This weekend I was in the Overberg visiting the remote area of De Mond, nestled between its more famous neighbours, Arniston and Cape Aghulas. It was a great getaway. We stayed in a very peaceful cottage with no electricity, just paraffin lanterns, gas stove and a wood-fired “donkey” for hot water. After a long journey on the way there, thanks to various sets of extensive roadworks on the N2, we decided to drive home via the various small towns like Bredasdorp, Elim, Pearly Beach, Kleinbaai, Gansbaai and Stanford.
What a pleasure. The drive home was very interesting, taking us through some of the Overberg’s classic small “towns” and great backroad scenery. We also had the chance to see the quiet but thriving tourism hub at Kleinbaai: the centre of Great White Shark boat trips and cage diving. Here are some pictures of the land-based behind the scenes action at Kleinbaai. As you can see by the size of the boats and the gear involved it is a serious tourism opertation. Speaking to one operator, I learned that they had seen 7 Great White Sharks that day and various guests on his boat had taken the opportunity to get in the cage to view these fearsome creatures underwater at close range.
And whilst all this high-tech equipment allows us to view some of the rarest marine life around, there is always the constant reminder that one is in small town South Africa. Have a look at the claasic farm trctors being used to launch the boats for example. Kleinbaai itself has only changed a tiny bit since this brand of tourism arrived. It is still a sleepy little holiday village with wooden cottages dotted around the rocky coastline and a corner store for the basics.
These boat trips have become hugely popular in the last few years, as the awareness of this rare and adrenalin-pumping activity of diving with Great White Sharks has spread. But there is more to this than just the White Sharks: one can also expect to see the other 4 members of the Marine Big Five whilst out on the sea here (namely Whales, Dolphin, Seals and Penguins). The boat trips are centred around Dyer Island and Geyser Rock (home to a large colony of Cape Fur Seals and the endangered African Penguin), and the deep channel between these; the legendary Shark Alley. And there are als some great marine conservation initiatives that are happening within all of this: White Shark conservation and research, Penguin nest design and more.
The small villages we passed through are another outstanding feature of this area: like the quaint Elim, where you feel like you are the set of movie in the 1800′s. The village pretty much one road with little thatched houses either side. Pearly Beach is another tiny sprawled out seaside holiday village with lots of little bays, rock pools and endless white beaches. Stanford is completely different with its riverside Victorian feel, created by tree-lined streets, willow trees hanging in the Klein River and the classic houses with tin roofs and deep verandahs.