A bit of rainy weather limited our choice of a promised outing for today, so we chose an old-time indoor favourite – the East London Museum, with Damian and cousins.Little Riley jumped out of the car on arrival to enlist the assistance of a carguard in unloading the heavy wheelchair. At R15 for me, and R5 each for the four children, R35 was not bad deal at all for an outing for five. The East London Museum is wheelchair accessible, though the lift is very small and musty and the lights weren’t working – which was an adventure in the dark all on its own. Despite this one little hurdle, which was a little scary for the claustrophobic among our group (8 year old Riley to be specific), we were able to access both floors of the museum. With ramps and smooth, wide passages throughout, Damian was able to manoeuvre himself throughout.
We started in the marine section and viewed many species of sea creatures, including the giant manta ray, giant clam and leatherback turtle, which have remained popular favourites to view due to their size. The East London Museum proudly boasts displays of the rare Coelacanth, caught off East London shores, as well as the world’s oldest archaic human fossil footprints. Sadly, in the mammal section, a sign next to an exhibit of a rhino states that the rhino displayed is made of fibreglass and is not featuring a real rhino horn – a dismal reminder of the current battle against poaching in our country and the lengths syndicates would go to to obtain it.
The reptile section with its extensive snake exhibit and display of a huge crocodile are a popular favourite with the boys, while the girls were taken with the precious stones collection. In this section, the museum also features plant fossils. Moving on we discover maritime history or wrecks along our shores, the most notable in recent times being the sinking of the Oceanos. I remember the media footage of this disaster clearly, though sea rescue can be proud that not one life was lost.
Upstairs, we delve into South Africa’s cultural history with manequins and models of rural Africa living and tribal ways of life, with sampling of crafts and beadwork. We are also given a glimpse into life of the early settlers with model wagons, and homeware.
East London has many stories to tell of South Africa’s rich history and is well worth a visit. With the Coelacanth Café on the premises providing coffee shop meals, it’s easy to take your time exploring, stopping for a coffee break in between and making a day outing of it.