In November 2015, Gansbaai won the coveted “Best Destination” award at the World Responsible Tourism Awards with the following motivation:
“Gansbaai, a town in the Overberg region, Western Cape, South Africa has transformed itself from fishing village to one of South Africa’s most exciting, and community led adventure hubs, a process that has been led by the Gansbaai Tourism Association. The Gansbaai Tourism Association is one of South Africa’s most proactive and passionate clusters of tourism businesses, from fishermen to fynbos conservationists. Because at Responsible Travel we know that responsible destinations don’t just happen. People make them happen.”
This is so true, and I have already written a blog about the inspiring collaboration that made Gansbaai a Responsible Tourism Role Model.
During one intensive week in December, Dee from the blog The Good Holiday and I went on a responsible tourism roadtrip (#RTRoadtrip) and explored far and wide in and around Gansbaai with the help of Gansbaai Tourism and this is what we found:
Gansbaai has long been known as the Great White shark cage diving capital. It was also in Gansbaai that the industry formed a collaboration to self-regulate that eventually led to a national Code of Conduct. At the helm of this collaboration was Marine Dynamics and their non-profit conservation organisation Dyer Island Conservation Trust. I went diving with them a few years back, and although seeing these apex predators up close was the highlight of the trip I was also very impressed with how much I learned about the sharks during my day with Marine Dynamics.
If you visit Gansbaai, seeing (and learning more about) these amazing predators is a must but there is plenty more to this little seaside fishing village.
Jason from Beachcomber Guide took us on a walk along the beautiful cost at Pearly Beach. Here, we got a glimpse into the abundance of the unique marine environment in the area. I learned why the waters on the Cape west coast are colder in summer than in winter, why kelp is such a useful plant for both marine critters and people, and why the abalone will soon be extinct. But we also spoke of hopes for the future, and how technology can be the savior of our environment. And I looked into the centre of the universe right there on the rugged beach close to the southernmost tip of Africa.
At Walker Bay Nature Reserve, we explored the origin of humankind. The Klipgat Caves were once home to the KhoiKhoi people of the area. The ancestors of these stone age people still today have a genetic composition that can be traced back to the origin of humankind. The surrounding cliffs have spectacular views of white sandy beaches and untouched expanses of coastal fynbos.
We visited an ancient indigenous forest at Platbos, where many of the trees are over a thousand years old. Here, you can marvel at White Stinkwood, Wild Peach and Hard Pear trees. It is like walking in a fairytale.
The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary takes care of little baby penguins while their parents are molting (and are unable to feed them) and also injured adult penguins and any other birds. It is a modern rehabilitation centre run almost entirely through donations and volunteer work. With only 10% of the population left compared to the early 1900’s, the African Penguin needs all the help it can get.
Lomond Wine Estate produces wine using organic and natural farming methods. With only a small part of the estate allocated for vines, and the rest kept in its natural fynbos-covered state, you will detect the spicy and aromatic characters in the wine. Many of their wines bear names of flowers that occur naturally in the surrounding fynbos, such as Pincushion and Sugarbush.
I saved my favourite experience for last; a long ride through the flowering fynbos at Farm 215. There is something very special with experiencing nature from the back of a horse. To leisurely move through dense vegetation, to climb high up on the mountainside and to canter fast on straight sandy paths. The African Horse Company also do rides as long as 14 days, all the way to Cape Agulhas and beyond. That is what I am dreaming of for my next trip to the Overberg! In the meantime, I’ll look at these photos and remember the many amazing experiences I have already had in this beautiful part of the world.
Next time I’ll tell you about my favourite places to stay in Gansbaai, so stay tuned!