With dense coastal forests and misty grasslands extending right down to the beachfront and numerous crocodile-infested estuaries flowing into the sea, the Dwesa-Cwebe Marine Protected Area feels like it should rather belong is some remote West African destination than along South Africa’s eastern coastline!
An early morning wander along the beach reveals hundreds of ghost crabs that scurry away from you to disappear down their burrows that are dug deep into the soft white sand and ploughshare snails conversely appear from under the sand and crawl in mass determination to feed upon any invertebrate or animals that may have been washed up onto the shoreline. In the estuary mouths, three-banded plovers and African black oystercatchers feed in the shallows and kelp gulls, swift terns and grey-headed gulls fly up from their roost sites to wheel away to hunt out at sea. For the really lucky, Cape clawless otters that hunt large brown river crabs in the estuary at dawn and dusk may be surprised, though they usually scurry away on becoming aware of your presence.
Out at sea pods of bottlenose dolphins play amongst the breaking waves, leaping skywards in joyful abandon and during the winter months humpback whales migrate up and down the coastline, occasionally breaching clear of the water and then crashing down in huge white eruptions of spray. Unexplored offshore reefs are home to many of South Africa’s threatened linefish species and lying at the transition zone between the warm tropical waters and colder temperate waters, the strong flowing Mbashe River is the northern limit for abalone and the southern limit for east coast rock lobster. Many more endemic invertebrate species occur within its boundaries and interestingly over 300 species of algae have also been documented.
It is definitely one of the countries wildest and most unexplored marine protected area and the cottages and campsite set amongst coastal forest are the ideal anchor point from which to explore its wondrous secrets!
For more information please do visit Marine Protected Areas South Africa and also please help spread the news in support of our MPAs.