5 fun (and 1 controversial) things to do in Gansbaai

What to do in a laid back seaside village in South Africa

A sleepy little hollow with loads of undercurrents

Is Gansbaai worth visiting?

 

Panoramic view Gansbaai over old harbour
 

There is a little seaside village in South Africa on the southern coast, about 150 kilometres outside Cape Town. Its name supposedly originates from a colony of wild geese that congregated at a natural spring near the old harbour. The original name ‘Gansgat” (goose hole) was created. 

When driving from the direction of Cape Town, you can either drive along the coast via Gordon’s Bay and Betty’s Bay or you can drive over Sir Lowry’s Pass. You pass Hermanus and about 20 kilometres after Stanford you reach Gansbaai. 

Panoramic view Gansbaai over new harbour

Gansbaai might seem like a sleepy hollow but there are disturbing undercurrents regarding conservation (or lack thereof) of endangered species. These include the poaching of abalone and crayfish.

The fishing industry was a thriving business; indeed, it still is today. However, I think tourism is slowly taking over.

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 Fishing trawlers anchored in the new harbour in Gansbaai

Fishing trawlers anchored in the new harbour in Gansbaai

 

 Gansbaai produces spectacular sunsets over the sea

Gansbaai produces spectacular sunsets over the sea

 

Gansbaai has a lot to offer, and who could argue if it has its own song called Wie maak vir Gansbaai lekker? Translated it means Who makes Gansbaai pleasant? Take a look at the video. The lyrics are in Afrikaans, and the words and tune are quite repetitive, but the footage is interesting, taken between 1940 and 1960.





 

How do you pronounce Gansbaai?

It starts with a guttural G – ah-ns – by. There you go, it’s that easy!



 Fishing trawlers in the new harbour in Gansbaai

Fishing trawlers in the new harbour in Gansbaai

 

 

At and near Gansbaai there are a few areas and bays with unusual and quaint Afrikaans names to get your tongue around:




De Kelders. The cellars.  Duh-cal-ders

Kleinbaai. Small bay. Clane-by

Baardskeerdersbos. Beard shaving bush. Bard-sc-here-durs-boss

Perlemoenbaai. Abalone bay. Pa (as in an)-rlugh-moon-by

Franskraal. French enclosure. Fr-ons-krahl

Uilenkraalsmond. Owl enclosure mouth. Aye-len-krahls-m-on-d

 

 

Fishing from the wall of old harbour Gansbaai
 Street art depicting some activities in Gansbaai and surrounding areas

Street art depicting some activities in Gansbaai and surrounding areas

What to do in Gansbaai:



Gansbaai to us means family time, but there is so much more to do, not just fishing. We tend to relax and unwind there at the end of a year but YOU don’t have to.

 

1.       Whale watching

2.       Shark cage diving

3.       Walking through Fynbos

4.       Explore the beaches

5.       Discover the caves at De Kelders

6.       Contemplate shipwrecks

 

 Street art depicting typical fishing houses from the past

Street art depicting typical fishing houses from the past

 Street art and advertising

Street art and advertising

 A Gansbaai sunset over Walker Bay

A Gansbaai sunset over Walker Bay

 

Whale watching:

The Southern Right Whales have made Walker Bay, a whale sanctuary, their home. Across the bay is Hermanus, another destination for whale watching. It is not known as the Cape Whale Coast for nothing.

Whale watching can either be done from the cliffs of De Kelders as they come close to shore, literally within meters of the land. You can see them frolic as they mate and calve. Another way of seeing them is by boat. There are many tour operators that would take you out to sea.

Across the bay at Hermanus, the bigger brother of Gansbaai, is also another good place to watch the whales.

 

 

 View from the new harbour in Gansbaai

View from the new harbour in Gansbaai

 Dramatic skies over Gansbaai

Dramatic skies over Gansbaai

 

Shark Cage Diving:

Gansbaai has become the diving mecca for shark cage diving. I’m not keen on the idea of going diving with them – not because I’m scared of these wonderful giants of the ocean (ok maybe I am just a little bit wary of them – that delicate little cage can surely be destroyed by those pearly white shark’s teeth!). I’m not in agreement with chumming principal to attract sharks for the tourists.  

