As a settlement, Gansbaai came into being in the early 1880’s. Nomadic fishermen, and one in particular, Cornelis Wessels, who is claimed to be the first, settled on this coastal stretch of the farm “Strandfontein” (Fountain on the beach). The focal point was the freshwater spring next to the present harbour which provided the small but successful community with drinking water. This fountain was home to wild geese and soon the place became known as “Gansgat” (goose-hole) and was later changed into the more eloquent Gansbaai (Goose bay). The name Wessels and those of other early settlers are still the common names in Gansbaai.
The spring has recently been restored and a memorial plaque tells the story of how Gansbaai came to be.
The “gansgat-community” was not the first of its kind in the immediate area. In the early 1800’s the first permanent fishing cottages had been built by Khoi-descendants under ancient Milkwoods in Stanfordsbaai, a secluded cove in De Kelders. Human population was not a new thing for the area. Archeological excavations have shown that Klipgat Cave in De Kelders was inhabited by early modern man 80’000 years ago at a time when Neanderthal man was still the only representative of the genus “homo” in Europe.
Klipgat Cave as well as the more inland Bijnekrans Cave have also shown evidence of a thriving Khoikhoi community of about 2000 years ago. During the ages many people must have walked along the coast from the fresh water fountain in “Gansgat” to Klipgat Cave. Today, the hike from Gansbaai harbour to Klipgat Cave, the “Klipgat Trail”, is not only a stunning nature walk along small and larger caves, rocky outcrops and the very special coastal limestone vegetation, but also a walk in time. Maps and information on the Klipgat trail can be obtained from the Tourism Bureau.
Where the coast from Gansbaai to De Kelders is dominated by caves, coves and limestone rock formations towering above the ocean, the coast in an easterly direction is less dramatic and is typified by the rock pools of the shores of Danger Point Peninsula and the endless white sand-beaches beginning at the mouth of the Uilkraals estuary of Franskraal, a popular birding hot-spot. The quiet beaches from Franskraal onwards to Pearly Beach, Buffeljagsbaai and Quoin Point are the dream of anyone who wants lonely walks on the beach, but also a paradise for shore- and sea- birds; the rare and endangered Black Oyster Catcher is a common sight. It is no exception to see a Cape fur seal or a Cape clawless otter on these beaches in the early morning. Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, home to 10’s of thousands of Cape seals and African penguins and other sea birds, can be seen from these shores. Boat-tours from the harbour of Kleinbaai take you to these islands, where a cheerful and noisy group of seals awaits you.