History of Plettenberg Bay aka “Plett”
Plettenberg Bay was named by Bartolomeo Dias the famous sailor and adventurer in 1488 as “Bahia Das Alagoas” or “Bay of the Lagoons”. One can see straight away why he thought of such a name visiting Plettenberg Bay today with it being full of river systems, lagoons and wetlands. Plettenberg Bay’s ocean can at times even resemble a lagoon with mountains to be viewed which ever way you look. The current name as with most towns and cities around the world was named after a person, in this case the governor of the cape colony in 1787 Joachim von Plettenberg who visited the bay in that year. My favourite comes from Mr Manuel da Mesquita de Perestrello who sailed into our bay in 1576 and named it “Bahia Formosa”, the “BEAUTIFUL BAY.”
Plettenberg Bay became a municipality in 1961 and is now a favoured holiday destination by any domestic or international tourist!
Plettenberg Bay was originally used as a harbour for shipping timber from the Tsitsikamma area to the Royal Navy in Simonstown. Plettenberg Bay throughout history has been a place of pristine natural beauty and it still is today! “PLETT” (as most locals and south Africans call it) caters for every type of tourist from the adventure eco-tourist to the leisure tourist and food connoisseur.
Plettenberg Bay becomes even more wonderful with the view from a Dolphin Adventures sea kayaking experience.
Plettenberg Bay and Surrounds
ROBBERG NATURE RESERVE
Robberg nature reserve is a mountain peninsula which is a National monument and not without reason: It is seriously beautiful with views of Plettenberg Bay and the Tsitsikamma mountains. Robberg is also famous for geological strata. Its is made up of three layers of rock, the bottom layer is table mountain quartzite that is around 250 million years old. The middle layer is river stone conglomerate, which is proof that the peninsula was once a river bed thousands of years ago. the top layer consists of sandstone which is about 45 000 years old. Because these rocks are some of the oldest and youngest in the world Robberg is very unique and also very diverse in view. This formation is also known as the “Robberg Formation” by geological fundis!
Robberg has many caves along its shores that were inhabited by hunter gatherers during the Stone Age with lots of their tools being found along in the reserve. Many skeletons have been found as well, the most famous being of a 12 year old girl that died around 200 BC. She was buried with a small rock painting on her chest which is testament that even in 200BC the children of Plett had a special connection with nature just as they do today. Robberg peninsula is also home to a CAPE FUR SEAL colony which is a wonderful site to view and enjoy while paddling with Dolphin Adventures sea kayaking. They might be real smelly but watching them in such numbers is a wonderful experience enjoyed by anyone who has the opportunity to do so.
Robberg is approximately 4kms in length and provides some of the most scenic walking trails around Plettenberg Bay. To get there takes about 7 mins from the center of Plettenberg Bay. You have to pay a small fee to visit Robberg but it is worth the fee hands down in our opinion.
Robberg beach runs from Main beach Plettenberg Bay, the corner of Robberg and is approximately 5.7 kms long, with its white sandy beaches and spectacular views of the Tsitsikamma mountains it is a favoured beach by most tourists visiting Plett. On a Dolphin Adventures sea kayaking experience we often have wonderful sightings of dolphins, whales and hammerhead sharks just behind the waves breaking on Robberg beach.
WRECK OF ATHENA
Athena was a Greek trawler that sank in the corner where Robberg beach and Robberg peninsula meet in 1967. She had been fishing in the Indian ocean and could not return to the Mediterranean via the Suez canal due to the six day war in that part of the world at the time and was forced to round the southern point of Africa en route back to Greece, a decision that would prove fatal. On a day with very calm conditions the skipper did not see whale rock and ran straight into it piercing the hull. He made a run straight for the beach where she sank with 200 tons of tuna on board. All crew survived and the tuna became food for the sharks. At low tide you can still see her. She now serves as a artificial reef and is frequented by many sharks and numerous juvenile fish species which can be viewed and enjoyed while on a Dolphin Adventures sea kayaking experience.
