Mossel Bay is situated on the coast of the Western Cape, just off the N2 highway approximately half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Located right at the point of the coast, this amazing and vibrant town, voted “the best place to do business in South Africa” by Finweek Magazine in 2012, is the perfect holiday destination.
It has more things to do (activities, attractions, adventures, beaches, culture, shopping, sport) and more entertainment than almost any small holiday town. If you put that all together with its superb selection of accommodation establishments, dramatic natural beauty, and great, mild weather – it has everything you would need to make your holiday experience complete.
Although people have been living in Mossel Bay for more than 162,000 years, the recorded history of the area goes back only about half a millennium – to the 3rd of February 1488, to be precise: the day that saw the arrival of Bartolomeu Dias, the first Portuguese explorer who landed on South African soil.
The town itself was born - and grew up - as a trading, fishing, and whaling post, but in the 1980s the development of its fuel-from-gas refinery (which, by the way, has won numerous awards as the cleanest refinery in the world) put it front-and-centre in the world of industry and commerce. Combine this with a well-managed municipality (which consistently achieves unqualified audits) and the presence of important lifestyle infrastructure like desirable housing, good schooling, and one of the leading hospitals in the Western Cape – and you have a recipe for excellence.
The municipal area – which encompasses more than 2,000 square kilometres of land – includes mountains, plains, and dunes covered with fynbos (Cape macchia vegetation) and small amounts of indigenous forest and plantations. And there are the dams, lakes and rivers, too, and the sea shore and the pelagic (open ocean) environments, of course.Plus farm- and parklands, wetlands and nature reserves – all of which offer different habitats for upwards of 300 species of birds. That is about a third of the total number recorded for the whole of South Africa! This is why birding in Mossel Bay is as easy as sitting quietly almost anywhere out-of-doors, and just watching and waiting.
The great weather (plenty of sunshine throughout the year), the geography (mountains, coastal plain, beaches, ocean), the vegetation, and 162,000 years of culture have provided the people of Mossel Bay a brilliant canvas on which to create a bewildering array of attractions and activities.
Being in one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the country, Mossel Bay is also the economic hub of the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve, which is on track to becoming one of more than 620 biosphere reserves in UNESCO’s ‘Man and the Biosphere Programme.’
Biosphere reserves are dedicated to combining economic development with the conservation of natural biodiversity through creating partnerships between people and nature - and Mossel Bay is uniquely positioned to do this because of the geography of the area, which provides an unusually large variety of habitats for an enormous variety of life-forms.
Although the Bay itself is not a declared reserve, it is rich in reefs, fishes, and marine mammals – and, in fact, the Mossel Bay Cetacean Project (which monitors the sea on a daily basis) has shown that Mossel Bay attracts a much larger number of whales and dolphins than was previously thought, while shark scientists have named it one of the best places in the world for white shark research.
On land, most of the vegetation belongs to the fynbos group (the Cape macchia), which is characterised by the proteas, ericas (heaths), Cape reeds (restios), and geophytes (bulb-bearing plants) – among many others – which provides habitat for mammals like the smaller antelope, lynx, and leopard.
Of course if you want to visit a wilderness area within the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve, there are plenty of those, too: provincial reserves like the Outeniqua Nature Reserve (which protects the Outeniqua Mountains), and private reserves and lodges that offer full service African bush experiences complete with safari-style game drives, children’s programmes, birding, hiking, mountain biking, and more. And if you want to experience the ocean, Mossel Bay offers marine safaris, ocean kayaking, sailing, boat-based whale and dolphin watching, scuba diving, shark cage diving – amongst many, many others.
Mossel Bay is situated within a short drive of most of the attractions of the Garden Route and Klein Karoo – and the views along the way are all spectacular.