About Dyer Island Nature Reserve

Most people have heard of Dyer Island. Shark Alley, the strip of sea between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, off the coast of Gansbaai and Pearly Beach in the Overberg, is famous for shark cage diving, and one of the biggest tourist attractions of the area. People travel from Cape Town daily for the opportunity of a close view of a shark.

Did you know? Gansbaai is famous for the marine Big Five - sharks, seals, dolphins, penguins and whales.

Geyser Rock (on Google maps its known as Geyser Island and some people speak of the two collectively as the Dyer Island Group), just south of Dyer Island, is home to 50 000 odd Cape fur seals. They use the passage of sea between the island and the rock to find their food. For rather obvious reasons, then, it is known as shark alley. The seals are, in turn, fed upon by great white sharks. In winter in particular this alley lives up to its name as thousands of seal pups venture into the water. Their daily trip is a constant peril.

Dyer Island is the easternmost island of a chain of seabird havens along the Western Cape. The 20 hectare island is rather flat and pebbly, lacking much sand. Once home to a huge colony (25 000 pairs) of African penguins, today it has about 50 000 penguins and a huge gathering of seabirds.

Called Dyer Island after it was discovered by Sampson Dyers in 1806, this protected bird sanctuary and nature reserve is the breeding area for roseate terns, Leach's storm petrel and other seabirds – whitebreasted, Cape, bank and crowned cormorants, kelp gulls, Hartlaub's gulls (king gull) and swift terns.

Historically eastern white pelicans lived on the island too, all but destroyed because of man's penchant for their eggs and young, in similar vein to penguin eggs that were a delicacy right up until the early 1960s. Between the seal harvesters and guano scrapers, the island did not have a good beginning as far as offering sanctuary is concerned.

There is an obvious need to make the island, and the water around the island, a marine protected area for the sake of the penguins and the seabirds. As it is there are plans afoot to proclaim the area as a special nature reserve.

Threats to the island include illegal abalone poaching and the harvesting of kelp.

Need to Know

WhereDyer Island Nature Reserve, Cape Overberg, Western Cape, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours. The best time of year to see the great white sharks is between June and September.

OvernightStay in Gansbaai Accommodation, Western Cape

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