Western Cape Tourist AttractionsMacassar Dunes
Where? Macassar Dunes Reserve, Khayalitsha, Cape Flats, Cape Town
How? Call +27 (0)21 371-5141
The sand dunes of Macassar are protected as a conservation area. Described as a core flora conservation site they contain some of the only remaining, and certainly the best examples of, strandveld – dense, bushy shrubs and thickets – that are, in turn, home to a wide range of animals and plants.
Within the Macassar conservation reserve you will also find the last remaining forest of endangered white milkwood trees.
But really the star of the show is the largest and highest sand dune system on the Cape peninsula. Dunes, like the system at Macassar, are an essential part of a sandy shore system, the dune vegetation vital in trapping mobile sand and stabilising dunes.
Overgrazing, trampling and driving on the sand dunes gradually leads to the dunes migrating, or moving further and further inland, which is why the sand is so uncontrollable at Macassar. The 2 760 acre dune reserve is scattered with signs that warn of 'dunes on the move' or 'sand on the move'. This is quite literal.
Macassar is one of the sites where dune migration is considered a future hazard. Other sand dunes include those at Hout Bay, Glencairn, Fish Hoek and Blaauwberg Conservation Area.
Many of Cape Town's dune systems are under serious threat. Factors such as the very strong south-easterly and north-westerly winds during the year, the mainly fine-grained sand, and inappropriate development within the coastal dunes, causes migrating coastal dunes.
An example of just how the dunes take over at Macassar is the beach pavilion, now an abandoned water park left to the shifting sands. Its series of kiosks, change rooms and water slides are inundated with sand.
Now the pavilion is a favourite amongst photographers for whom the contrast between abandoned buildings and shifting sands makes a good subject.
The dunes are also a source of building sand for the City of Cape Town, governance of which is under scrutiny. They are also under threat from alien invasive plants like rooikrans, and the rapid spread of informal settlements. The city works closely with communities to try and manage the reserve.
The Sheikh Yusuf shrine at Macassar is the most important Muslim shrine in Cape Town. It rests on the summit of a vegetated sand dune close to Faure, near Macassar Beach. Over Easter weekends thousands of Muslims camp behind the Macassar sand dunes to pay tribute to the memory of the Sheikh.
Macassar Dunes lie in False Bay alongside Macassar and Khayelitsha, bounded by the Eerste River and Baden Powell Drive. They are freely available to anyone who wishes to visit them. Find them on Macassar Road, off Baden Powell Drive. You can hike, picnic and whale watch and fish. There are also regular school excursions.
There is no entrance fee.