This is a cave with a very irregular shape in the side of Robberg. The cave is named so because local legend says it was formed by Spanish and British galleons that had been firing cannon shells at it to test their guns accuracy and to clear the salt out. From the water while on a Dolphin Adventures Sea kayaking experience.
BEACON ISLE HOTEL
The hotel got its name from the seafaring beacon that was erected on the island it is situated on in 1724. It was leased from its unknown owners by a Norwegian whaling company in 1910 to build a whaling station. They used this as a base for the terrible business of whaling for 20 years until in 1920 the factory burnt down under “mysterious’ or miraculous circumstances depending on how you look at it. The theory is that the owner burnt it down to claim insurance due to its lack of profitability because in 1920 only one whale was caught.
This would become the general trend with the end of commercial whaling around the world due to the depletion of whale populations. Japan what is wrong with you! the island was then used as a guest house until the first hotel was built in 1940. The beacon isle hotel was built on the island in 1972. The slipway where the whales were pulled up, harpoons and the terrible pots used for boiling the blubber to extract their oils can still be seen on the hotel’s property. These pots are over 200 years old and full of misery! The hotel is a very popular tourist destination and plays host to some good restaurants with spectacular views.
Keurbooms beach is 15kms of white sand with no-one around from the river mouth to the village which has the same name. The area got its name from the keurboom tree or Virgilia Divaricata which is a favoured indigenous tree by many a Plettonian. Keurbooms is one of the most peaceful places around Plettenberg Bay where anyone can go to get away and on any given day and be surrounded by only ocean air and beautiful scenery! A place everyone should visit at least 2 weeks a year in our opinion. We like to say “if everyone one visited Keurbooms for a day the world would definitely have a lot less to say!”
Keurbooms River is navigable for about 12kms and provides some beautiful scenery. Thomas Baines built the first bridge to cross the Keurbooms river and ruins of it can still be seen along the banks. From Personal experience being on the Keurbooms river we can say that you have about a 60% chance of either seeing a Fish eagle or hearing one while venturing on the river. In other words a place definitely worth visiting! Stanley Island which is on the Keurbooms river is the only private island in South Africa with a landing strip for light aircraft, for those of you with private planes. While paddling with Dolphin Adventures you will have a different perspective of the beautiful Keurbooms beach and village.
Arch rock is about a 30 min walk from Keurbooms village and sits very close to the cliff near the Maatjies river mouth. It is of an arched shape with a cleft up the middle and a hole in the top. Local legend says that if you happen to throw a stone through the top hole without touching the sides, you will have good luck for the rest of your years. We say that if you happen to have the opportunity to just view Arch rock you will have good luck for the rest of your holiday because it is so beautiful it will keep you smiling for quite some time. After visiting Arch Rock there is a very good restaurant to visit close by with spectacular views of the whole Plettenberg Bay.
The name says it all! It really does belong to Nature and is a must see for any eco-tourist visiting Plettenberg Bay. Natures Valley is a wonderful drive of about 45km from Plettenberg Bay and is a small village of about 100 permanent residents. The village is completely surrounded by nature reserves and is full of breathtaking scenery. Pigs head is a rock face in the distinct shape of a pig’s head and is an easy ascent with wonderful views of Natures Valley. Natures Valley is also very well known for its 1 – 5day “OTTER HIKING TRAIL” . Natures Valley beach is about 6kms long and is completely untouched. There is only one shop and a small restaurant in Natures Valley which adds a bit of charm to already wonderful place.
SALT RIVER MOUTH
Salt River Mouth is about a 30 min walk to the west of Natures Valley along the coast and is a beautiful place to spend a day. The sea meanders its why into the river and there is a secluded strip of beach nestled away with forest surrounding you everywhere. I cant think of a better place to view fish eagles anywhere around Plett than Salt river! For such a short walk you will feel like you really have conquered something upon arrival at salt river mouth.