the reserve. With its unique blend of natural beauty, diverse bird life, and accessible activities, Cape Recife Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for nature and adventure enthusiasts.
McArthur Baths Swimming Pool Complex
Cape Recife Nature Reserve offers visitors not just natural beauty and adventure but also a chance to relax and enjoy the many recreational activities available in the area. One such place is the McArthur Baths Swimming Pool Complex, ideally situated along King’s Beach Promenade, adjacent to Kings Beach.
The Complex comprises two open-air warm fresh-water pools, a larger swimming pool, changing rooms, a children’s water chute and splash pool, as well as two up-market restaurants, and a boutique. Both these top-class restaurants have superb views of Kings Beach and the Indian Ocean, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a meal while taking in the sights and sounds of the ocean.
Of interest both architecturally and structurally are the tension structures providing shade for the patrons. These, together with wooden decks, water features, gardens and astro-turf lawns, have turned the complex into a unique venue. Lifeguards are permanently on duty at the complex, ensuring the safety of all visitors.
The McArthur Baths Swimming Pool Complex is an excellent water recreational facility for visitors to relax and enjoy the beach. Visitors can take a dip in the warm fresh-water pools, enjoy a meal at one of the two up-market restaurants, or take a stroll along the King’s Beach Promenade.
In summary, the McArthur Baths Swimming Pool Complex is a perfect destination for visitors who want to enjoy the beach and ocean, while also taking advantage of the many recreational activities available in the area. Whether you are looking for a place to relax and soak up the sun or take a dip in the pool, this complex has something for everyone to enjoy.
Manville Open Air Theatre
Cape Recife Nature Reserve offers visitors not just natural beauty and adventure but also a chance to experience the arts and culture of the Eastern Cape. One such place is the Mannville open air theatre, located in historic St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. The theatre is a popular destination for visitors who want to experience the works of William Shakespeare.
Every year, the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival stages an open-air production of one of the works of William Shakespeare, at the Mannville open air theatre. The theatre was established in the early 1970s by Bruce and Helen Mann, who were well-known figures in the theatre world in Port Elizabeth. Since 1972, an annual production of Shakespeare, often linked to the current school setwork, has taken place at the Mannville theatre.
The Mannville open air theatre is a unique experience, as it allows visitors to enjoy Shakespeare’s works in a natural setting. The performances are held under the stars, surrounded by the beautiful greenery of St George’s Park. The open-air theatre is a great place to experience the works of Shakespeare and the local culture.
The Mannville open-air theatre is a must-visit destination for lovers of the arts and culture, as it provides a unique opportunity to experience the works of Shakespeare in an open-air setting. It is also a great place to enjoy a night out with family and friends, while enjoying a performance in a beautiful natural setting.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum
Cape Recife Nature Reserve offers visitors not just natural beauty and adventure but also an opportunity to explore the rich cultural heritage of the Eastern Cape. One such place is the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, formerly known as the King George VI Art Gallery, which was opened on 22 June 1956 and renamed in December 2002.
The museum houses a diverse collection of artworks from South Africa, particularly that of the Eastern Cape, British art, international printmaking and Oriental art including Indian miniatures and Chinese textiles. The collections are housed in two buildings that frame the entrance to St George’s Park.
The limited exhibition space at the museum requires the constant rotation of works of art from the Permanent Collection. Researchers wishing to see specific works not currently on exhibition are advised to do so by appointment. The Permanent Collection is supplemented by an active program of temporary exhibitions. Admission is free, except for events with advertised fees.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum is an excellent destination for visitors who want to explore the rich cultural heritage of the Eastern Cape. It provides an opportunity to view a diverse collection of artworks from different parts of the world and learn about the cultural and artistic legacy of the Eastern Cape.
Cape Recife Nature Reserve offers not just natural beauty and adventure but also a chance to experience the local culture and buy authentic handmade crafts. One such place is the EzamaXhosa Craft shop, which displays and sells genuine handmade crafts found only in the Eastern Cape.
The shop first opened its doors to the public in December 2002, and it now features items from 145 crafters from even the most remote rural areas of the Eastern Cape. Visitors can find a wide variety of crafts such as pottery, beadwork, cushions, table linen, leatherwork, wooden carvings, cutlery, walking sticks, bags, cards and traditional clothing. The traditional clothing has proved so popular that more shop space is now needed to cater to the demand.
EzamaXhosa is a social enterprise that aims to promote local Xhosa skills and improve lives in rural areas by selling the crafts at reduced prices. The shop is sponsored and the sale of these crafts helps to support the local community. Visitors can take a piece of the Eastern Cape home with them, knowing that they have supported local crafters and their families.
The Cape Recife Nature Reserve is not just a place to enjoy nature, but also a place to experience the local culture, and support local artisans. The EzamaXhosa Craft shop is a perfect destination to buy authentic and unique souvenirs, that will remind you of your visit to the Eastern Cape.
Cape Recife Nature Reserve is also an important conservation area, protecting globally important plants like St Francis dune fynbos, thicket mosaic vegetation, and endemic coastal fynbos. A nine-kilometre walking trail starts at the gate and takes visitors along the beach, through dune vegetation, and past the lighthouse.
In summary, Cape Recife Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for nature and bird lovers. Its natural beauty, diverse bird life, and easy accessibility make it a perfect destination for a day trip from Port Elizabeth. So pack your binoculars and enjoy the ultimate bird watching experience.