Conservation and Ecotourism
The main reason that Gansbaai area has become a premier nature destination is the fact that conservation of both the marine- and land-based nature has been embraced by all layers of society. Conservation in this area is not restricted to the several public nature reserves. Many private landowners have embarked on extensive alien-vegetation clearing operations as well as the restoration of indigenous vegetation and reforestation. By means of these programs, several red data species have been saved from immediate extinction. Thousands of hectares of private land have been brought into conservancies, the oldest and the largest whereof is the Walker Bay Conservancy from Stanford in the North to Grootbos and Flower Valley in the South. To read about this project of landowners who are determined to ensure the preservation of the natural splendour of the Walker Bay region, see www.fynbos.co.za
The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) has created a fresh approach in the region to the sustainable use of natural resources. This has resulted in the implementation of new standards in the picking of indigenous flowers for the cut-flower trade. The Lomond vineyards at the Kraaiboschdam has been the first vineyard that worked purely on the basis of organic fertilisers and sound-guns, instead of real guns, are used to chase antelopes away that aim for the fresh shoots of the vines. The population in Masakhane cherishes the old milkwoods that line the streets of the townships and locals of De Kelders embark on weekend missions to clear the coastal vegetation of invasive alien trees. The project to tar the road from Gansbaai to Elim is a project that goes beyond a pure engineering feat. As a unique feature in the Western Cape, the whole project has a clear nature conservation aspect to it. In the process, the original waterflows of swamps and rivers will be restored and both sides of the road will be cleared from invasive vegetation for a minimum of 50 meters.
The whale boat operators work closely together with marine biologists and strictly obey the prescribed 300 meter distance from any whales (the whales could not care less about this rule and come up to a few centimetres of the stationary boats). The local boat operators and its employees are furthermore strongly involved in the protection of African penguins and other seabirds and immediately come into action in case news comes in of yet another “oilspill of unknown origin”. With the establishment of the Agulhas National Park, as the core of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative, an ambitious program has been set into motion that should result in a mega-reserve between Stanford and De Hoop Nature Reserve in which all the animals that once were common in this area will be re-introduced.
The conservation efforts as described above are immediately visible for the tourists and other guests to the area of Gansbaai. Marine biologists on board of the whale watching boats will passionately explain about the threats to the marine life and the measures taken to protect it. Most of the nature reserves and fynbos estates are open to the public, either for day-visits or -trails or for residential guests in top-of-the-bill lodges or rural self catering cottages. Guides will show the enormous efforts put into the restoration of indigenous vegetation and the safe-guarding of the vast tracts of natural land. The lodges and retreats in the hinterland work as a rule on the basis of eco-friendly techniques: water is recycled and waste-management is strictly applied.
Various education- and upliftment- programs are organised and funded by nature lodges and -notably Grootbos private nature reserve- has obtained national and international acclaim for their successful efforts in this respect. If you want to know more about conservation efforts in the whole of the Western Cape, please check out www.capeaction.org.za the website of C.A.P.E. (Cape Action for People & Environment)