Among the Rocks at Mossel Bay
As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes at 6 a.m., a peak out the wall of windows revealed a couple of freighters silhouetted on the bright horizon in Mossel Bay, South Africa. The weather did not look promising.
A stroll on the sand beach of Mossel Bay preceded our 8 a.m. breakfast. Mossel Bay is proud to call Santos Beach one of its 5 Blue Flag Beaches known for their safety, cleanliness and environmental standards.
Bob and I marveled at a couple of huge jellyfish that lay stranded on shore.
As the high tide receded, the jellyfish had gotten left behind. Now they lay in temporary immobile heaps on the sand.
Energized by a hearty breakfast, Bob and I set off to further explore Santos Beach in the direction of Cape St. Blaize.
Polished rocks and boulders harboured a wealth of sea creatures.
Despite the overcast sky, Sea Urchins and Sea Anemones glowed in the shallow tidal pools.
In one rock pool, a Spiny Sea Star lay next to iridescent algae that glinted in the dappled light.
We could only imagine how beautiful the underwater landscape would be for those daring enough to go snorkeling. The tidal pools merely hinted at the vivid palette of marine life.
We spent a good hour watching the huge waves crash against the shore in Mossel Bay, in the hopes of spotting an elusive seal.
They are known to frolic in the surf at that location.
Next, we drove out to Cape St. Blaize at the end of the peninsula upon which Mossel Bay is located. The 19th-Century Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse was indicated as a point of interest.
In actual fact, it was the stunning cave formation supporting the Lighthouse that we found more intriguing. This prehistoric grotto was first excavated in 1888 revealing artifacts from 80,000 years ago.
More recent archeological digs put occupation of the cave at 800,000 years ago, by the Khoekhoen people, a nomadic indigenous population.
While reading the information boards inside the grotto, Bob and I discovered that dozens of Rock Hyrax had formed a colony amongst the boulders and crevices.
They scampered about and nibbled on vegetation but were also inclined to approach people for food.
A Rock Hyrax is about the same size as the Groundhogs that we have in Canada.
Also called Rock Dassies, Rock Hyraxes establish dwelling holes in any type of rock with cavities that also provide a means of escape from predators.
The St. Blaize hiking trail leads away from the cave along the top of the cliffs. The 15-kilometre path promised a bit of an adventure.
Bob and I set out on the windswept slopes in order to experience the rugged terrain and marvel at the precipitous drops to the raging surf hundreds of feet below.
The sun had finally emerged from the cloud cover, and it beat down on us there on the exposed cliffs. A cool onshore breeze was most welcome.
The perpetual wind and dry, rocky habitat did not forestall the growth of vegetation.
In fact, a whole host of plants was thriving.
Flowering shrubs, low-growing creeping vines, cacti, and even some plants that I recognized from my own garden at home all seemed to benefit from the same conditions.
Trailing Geranium, Cranesbill Geranium and Creeping Thyme, all sported blooms in a riot of colours. There was no doubt that we were still in the Garden Route region of South Africa.
As if to embody the sadness that we felt upon one sorrowful discovery, a line squall blew in and had us sheltering within sight of 2 crosses. Sadly, a 17-year-old boy had fallen to his death when he tried to recover a dropped cellphone at that precise location in 2006.
A year later, his girlfriend took her own life at the same spot. The boy’s family endured more pain soon after when the boy’s brother lost his life to a Great White Shark while surfing in Mossel Bay. The falling raindrops hid my own tears as I thought about the sad events.
It gave us pause to consider the ever-present danger in these waters and when walking the treacherous cliff-side trails.
This area of the Indian Ocean is well known for the frequency of whales spotted offshore, and we managed to see at least two surfacing and spouting.
Always being mindful as we walked along the trail, we still managed to spot a school of dolphins cavorting in the violent surf just offshore.
We did not walk the full 15-kilometre trail but timed our return to Cape St. Blaize so that we would have some spare time before dinner.
It was most pleasant wading in the warm water; it soothed my weary feet. For a half-hour or so, we walked along the water’s edge, getting caught off guard a few times when the waves splashed up to our knees.
A couple of fishermen, tourists from Johannesburg, were set up along the shore hoping to catch a shark or musselcracker.
We learned from one fisherman that Mossel Bay is supposed to have the highest density of Great White Sharks along the South African coast. This is due in large part to the reef and a gully that runs adjacent to the shoreline between the land and nearby Seal Island.
Our day exploring the rocky landscape of Cape St. Blaize had been very rewarding and enlightening. We wondered what the next day would hold!