Bettys Bay

To the South aGordonsBaynd East of Cape Town is a part of the Atlantic Ocean known as False Bay.  The area first was visited in the late 15th Century by Bartolomeu Dias (1488). Its name originates from the British Navy who sailed their ships into the area, believing it to be Table Bay, on the other side of Table Mountain, and a safe shelter from the treacheries of Cape Horn.  To their surprise, it was neither a bay nor was it particularly a safe haven.  In fact, this is the place where all of the video is filmed for many television and movie footage of the Great Whites!

FalseBay_SharkWarningFlagsThe waves that approach the shoreline from Muizenberg, to the West, and Gordons Bay (pictured above), to the East, are ideal for surfing.  But, to insure the safety of those in the water, Shark Watchers, a paid job, are stationed at the main surfing sites.  Their duties are to continuously scan the shallow waters for sharks, particularly the Great Whites during their feeding season in the area, and post appropriate flag warning throughout the daylight hours.  The last surfer to be killed and eaten by a Great White was David Lilienfeld (1991-2012) in April 2012.

BettysBay_AfricanPenguinColonySimilar to Boulders National  Park near Simonstown, directly opposite Gordon’s Bay to the West, a colony of African penguins (Speniscus demersus) inhabits the rocky shoreline area of Stony Point in Bettys Bay.  These birds, also, are protected by the laws of South Africa; no natural law protects them from the sharks BettysBay_AfricanPenguinwho will feed on them when seals aren’t available.  The colony only recently has been established along the lower elevations of the Overberg mountains (pictured in the background), with the first nests appearing in 1982.  The species is placed on the vulnerable list of endangered animals because the total current population is estimated at about 170,000 adults which reflects a decline of 90 % in the past 60 years! Some estimates are even lower.  Cape Nature claims that there are currently only 36,000 adults of the species, reduced from a high of 1.5 million individuals at the beginning of the 20th Century.

BettysBay_OysterCatcherThe area is a haven for sea birds, several of which are on the endangered list.  This includes the Black Oyster Catcher. Four (4) breeding pairs have established recurrent nesting sites along Bettys Bay beach, and these areas are cordoned off to visitors during the mating and rearing season.  Juvenile Oyster Catchers feed with their parents on the low tide rocks and then move to the beach under high tide to feed off of the stranded kelp that has washed ashore.  According to the Seals and Seabirds Protection Act of 1973, it is a fineable offense to disturb breeding birds.

BettysBay_Comorants_IbisBesides African penguins and Oyster Catchers, this part of False Bay is home to Cormorants, Egyptian Ibis, and a diversity of both shore- and ocean-going birds (Avian Reptiles).  The Cape Sugarbird, along with Black Eagles, King Fishers, and a variety of swifts and swallows, inhabit the area.  Their natural  habitat has been enhanced by the creation and development of an UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Kogelberg Biosphere, and the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens.  The Kogelberg is known as the “heart of the fynbos,” home to an incredible 1712 different plant species, making it one of the world’s richest sites of plant diversity.

Sutherland_Sunset Generally off-the-beaten-path of most tourists, a drive along the eastern side of False Bay, through the various small towns and homesteads, allows you to leave the bustle of the big city, Cape Town, and retreat to the fynbos countryside.  The ocean-and-mountain views are spectacular, the possibility to view Humpback Whales or Great White Sharks, in breeding and feeding season, are high, and the roads enjoyable to drive.  Just insure that you have sufficient petrol in the tank to get you to the next filling station.  It can be a long, hot walk between villages or informal townships.