Sundays River Valley, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Because they were fed oranges in the early years of the Addo Elephant National Park, local elephants still love citrus from the Sundays River Valley.
The story of the Sundays River in the Eastern Cape is really a tale of two rivers.
The first part is where the Sundays River (possibly named after an early settler couple called the Sontags) rises up in the majestic Sneeuberg range near Graaff-Reinet in the Karoo. It is fed by occasional – but dramatic – Karoo thunderstorms as it flows across a semi-desert landscape through mohair country towards the south-east.
The second part of the story is where it flows – bolstered by the waters of the Great Fish River - from the Darlington Dam towards the coastal village of Colchester, where it meets the Indian Ocean.
On this leg of its journey, the Sundays River nourishes a magical part of South Africa: Greater Addo and the dreamy Sundays River Valley. Here, the Khoisan called it 'Nukakanna' - 'grassy water'.
The Addo Elephant National Park is your first stop where, at sunset, you can watch the great grey beasts drinking at Hap Oor Dam. If you stay in the park itself, you’ll be able to get those dawn shots that make wildlife photography so special.
Should you be travelling in the area during October, the fragrance of orange blossoms will be everywhere.
There’s a lookout over the Sundays River Valley and its vastness of citrus where one can pay respects to James Percy FitzPatrick, the pioneer-author who lies buried here and who wrote the South African classic, Jock of the Bushveld.
It is said of Sir Percy, founder of the Sundays River Valley Scheme: 'He imagined rain in the Karoo watering the oranges that would be served at an English breakfast table.'
Nearby is the little town of Kirkwood, which hosts an annual wildlife festival which can also involve the competitive spitting of kudu droppings, a kitty show and arguably the best boerewors (sausage) in the world.
Top off your Sundays River Valley journey with a bird-watching cruise from Colchester to the nearby dunefields.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Sundays River Valley Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)42 230 0066
Tel: +27 (0)49 892 4248
How to get here
The Sundays River Valley begins at Colchester, about 37km north from Port Elizabeth on the N2.
Best time to visit
The Sundays River Valley is great in October, when the orange blossoms are out; Graaff-Reinet is best visited in the 'soft' seasons of autumn (April-May) and spring (September-October).
Tours to do
Addo Elephant National Park tours, Grahamstown heritage tours, tours around the Graaff-Reinet, Cradock, Nieu Bethesda area.
Hire a car in Port Elizabeth and make a road trip out of it.
What will it cost
There are a number of tour packages available and there is the self-drive option. Budget on about R2 000 per couple per day on the road for this.
Length of stay
To explore the whole Sundays River from source to mouth needs at least a week of your time.
What to pack
Pack seasonally; always something warm for a cold night; lots of outdoor walking gear; also swimming togs, because there's always a chance of a dip in a pool or the Indian Ocean.
Where to stay
There are plenty of farmsteads, B&Bs and self-catering establishments in the area.
What to eat
You're in biltong and oranges country which makes for perfect in-car dining for long road trips!
Both Graaff-Reinet and Kirkwood host festivals at various times of the year.
Little wire Karoo windmills, available outside Cradock.