Backpacking through Nelson Mandela Bay
Nelson Mandela Bay is a favourite destination for many backpackers; it is ideally located between Cape Town and Durban, close to the Garden Route and surrounded by numerous game reserves and South Africa’s third largest national park, Addo Elephant National Park.
Backpackers are generally known for their independent, budget-conscious way of travelling and professional cost-cutting ideas; they follow a less is more principle and choose to spend less on accommodation/food and more on experiences over a longer period of time.
But think again if you think there is an age limit to backpacking and that it is only a rite of gap-year passage for those fresh out of school or university, those on sabbatical from Europe, or those trying to find themselves.
Backpacking is for everyone, and yes, you can be a backpacker in our own country – or even town – too. And if you can’t or don’t want to drive yourself you can always opt for the Baz Bus; it is South Africa’s hop-on hop-off backpacker bus that allows backpackers to travel from door-to-door with like-minded people, and according to the managers and owners of some of the Bay’s hostels, it is the most popular method of travelling between backpackers.
Reasons why the Bay is backpacker-friendly
- Affordable accommodation and restaurants;
- Budget-friendly activities;
- Accessible via plane, bus, train, Uber, Baz Bus and good roads for those who prefer to rent a car;
- An array of activities from self-guided walking tours, adventure activities to educational and historical trips;
- Great weather all-year round;
- Malaria-free game reserves;
- Get more for less with the Nelson Mandela Bay Pass Card.
What to get up to in the Bay as a Backpacker?
The majority of backpackers visiting our shores stay for more than one night – and that is a good thing, because it is the Bay of plenty, with enough to keep everyone busy, regardless of interest or age.
We’ve asked Lungile Lodge Beachfront Backpackers, Jikeleza Lodge International Backpackers Hotel and The Hippo Backpackers, to share with us the top 5 activities backpackers get up to in Nelson Mandela Bay. This is what they had to say:
A Game Drive
A lot of backpackers opt for the Addo Elephant National Park and Schotia Private Game Reserve full day safari to see the big five in their natural habitat.
Visitors from abroad often choose to join a tour guide on a township tour and learn more about the issues of our diverse country and region; this tour is often combined with a visit to a local shebeen and some Shisa Nyama is often on the menu during the tour.
Many backpackers also want to give back to the community and volunteer for time; SANCCOB (previously known as SAMREC) is great volunteering opportunity for those who want to their bit for the endangered African Penguin.
The Eastern Cape is the adventure capital, so it is no wonder that daring visitors want to get the adrenalin flowing. Whale-watching is popular in season and sandboarding at Sundays River is an all year round firm favourite. And those who dare to do more can always learn how to surf, go ziplining or enjoy a game of paintball.
* Most hostels/backpackers in the Bay have their own in-house travel desks from where tours can be booked with registered tour guides.
Affordable Backpacker Accommodation in Nelson Mandela Bay
According to international booking sites, three of the Bay’s top accommodation options for backpackers and budget-conscious travellers:
Lungile Lodge Beachfront Backpackers
In isiXhosa, the Eastern Cape’s native language, 'Lungile' means 'It's all good! And here at Lungile Lodge all good, and they’re only a short walk away from one of Port Elizabeth’s finest beaches! They offer private rooms, dorm beds, family rooms, spots for camping plus self-catering facilities, a common room with a pool table and a swimming pool.
Best features according to travellers: Wonderful location, marvelous staff and value for money.
Address: 12 La Roche Drive, Humewood, Port Elizabeth
Don’t miss: The friendly staff and homey atmosphere.
Jikeleza Lodge International Backpackers Hotel
Operating for 17 years, Jikeleza Lodge pride themselves in being a laid-back, peaceful and quiet space for travellers, close to a buzzing nightlife and restaurants. They offer private rooms, dorm beds, family rooms, spots for camping plus a fully equipped kitchen, in-house travel desk and a book exchange.
Best features according to travellers: Nice location, brilliant staff and good cleanliness.
Address: 44 Cuyler Street, Central, Port Elizabeth.
Don’t miss: The lounge that got turned into an art gallery to showcase local talent.
The Hippo Backpackers
The Hippo Backpackers is located in the popular district of Richmond Hill with its quirky cafes and great selection of bars and restaurants, while the backpackers itself has a hippo-sized swimming pool, a bar, dart board and pool-table. They offer private and double rooms as well as dorm beds.
Best features according to travellers: Excellent value for money with friendly staff in a friendly neighbourhood.
Address: 14 Glen Street, Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth.
Don’t miss: The current winter special.
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