Plettenberg Bay lies in the heart of the one of the world’s most biodiverse regions in the world: the Southern Cape, or the Garden Route as it is most commonly known. It is along this coastline that the cold Atlantic current mingles with the warm Indian Ocean; it is where dune vegetation gives way to endemic Fynbos which, in turn, gives way to ancient Yellowwood forest and curving bays share space with dramatic coastal cliffs and sweeping lagoons. In Plettenberg Bay, we sometimes take for granted just how unique our region is even as we enjoy the results while we live and play on the UNESCO Garden Route Biosphere Reserve.
Beautiful Robberg. This is one of our favourite places in the whole country! Orginally called “Cabo Talhado” (Sharp Cape) by Portugese explorers, the Robberg Peninsula extends a singular arm into the open ocean, creating the sheltered cove that is Plettenberg Bay. Robberg is a nature reserve, national monument and World Heritage Site. Historically, Robberg has a unique rock structure, with some of the oldest (250 million years old) and youngest rocks (45 000) in the world found within close proximity to each other. The middle layer comprises stone conglomerate, suggesting that Robberg was once a river bed. Robberg is not only a unique geological site, but is also archaeological very interesting, with caves along the Peninsula that were inhibited for more than 19 000 years. Today, visitors can enjoy one of three circular hikes, and a hike to Nelson Bay Cave, with views across the bay and open ocean, which often produce sightings of whale, dolphins, sharks and seals and an excellent example of natural Fynbos covering the peninsula. Find out more about hiking Robberg.
Image: Scott N Ramsay via CapeNature
CAPE FLORISTIC KINGDOM
Did you know that the Cape Floristic Kingdom is the smallest and most biodiverse of all the floral kingdoms. This small coastal belt, stretching 200km from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is home to some 9000 different species, 6000 of which are endemic to the region and are found nowhere else in the world. This is one of the main reasons that UNESCO declared the region a Biosphere Reserve and included both Tsitsikamma and the Langkloof Valley. The most famous of the Fynbos is the protea, closely followed by rooibos (bush tea), honeybush tea and lovely Erica but, there are thousands of different plants. A new Fynbos species, Psoralea vanberkelae, was discovered a few years ago and this has contributed to the development of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve. If you’d like to walk amongst the Fynbos and enjoy the birdlife, take a hike on Robberg or along the Harkerville coastal trails.
TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK
Tsitsikamma means “place of many waters” and this is a fairly accurate description. From the nutrient rich waters of Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Area, to the tea-coloured waters of the Storms River Gorge and the many waterfalls and streams that intersect the ancient Tsitsikamma rainforest, there is water: salty and fresh. The underwater world of the Tsitsikamma National Park is accessed at Storms River Mouth and is home to a fireworks display of soft corals, anemones and sponges, making the reefs incredibly colourful and attracting all manner of marine creatures from reef fish to sandsharks, nudibranchs and rays. The source of Storms River is in the Tsitsikamma Mountains and reaches the ocean at Storms River Mouth, cutting a deep gorge through the forest. Blackwater tubing, kayaking and lilo paddling, and rock jumping are common activities. Finally, the Tsitsikamma rain forest with its luminous green ferns and towering yellowwood trees is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, ziplining and Segway exploration. Find out more about Tsitsikamma
As with Tsitsikamma National Park, the waters off Plettenberg Bay are alive with activity: from the largest of marine mammals to the tiniest pansy shell. As we’ve said before, the mingling currents of the Southern Cape make it a very hospitable place for all manner of marine animals. Reefs are covered in the most colourful of invertebrates: fans, sponges, anemones, nudibranchs and more – it’s a superb place for marine research and underwater photography. Plett’s proximity to the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area means that fish life is abundant: juvenile reef fish spend their time on shallowers reefs before heading out to the deeper reefs to live and feed. Seals, dolphins, otters and whales make use of this abundance and sharks are often spotted patrolling the peninsula in search of a seal for dinner. Whales will breach, dolphins will surf, sharks will cruise and seals will fly through the water – there’s never a dull moment, when you turn your attention to the seas of Plettenberg Bay! Find out more about the Plett Marine Big Five
SALT RIVER MOUTH AND NATURE’S VALLEY
Nature’s Valley is located within the Tsitsikamma National Park, a tiny hamlet that serves as the celebratory end of the famous Otter Trail. Sadly, this is often where hikers finish their exploration, however if you continue along the coastline, following the trail: amongst the rocks, up through the forest and back down again, you’ll come across the magnificent, incomparable Salt River Mouth. It’s a quiet trail, and when you arrive on the beach of Salt River, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re the only people on a desert island. Completely natural, untouched and beautiful. If you’ve already done a Robberg Hike, make Salt River your next walking adventure!