What is heritage? And why do we celebrate Heritage Day?
Heritage Day is a South African holiday, celebrated on 24th September, encouraging all South Africans to celebrate our culture and heritage. While our cultures, beliefs and backgrounds differ from person to person, we’re all united in our love for this beautiful country and its bountiful natural assets. So, we thought we would celebrate some of our natural heritage in Plettenberg Bay this Heritage Day.
Natural heritage is the sum total of total of the elements of biodiversity, including flora and fauna, ecosystems and geological structures and, in this regard, we’re luckier than most that we live in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet – the Garden Route. The Garden Route is home to many endemic plant species and animals and unique geological formations. For your inspiration, we’ve collected a few of these to share with you this Heritage Day….
CAPE FLORAL KINGDOM
There could be no more perfect example of our natural heritage than the Cape Floral Kingdom. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the floral kingdoms and, incredibly, the most diverse. Of the 9000 species along this small coastal belt (tiny, actually – stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth), 6000 plant species are found nowhere else in the world. Proteas, Ericas, Rooibos, Honeybush and thousands of other species decorate the Garden Route, and only the Garden Route. When you’re travelling through the area, do yourself a favour and pick up a guide book on the region’s Fynbos, you’ll be amazed at the variety and beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
No visit to Plettenberg Bay would be complete without a stop (picnic, hike, swim) at Robberg Peninsula. Robberg is a nature reserve, national monument and World Heritage Site; it is home to a colony of Cape Fur Seals, features an unusual tombolo beach and island and is covered in Fynbos. But, what is most interesting is Nelson Bay Cave: an archaeological site showing evidence of human occupation dating as far back as 125 000 years. Nelson Bay Cave has provided rich archaeological evidence from its Middle-and Later-Stone-Age occupation, dating from a few hundred years to more 125 000 years ago. It’s a short hike from the Robberg parking lot down to the cave, but you may also want to take one of the three other circular hikes around the peninsula for whale watching, dolphin and shark spotting and, generally, a really scenic walk.
The Southern Cape coastline is a melting pot of biodiversity as it where the Indian and Atlantic oceans mingle, bringing nutrients and marine life together in a spectacular display of soft corals, sponges, anemones and fans. The reefs around Plettenberg Bay are a riot of oranges, blues, reds and purples and are home to some very interesting marine critters, including the shyshark. The shyshark species are endemic to our waters and vary in size, but, as their name suggests, are entirely harmless to humans. Their name hails from their tendancy to curl up in a ball when they are disturbed. Their dark egg pouches are also known as a “mermaid’s purse” and are often found washed up on the shores of Plettenberg Bay.
Biodiversity wins again when it comes to birdlife in Plettenberg Bay and the Garden Route. Natural environments such as the beach, forest, Fynbos, river and wetlands each attract their own unique birds and we’re fortunate to offer birders the opportunities to see our endemic species such as the Black Oystercatcher, Cape Sugarbird, Knysna Turaco, Cape Siskin, Knysna Woodpecker and many more. View a Plett Birding checklist [here].
OUR OWN SPECIAL FLOWER
In 2014, a tiny little purple-and-white flower found near Plettenberg Bay has been identified as a rare species of Fynbos, and a new discovery for the Cape Floral Kingdom. The new plant, Psoralea vanberkela, was found on a 16km strip of land between Robberg and Harkerville – now known as the protected Robberg Coastal Corrdior. The discovery of this new species has contributed greatly to the declaration of the UNESCO Garden Route Biosphere Reserve.
OUR OWN SPECIAL SHELL
This may not be an endemic species, but it certainly is a part of Plett’s heritage: the pansy shell. Delicate and intricate, the pansy shell is often found on the low tide along Robberg and Lookout Beach. Known as a “sand dollar” in other parts of the world, our pansy shell possess a rigid skeleton known as a “test” and, when washed up on the shore and bleached by the sun, this skeleton looks like the pansy flower. It’s a Plett icon and finding one on the beaches of Plettenberg Bay means that you will always return….