Stillbay is one of those idyllic South African coastal towns that offer the best of sun, sea, river and beach and this has to make it one of the most perfect holiday destinations! The marine protected area that was proclaimed on the 17th October 2008 is not there to stop people from having access to marine resources but rather is there to make sure that utilization can be carried out in a sustainable manner. Within its boundaries is the countries best-preserved example of stone-age fish traps, sections of the Goukou estuary and a coastal and marine section that extends 4.7 kms out to sea.
Iconic species to be found within the MPA includes southern right whales, ragged-toothed sharks, numerous species of reef fish and pansy shells. Perhaps the most interesting species however are the African mottled eel and the longfin eel. These animals complete a remarkable journey, having spawned off Mozambique or Madagascar, the eels then enter estuaries in South Africa where they mature in quite freshwater streams, a process reputed to take up to twenty years. The mature eels, well over a meter in length, return to the sea via the estuary to swim over 2000 kms to complete their life cycle. These eels may be viewed at Palinggat, a small freshwater pond in Stillbay.
The estuary mouth is a nutrient rich environment of mud flats and salt marshes where invertebrates thrive. Hidden worms, crustaceans and molluscs attract waders in large variety and numbers. Black-winged stilts with their super-long bright red legs and black bills are the most easily seen waders, while during the summer months grey plovers, whimbrels, greenshanks, marsh sandpipers and common ringed plovers fly in from northern climes to join the resident waders. The estuary is also an important nursery area for many young stages of commercially important coastal fish species.
Skulpiesbaai Nature Reserve, that lies to the west of the small fishing harbour, is excellent for watching seabirds and for exploring amongst the intertidal rock pools. At the rocky point, there is a small roost of kelp gulls and swift terns. Scanning out to sea with binoculars will regularly provide views of frolicking dolphins in the waves and further out, sightings of Cape gannets, skuas, petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses. A short wander further along the rocky coastline then leads to the archaeological fish traps that are also a natural heritage site and which are best viewed at low tide.
All in all, Stillbay marine protected area truly is an amazing destination, not only as a great hotspot for exploration but also as a place for a wonderful holiday, where the outdoors can really be enjoyed to the fullest.
For more information please do visit Marine Protected Areas South Africa and also please help spread the news in support of our MPAs.