Robberg Nature Reserve covers just 2 square kms and surrounding it is a marine protected area of 22 square kms. It is small but possibly one of the most beautiful reserves in the world with craggy sandstone cliffs, white sands, lovely bays and beaches on a 4 km peninsular almost entirely surrounded by the Indian Ocean. Marine life here is incredible: Cape fur seals, great white sharks, humpback, southern-right whales and humpback and bottlenose dolphin. Reefs teem with fish, shysharks, nudibranchs and every colour of soft coral imaginable.
The name Robberg, comes from the Dutch “seal mountain”. Watching seals sunbathing on the rocks or swimming is a highlight of the walk. Robberg is home to a colony of around 3000 Cape Fur Seals on the leeward side of the peninsula. You can hear them bark… and smell them despite being well below the path!
Excellent paths and walkways give you a choice of 3 routes of varying length. Robberg is also an important archeological discovery area with evidence of early humans whose home this was 100 000 years ago. For the lucky few, you can book to stay overnight in a magically situated beach shack, Fountain Shack. Maximum 8 people. Stay a few days and enjoy the reserve to yourselves after visitors leave.
Between May and November, Southern right whales come here from the Antarctic region to calve and mate. Humpback whales – another Antarctic species – also visit these waters. Bryde’s whales are
year-round residents. There is a spit of sand (a tombola) linking the peninsula to a small island which has a perfect whale watching sitting area.
Sharks are often see from the high areas on the walks. They hunt the seals especially, in winter.
Bird-life is prolific and a number of fynbos endemics can be found on the reserve. Kelp Gulls and Sub-Antarctic Skuas hover over the seal colony to snatch up discarded food.
Swift, Sandwich and Common Terns, White-Breasted and Cape Cormorants plus Sub- Antarctic visitors such as Albatross can be seen. The fynbos attracts a variety of small birds.
In hot months, the cicadas sing constantly. As you hike, you will find many swimming spots in rock pools and the beach along the spit is shallow and safe. Be very careful of the rips though!
This is a World Heritage Site.
“Robberg is so beautiful, with a climate … so gentle, and an ocean … so inviting, that I’m not surprised that early humankind have been living here for 120 000 years.
The southern Cape is now considered to be the original homeland of modern humankind, and there are several caves on Robberg which have been studied by archaeologists, proving without doubt that our ancestors have been roaming these parts (and thriving!) in this area for a very long time.
East Africa may have been home to early, primitive humankind, but the southern Cape is where we as anatomically-modern humans found our creative spark, where we learnt to think and act symbolically.” Scott Ramsay. Learn more by detouring to Nelson Bay Cave and the Information Centre.
Choice of circular trails:
1. Gap Circuit – 2.1 kilometers. Duration: 30 minutes. Easy.
The trail follows a raised wooden platform to a gap in the plateau which takes you down to the southern ocean’s edge for some time at the beach.
An undulating circular trail on Robberg’s northern ridge looking out over a seal colony. From the top of the ridge, follow the large sand dune down to a boardwalk. From here, the route back via the Gap to the parking area, is easy
3. The Point Circuit – 9.2 kilometers. Duration: 4 hours. Fairly strenuous to tough hike.
The trail takes you to the island at the end of the peninsula, the hut and the Cape Seal Lighthouse, the highest navigational light on the South African coastline (146 meters above sea level). It is here at the tip of the peninsula that you can see cormorants and gannets. Be aware of the tide before you go and try to time your hike with low tide to get a glimpse at the marine life living within the rock pools. Take a detour (only 20-minutes) to see the Nelson Bay Cave.
Warning: Take lots of fluids, wear a hat and under no circumstances deviate from the path as this can be dangerous.
Photographs are by Scott Ramsay, Peter Chadwick, Sally Sivewright and the Braai Brothers.