Around Gansbaai

Posted under Travel Blog by Grootbos on 9th November 2011

An array of alluring creatures and features awaits you on the off-roads around Gansbaai

Where does one find that extreme paradoxical combination of herds of buffalo, pods of whales, sublime wines and ancient heritage sites along a wild, windswept coastline teeming with unique plant and animal species? Only in Africa. More specifically, only along the toe-tip of the African continent where the great Atlantic and Indian Oceans short-circuit in an explosive junction of currents to create gale-force winds and mammoth waves.

A slack-packing trip along the less trodden side-roads from Gansbaai to L'Agulhas and De Hoop Nature Reserve provides one with some of the most extraordinary and striking sights of contrasting natural beauty and outdoor bliss. A well-kept and scenic gravel road from Pearly Beach via the rural hamlet of Baardscheerdersbos takes one past mosaic landscapes of verdant valleys, agricultural fields and cattle and horse farms to the picturesque missionary haven of Elim.

This historic oldest village in the Strandveld with its charming whitewashed cottages, in sharp contrast with the lush flower-splashed environment, boasts a history as rich and colourful as the renowned Elim fynbos - the rarest in the world. At the local Heritage Centre one can enjoy home-made refreshments and learn all about the main attractions - the beautiful Moravian Mission Church; the only slave monument of its kind in the country; the ancient corm mill; Geelkop Nature Reserve and the thriving flowering fynbos industry that forms the economic heartbeat of the village. Elim is also the portal to the newest and southernmost wine route in Africa - the Elim Wine Ward.

Take the tarred R43 en route to Bredasdorp to sip and sample the fruits of the five pioneer winegrowers who put this area on the international map with a range of superb Sauvignon Blancs and other exciting award-winning blends from the vines flourishing in the cool winds of the Agulhas Plain. The five wineries - Strandveld Vineyards, Black Oystercatcher, The Berrio, Zoetendal Wines and Quoin Rock - all offer superb wine-tasting opportunities and tours. Most of them also boast accommodation in breathtaking natural settings, whilst the Black Oystercatcher sports a beautiful full-time restaurant and function venue for indoor and outdoor feasts. Enjoy lunch at one of the farms and learn about the exciting Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area Initiative. All five winegrowers, as well as neighbouring farmers, are stakeholders in this ambitious project to preserve and restore the Agulhas Plain - that boasts one of the richest biodiversities in the world - to its former Serengeti-like status. Game such as buffalo, various antelope species and hippo's are now being resettled in the area as part of a conservation-related eco-tourism project. Guests can embark on several hikes, fynbos tours and game drives to view the magnificent wildlife species unique to this region. There's a certain magic about toasting the wines and watching the birds and buffalo of this special place adjacent to the wild, windswept Cape of Storms. Take a break in Bredasdorp - established in 1838 and known as South Africa's first "dorp" - to explore the fascinating Shipwreck Museum where numerous artefacts are silent testimony to the countless ships that have, over the centuries, floundered along the treacherous Agulhas coast. The Audrey Blignaut Room pays homage to this famous Bredasdorp-born essayist and the nearby Dutch Reformed Church is a striking example of Cape Gothic architecture. Come and view the rare red Bredasdorp lily (Cyrtanthus guthrieae) in the Heuningberg Nature Reserve at the foot of the Bredasdorp mountains, or visit the Rhenosterfontein farm where an ancient white Milkwood forest has been given National Heritage Site status.

From Bredasdorp, you are faced with a difficult choice : North takes you to the acclaimed De Hoop Nature and Marine Reserve and South leads to Struisbaai and L'Agulhas where the acclaimed Agulhas National Park stretches at the southernmost foot of Africa. The magic pull of that place in the universe where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, will probably propel you into braving the 71 steep steps to the top of the lighthouse for breathtaking all-round views of sea and land; or to pose for a keepsake-picture at the famous cairn that marks the exact southermost point of the continent. The Agulhas Lighthouse is the second oldest working lighthouse in the country and houses the only Lighthouse Museum in Africa. The Agulhas National Park offers guests some great hiking and driving trails, and is host to more than 1 750 botanical species, including an exceptional birdlife with a choice of fynbos-, wetland- and coastal birds. The water around the shoreline here is very shallow and Cape Agulhas is known to have one of the best fishing grounds in South Africa. Various tidal and rock pools provide for safe swimming.

A multitude of pubs, restaurants and formal and informal accommodation in L'Agulhas and the adjacent Struisbaai cater for a wide range of travellers, tourists and campers. Enjoy a sundowner at the Struisbaai harbour where stingrays eat out of your hand, or take a relaxing stroll along the longest white sand beach in Africa. Explore the pristine beauty of nearby Arniston or Waenhuiskrans and visist the 200 year old fishing village of Kassiesvlei. The De Mond Nature and Marine Reserve with its abundant plant, animal and bird life at the mouth of the Heuningnes River between Arniston and Cape Agulhas, is a paradise for nature lovers where both freshwater and marine anglers can try their luck.

No matter which off-road you take - there's an array of alluring creatures and features lurking around each turn within a 2 hour drive from Gansbaai!

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