Garden Route Tourist AttractionsStilbaai Marine Protected Area
The aim of a marine protected area is to conserve marine life. They take the form of a collaboration between civil society, communities and government that promote conservation and safeguard threatened marine species and important habitats.
One of the youngest of the Marine Protected Areas in South Africa Stilbaai, just west of Mossel Bay, was declared a marine protected area only in 2008 to urgently protect the Goukou River estuary and the sandy bays both east and west of Still Bay.
The Marine Protected Area includes 13.5 km of the coast between Noordkapperspunt (Bokbokduin) and Rietvleivywers, as well as 15.7 km of the Goukou estuary.
Only 0.5 per cent of our oceans are formally protected. If you consider that 10 percent of South Africa's land is protected, our ocean protection lags way behind.
Still Bay benefitted from its late inclusion in South Africa's list of Marine Protected Areas. It was the first of the Western Cape's MPAs to include a river estuary, placing restricted 'no take' zones on either side of the Goukou River mouth. Goukou's estuary is permanently open and highly productive, making it an important nursery area for coastal fish.
There are three restricted zones at Geelkrans, Skulpiesbaai and Goukou, including 15 km upstream of the river mouth. All of these areas were popular with fishers. No fishing is allowed at any of them.
Fishers are restricted as to where they can collect shellfish and bait as well - only in the controlled zone of the Goukou estuary's eastern bank. Whilst jetskis are forbidden anywhere in the Marine Protected Area.
The ocean around the estuary is important. The Stilbaai Marine Protected Area protects reef fish species, the southern right whale, two species of eel and ragged tooth sharks.
Stilbaai Marine Protected Area is also culturally and historically significant with one of only two surviving visvywers, or stone-age fish traps, and shell middens. These fish traps are living examples of ancient technology and now have national monument status. Together with Blombos cave and the shell middens found on the coast, they are a popular tourist attractions.
Visit the Blombos Museum of Archaeology in the Stilbaai Tourism Bureau for more information.
Visitors enjoy access to the MPA particularly the blue flag status Preekstoel Beach, called such for its unusual rock formation, whilst between June and November it is a good whale and dolphin watching destination.