Between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock is Shark Alley. This is more than likely where you would be taken. Seals breed at Geyser Rock and is of course easy pickings for the shark in the narrow channel flanked by the island and the rock.

Dyer Island is a protected bird sanctuary with a breeding area for jackass penguins. Other birds include the Swift Tern, the Black Oyster Catcher and the cormorants. Many a day we’ve watched huge flocks of cormorants flying low over the sea between the mainland and Dyer Island.

 

 Christmas lights are up in the main street of Gansbaai over the festive season

Christmas lights are up in the main street of Gansbaai over the festive season

 

Walking through fynbos and forests

If the sea is not for you, you may well want to venture into the endemic fynbos and milkwood forests with its small wild animals. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve will arrange hikes amongst the fynbos in this area. Platbos forest is another area worth exploring.

 

 Coastal shrub and fynbos, the caravan park and view of the old and new harbour

Coastal shrub and fynbos, the caravan park and view of the old and new harbour

Explore the beaches

With a rugged coastline, Gansbaai itself doesn’t actually have a sandy beach apart from a small stretch in the harbour and another small bay just before De Kelders. There are however numerous rocky alcoves and bays. Not that far out of town you will find white sandy beaches such as Uilenkraalsmond.

 

 Part of a sandy beach in the new harbour

Part of a sandy beach in the new harbour

Discover the caves at De Kelders

A limestone freshwater drip cave, inhabited earlier by the Khoisan, is hidden beneath the cliffs at De Kelders. Mineral water with supposed healing properties fills a crystal-clear pool. It is also home to the Cape Horseshoe Bats.

 

 One of the smaller ship wrecks between the old and new harbour, Gansbaai

One of the smaller ship wrecks between the old and new harbour, Gansbaai

Contemplate shipwrecks

It is estimated that there are 150 shipwrecks buried in the seabed between Gansbaai and Cape Infanta – roughly 160 kilometres apart. Needless to say, there are many fascinating fables about this maritime graveyard. HMS Birkenhead in 1852 and more recently the Bulwark in 1963 are but two of them.  

 
Newspaper clipping Gansbaai Courant 2010 of Bulwark shipwreck in 1963

 

 Wooden fishing trawlers are regularly maintained and repaired

Wooden fishing trawlers are regularly maintained and repaired

After repairs the trawler is brought down to water again.

 In the old harbour where wooden fishing trawlers are being maintained and repaired

In the old harbour where wooden fishing trawlers are being maintained and repaired

 
Blue Goose Gansbaai traditional limestone building
 
Interesting fact: Many of the fishermen built their houses out of limestone on the days they couldn’t go out to sea.


Traditional limestone building and wall Gansbaai

 

Surrounding areas to explore:

There are lovely towns close to Gansbaai in the Overberg District to explore.

Stanford

Hermanus

Pearly Beach

 

 A helicopter keeping an eye on the Trans Agulhas Challenge

A helicopter keeping an eye on the Trans Agulhas Challenge

Trans Agulhas Challenge

Gansbaai is worth a visit with so much more to explore than just the six things I have mentioned.

If you ever find yourself there on New Years Day, be sure to stand near the harbour and watch the Trans Agulhas Challenge – inflatable rubber dinghies (or ducks, as we call them) racing from Mossel Bay to the Strand, near Cape Town.

 
 Inflatable dinghies racing over Walker Bay between Gansbaai and Hermanus

Inflatable dinghies racing over Walker Bay between Gansbaai and Hermanus

 Trans Agulhas inflatable dinghy race over Walker Bay

Trans Agulhas inflatable dinghy race over Walker Bay

 

The people of Gansbaai and most other seaside villages love their fish and seafood.

 Grilling seabream over coals

Grilling seabream over coals

 Making Bokkoms - dried salted fish - from mackerel (maasbankers). Mostly mullet (harders) is used

Making Bokkoms - dried salted fish - from mackerel (maasbankers). Mostly mullet (harders) is used

 

Where is Gansbaai?