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Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Cape Whale Coast

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Walker Bay Nature Reserve lies on the south-western Cape coast, just east of Hermanus. The reserve consists of five coastal areas, lying between Hermanus and Die Dam near Struisbaai. The main section, known as Walker Bay, stretches from the Klein River estuary to De Kelders at Gansbaai. This section covers about 1 000 ha with a coastline of 17 km and features a long beach, known as Die Plaat, with white sands and rocky limestone outcrops to the east. Immediately north-west of the reserve lies the scenic Klein River lagoon, which flows into the sea at times. The northern parts of the reserve consist of stabilised dunefields.

The reserve forms the core area of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy.

There are important records of Middle Stone Age people (about 85 000 to 65 000 years ago) occupying the Klipgat Cave, in the eastern section of the reserve. There is also evidence that during the Late Stone Age (about 2 000 years ago), Khoisan people inhabited this site, and lived off the plants, fish, shellfish and game in the area.

The reserve lies within the Mediterranean climatic zone, with mild wet winters and hot dry summers. Coastal winds are common at all times. The sea temperatures are fairly low for most of the year.

Lowland coastal fynbos, also known as strandveld, is the main type of vegetation, and is characterised by species such as bietou, blombos, sour fig and waxberry. Parts of the dunefields were stabilised from the early 1900s until the 1980s, using alien rooikrans and Port Jackson. These species are invasive and, together with uncontrolled coastal development, pose a threat to the indigenous strandveld. Dense thickets of old milkwoods occur along the banks of the Klein River lagoon.

Most of the mammals occurring in the reserve are shy, but the tracks of Cape clawless otter, bushbuck, duiker, grysbok and steenbok are occasionally observed. Off-shore, southern right whales occur from about August to November, while Bryde’s and humpback whales and various dolphin species occur throughout the year. Marine fish include the sought-after galjoen, kabeljou and steenbras, which may be caught at Galjoenbank, Sopiesklip, Skeurbank and other fishing sites.

The reserve has numerous species of seabirds, including the striking Africa Black Oyster Catche. This species is threatened by coastal recreational activities because it breeds on beaches in the summer.

Visitors are welcome to enjoy day hikes along the coast. Angling, swimming and picnicking are permitted, but visitors should note that the sea can be rough and dangerous. Fires and overnight camping are not allowed. No overnight accommodation is provided in the reserve.

Visitors must avoid disturbing coastal birds and destroying sensitive dune vegetation. Litter must be removed. In terms of the access permit, off-road vehicles must remain below the high-water mark, particularly during summer when the oystercatchers breed.

A permit for entry into the reserve is required and is obtainable from the Walker Bay Nature Reserve office at Voëlklip during office hours (Monday to Friday, 08:00 - 16:00). An Overberg District Council permit is required for driving on the beach and may be purchased at the same office. Normal regulations of the Department of Sea Fisheries apply to the removal of bait and other marine organisms. Permits for marine angling are available at post offices. A freshwater angling licence (obtainable from any CapeNature office) is required for angling in the Klein River lagoon and estuary. The reserve entry times (sunrise to sunset) are strictly adhered to.


 

















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