plett hope spot
Plettenberg Bay is one of South Africa’s richest areas in terms of biodiversity. The Hope Spot incorporates Robberg Island, which is home to over 7 000 Cape cormorants, the largest kelp gull breeding colony in the country, and an incredible richness of other birdlife.
The Hope Spot seas are home to its iconic animal, the humpback dolphin, as well as the bottle-nosed and common dolphins, and southern right, humpback and Bryde’s whales. The Garden Route National Park and Tsitsikamma Park also fall within its designation, so it’s a nature- and marine-lovers dream destination.
Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) This near-threatened dolphin has a distinctive fatty hump on its back, and prefers shallower water. It’s a medium-sized dolphin (about 2 – 2.8 metres in length), and is usually a darker grey.
The Pansy shell (Echinodiscus bisperforatus) Plettenberg Bay is one of the few places where you can find the beautiful pansy shell on the beaches. It is, in fact, the skeleton of a sea urchin, which belongs to a group of burrowing urchins that live in sheltered bays and estuaries. Keurbooms and Robberg beaches (near the Peninsula) are the best places to find them at low tide.
How to engage with the Plett Hope Spot
Visit Robberg Nature Reserve
There are a number of hikes you can do here. One takes you past a seal colony and another of Cape cormorants. It’s a gorgeous reserve, wonderful for bird and whale and dolphin watching in season. capenature.co.za
Swim with seals and pelagic sharks
Offshore Adventures is a recommended operation for snorkelling with these playful creatures – suitable for kids – and adults can also brave the sardine migration or swim with sharks. offshoreadventures.co.za
Get your kids into this nature
Do the Salt River Hiking Trail
Park at Natures Valley Trading Store (check). Trail maps are available at the shop or the Nature’s Valley Trust office. This hike is in the SANParks Garden Route National Park and is regarded as one of the most spectacular walks in the region. It’s a 15 km hike, and please note that the trail is not passable during high tide. Sanparks.org
Beaches to explore
A ‘path less travelled’ and there are beautiful rock pools and caves to explore. Park at Enrico Ristorante in Keurbooms village and walk east.
A walk from the car park at Lemongrass restaurant to the Keurbooms River mouth and around the edge of the lagoon. Breeding seabirds nest here. Please note: no dogs are allowed on this beach.
On the edges of the Keurbooms estuary. The area offers several dog-friendly beaches, the favourite being at the end of Robberg Beach, from Sanctuary Beach to Wreck Beach. New regulations have been put in place to protect breeding seabirds and a dogs-on-leashes rule is being enforced. Look out for the signs telling you which beaches are dog friendly, either on or off the leash. Watch hermit crabs scuttle away from you, or hire a SUP board and explore further.
Research, education and community engagement in the Plett Hope Spot
Several Marine research projects are active in the PHS and are run by researchers from Nelson Mandela University, Nature’s Valley Trust, UKZN, the ORCA Foundation, SANParks and CapeNature. Research varies from large whale ecology to invertebrate sampling and monitoring; socio-economic aspects of the marine tourism sector, African penguin monitoring, rescue, rehabilitation and release; fishermen surveys; marine debris monitoring; breeding shorebird conservation; invasive fish species in estuaries; and fish stock assessments.
The ORCA Foundation and Nelson Mandela University
Conducting active research and monitoring of the Endangered humpback dolphin (our iconic species). The data collected from this work will be put towards the establishment of a Conservation Plan for the species because the population is estimated to be fewer than 500 individuals along the SA Coast.
Plett Stranding Network
A is co-ordinated by Dr Gwen Penry and was established to create a network of qualified individuals to attend incidents of stranded marine mammals in order to collect important scientific information and, where possible, attempt a rescue. The network has grown to include other marine life that may need assistance, especially marine birds. The network has partially been funded by the Table Mountain Fund’s small grant program.
Community engagement projects
In this programme, local schools take custodianship of a beach and learn to ID species in rock pools and clean up litter.
Here children get to assess the health of a river that runs through their local community and how their community impacts the river.
Covie fishing club
This is a community-based fishing club that is supported by the Plettenberg Bay Angling Association.