Terms and conditions: The contents; information and images of this site are the intellectual and physical property of the owner, none of which may be used in any form by any party with full copyright law applying.


From it’s earliest history, which archaeologists believe dates back some 200 000 years, the town of East London has grown into a thriving metropolis and is now the home to some 500 000 residents in the city itself  and close to two-million residence in the broader municipal area, known as Buffalo City. Mdantsane, a suburb declared a little over fifty years ago, being the most populated area of the metro.

East London is situated in the province of the Eastern Cape, in South Africa.

In days of long-ago, long before known history, man trampled the sands of what is now the Nahoon Point Reserve. Fossilised footprints dating back some 200 000 years are evidence of this.

For more see: Coelacanth

When it comes to known history, the region was originally populated by the Khoisan (Bushmen Tribe) and later the IsiXhosa whose original roots came from areas to the north. As the white settlers moved from the Western Cape in an easterly direction to the area now known as the Eastern Cape, they, together with the new settlers who migrated here from Britain in the early 1800’s, were to come face to face with the Xhosa tribe. The difficulties of sharing the land led to a series of wars known as the frontier wars. These were fought over the hills and rivers between East London and Grahamstown and are often referred to as the 100 year war. Growth within the region was slow until the arrival of Captain John Bailiey who, in 1836 took adtion which led to the use of the Buffalo River as a strategic river-harbour. The Buffalo River, now the only river port in South Africa, served as a strategic supply point for the British and the reason why, in 1847, they built Fort Glamorgan on the east bank of the river. This was to serve as the foundation for the city now known as East London.

East London was originally known as Port Rex, named after a trader and merchant ship owner John Rex. When the city was included into the boundary of the Cape Colony some years later, it became known as East London.

Many of South Africa’s leaders grew up in the region, Oliver Thambo, Nelson Mandela, Steve Bhiko and Thabo Mbeki to name but a few.  

East London is an industrial hub and the home of Mercedes Benz. It is however, quite sadly, still the centre of one of the poorest economic regions in the country. This is despite it’s massive tourism potential, it’s moderate climate, history and diverse natural assets.  

Read more

A short history of East London - Eastern Cape - South Africa

Read more: An article on the nearby lighthouses

African wildlife images by

Alan Hawkins

Tourist guide and travellers - East London history.