Eastern Cape DestinationsRiebeek East, Frontier Country
The little village of Riebeek East, virtually lost in time such that, if it weren’t for the growing interest in eco-tourism in this part of the country and it’s proximity to both Grahamstown and the Addo Elephant National Park, it would remain in obscurity.
Riebeek East established itself on the farm Mooimeisiesfontein (pretty girls fountain) in 1830 when the need for a local church arose - farmers in the area had formerly trekked roughly 130 kilometres to Uitenhage for Nagmaal (communion services). Mooimeisiesfontein farmhouse was the home of Piet Retief, a Voortrekker leader of some distinction who graced school history books during the apartheid era due to his involvement in negotiating land deals in KwaZulu Natal for his people, until his unexpected assassination at the hands of Dingaan and his men.
Today Riebeek East, also known as Riebeeck East, is still largely a sheep and game farming community. This part of the country has a strong conservation ethic in an attempt to reverse the killing of much of the local wildlife of the area. This area is still the only place in Africa with malaria-free Big Five game viewing opportunities and a range of public and private nature reserves span the area, including Shamwari Game Reserve and the Addo Elephant Park.
Riebeek East lies in the vicinity of archaeological sites showing cultural activity that predates many claims world-wide, contributing to its status as the cradle of human culture. A number of ancient sites and rock art are found in the area and tours through this ‘valley of ancient voices’ can be arranged. Grahamstown and its annual Arts Festival is not far from here, and the surrounding hills of Riebeek East offer a number of hiking trails.