Cape St Francis offers adventure, wildlife, culture and history

2017-02-16 06:02

CAPE St Francis, popular for its clean beaches and home to a Penguin Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and the Seal Point Lighthouse, offers visitors a myriad of fabulous walks and hikes, as well as a trip down memory lane with relics dating back more than 1 million years - an authentic eco-experience.

Once home to the San and Khoi people, who thrived on the magnificent abundance of plant and animal life in the region, the south eastern coastline in Cape St Francis is now rich in relics dating back over 1 million years. The prehistoric remains of shell fish and bulbs piled in midden shells, support the theory that mankind as we know it, originated here.

Cape St Francis also falls into the Cape Floral Kingdom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site described by the organisation as being of outstanding universal significance to humanity and one of the richest areas for plant diversity in the world.

The area is home to almost 20% of Africa’s flora, and its outstanding diversity, density and endemism is among the highest worldwide.

The Fynbos covered Cape St Francis falls into and epitomises this globally important centre of terrestrial biodiversity and rich cultural history, where white sand dunes roll into indigenous bushland, providing food and shelter for a host of smaller animal species and birds, while midden sites and historic shipwrecks litter the coastline at regular intervals.

Most of Cape St Francis forms part of five protected nature reserves. There are a myriad of walks and hikes to choose from, taking visitors from colourful coastal vegetation to rocky outcrops and along quiet stretches of beach.

These nature reserves are open to everyone and have no entrance fees. Visitors can enjoy them at their leisure and often without bumping into anyone else.

The five nature reserves are as follows.

Cape St Francis Nature Reserve

The largest of the five, the Cape St Francis Nature Reserve is situated between Cape St Francis and St Francis Bay, covering 120 hectares of endemic Milkwood and Candlewood thickets, beautiful sandy spans of beach, a rustic rocky point and rolling sand dunes with spectacular views over St Francis Bay.

There are three hiking trails to choose from, varying in length, and all taking visitors through fragrant coastal dune fynbos and coastal thicket.

Look out for the Cape clawless otter, Bottlenose dolphin, rare Black oystercatcher and perhaps even an endangered African penguin in and around the ocean while small mammal species such as bushbuck, duiker, mongoose and porcupine may be spotted in the bush.

Seal Point Nature Reserve

Housing the historic Cape St Francis Lighthouse, the Seal Point Nature Reserve offers wild, rugged ocean beauty at its best with sparkling rock pools filled with marine life and wonderful refreshing walks where Southern right whales may be spotted during birthing season.

Here visitors will find the SANCOB run penguin and seabird rehabilitation centre where donations can be made in support of the endangered and endemic African penguin. Visitors can also walk to Shark Point, passing by Shelly Beach, a good place to spot Black oystercatchers, and through rich midden sites before reaching the point where the remnants of shipwrecks still lie.

Seal Bay Nature Reserve

Seal Bay Nature Reserve, or simply ‘Seals’ as it is known to locals, is arguably one of the most beautiful and pristine recreational beaches in South Africa. Its long stretches of sand lend themselves to meandering strolls while the main beach area is safe for swimming. Its waves are a favourite among surfers all over the world, and at low tide the rock pools are a great place for discovering marine wonders.

St Francis Field Nature Reserve

This 54 hectare reserve forms part of the St Francis Field Country Estate, an exclusive lifestyle destination and air park. The estate offers the unique blend of an environmental sanctuary, aviation facilities and residential homes and has been careful to not let development encroach onto the splendid natural landscape that surrounds it.

Sherwood Forest consists of hundreds of years old protected Milkwood, Candlewood and other indigenous trees and offers an enchanting walking trail that twitchers will love. Knysna warbler, Fiery necked nightjar and Jackal buzzard are among some of the impressive bird species found here, while bushbuck, wild pig and honey badger rustle around in the fynbos.

The estate is also home to a vineyard and olive orchard.

Irma Booysens Nature Reserve

This small reserve can be accessed through various points in the village and is ideal for an easy and enjoy-able walk. The trees are marked for easy identification and visitors will find benches every so often along the well-marked paths, where walkers can take a breather and absorb the sights and sounds of nature and birdlife around them.

The dune fynbos that covers most of the reserve is a delicate and unique species of flora, particularly pretty to see in the spring when riots of colourful small flowers adorn the bush and brighten up the landscape.

Many insects, reptiles and birds are regular inhabitants of this scenic little reserve in the heart of Cape St. Francis.

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