The Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Diaz made his first African landing at Mossel Bay in 1488. He was the first known European to land on South African soil and the first meeting between Europeans and Africans occurred at Mossel Bay when Diaz encountered the ancient Khoisan people. The first trading between Europeans and Africans occurred at Mossel Bay when Vasco da Gama traded successfully with the Khoisan in 1497.
The name was given to the area to refer to the mussels that were found nearby.
Mossel Bay is located halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. It is a popular holiday destination and no wonder, for, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the town with the mildest all-year climate in the world.
Adventure And Sport
Beaches: The bay is one of the calmest stretches of water along the Southern Cape coast and there are many lovely beaches separated by rock stretches. Cape Saint Blaize has a sandy channel between two rocky ridges, which is known as the “Poort”. After the harbour there is Munro’s Bay, Santos Beach, a string of beaches separated by rocks known as “Die Bekkie”, and there are also Pansy Beach and Dias Beach.
Water-sport: Angling, powerboat-fishing and surfing are popular pastimes and the waters off Mossel Bay are ideal for yachting.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
Khoisan Cave: Many artefacts have been found in the cave, dating back some 70 000 to 120 000 years, believed to have been used by ancient Khoisan people.
Culture / Community Tourism
San Village: This village presents visitors with a very rare opportunity to become acquainted with the San culture and history. The San as a people are very nearly extinct and their traditional way of life no longer exists. Various arts and crafts can be purchased and traditional local dishes are served.
Entertainment And Shopping
Fishing Charters: Local fishermen take visitors with them on their fishing trips to show outsiders how they earn their living. It is an educational and fun experience, an adventure with a purpose.
Garden Route Casino: The modern casino allows locals and visitors alike to come and try their luck.
Point Area: The lookout point provides magnificent views of the coastline and sea.
Fauna And Flora
Bird life: Many of the different birds found in the area are migratory. Each type of vegetation feeds and shelters its own special species of birds. Varieties of waders and gulls are found along the shores and the estuaries at the Gouritz River Mouth and the Great Brak River shelter herons and egrets. The fynbos is home to many orange-breasted sunbirds. The farm-lands and the offshore areas also each house their own unique types of birds.
Fynbos: Mossel Bay is situated in the famous Cape Floral Kingdom and is home to many different species of fynbos.
Mossel Bay Seal Island: Boat trips to a nearby island offer stunning views of the 5 000-strong seal colony. It is hard to believe that so many creatures can live, feed and breed in such a small area, but they seem quite content with their lot.
Porpoises: Porpoises often travel from the bay, past the point into the open sea and this is when they are best visible from shore.
History And Architecture
Bartholomeu Diaz Museum: The museum complex, housed inside a converted granary, built in 1901, consists of four different museums. The displays of the Maritime Museum include a life-size replica of the ship that Diaz used in 1488, and which sailed from Portugal to South Africa in 1988 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Diaz’ landing in Mossel Bay, as well as other models of ships. The complex also houses the Cultural and Shell Museum, the Granary and the Post Office Tree.
Buildings: Mossel Bay still has many old buildings, including Munro’s Hoek House dating back to 1830, now a national monument; Old Barry Building dating from 1849; 10 Church Street built in 1857; Old Black’s Office built in 1904; the Masonic Lodge dating back to 1884 and many more.
Cape St Blaize Lighthouse: The lighthouse dates back to 1864.
Chapel: The Chapel was the first building in the area where Christians could come together to worship. It was built in 1501 by Joao da Nova.
Crime and Disaster Tour: This tour, with its unusual name, is surely an attraction unique to Mossel Bay. The tour visits various sites where ghosts still walk, perhaps to try and explain to the living the mysterious and unexplained events that occurred here.
First Post Office: South Africa’s first letter was posted at the Post Office Tree here in 1500. Passing ships would leave letters under this tree for other ships to pick up later.
Lazaretto Cemetery: The cemetery has gravestones dating back to 1809.