Buffalo Bay isn’t really a town. It’s a settlement of holiday homes, located on a small peninsula that creates an expansive bay with long sandy beaches.
Situated within the picturesque Garden Route, on the edge of the of the Western Cape Province in South Africa, Buffalo Bay is an easy 10 kilometers south of the N2 highway turn-off, between the larger towns of Sedgefield and Knysna.
Summers and winters on the Garden Route are relatively mild and moderate rainfall occurs all-year round, peaking only slightly in spring (September) meaning there’s no dry/wet-season rotation and plants are green all year round.
The Indian Ocean around Buffalo Bay is generally cool during winter months, and mild to warm during summer months, but can occasionally become cold with sustained onshore winds.
The area around Buffalo Bay was declared as a protected nature reserve in 1992 and is named Goukamma Nature Reserve, after the river that flows through the area. Goukamma is a Khoisan word meaning “dark waters” in reference to the river’s water being coloured by naturally occurring tannins in the soil.
Management of the nature reserve falls under the provincial conservation body, Cape Nature, and protection extends several kilometers out into the ocean, creating a marine protected area where fishing activities are limited to recreational fishing only.
The area’s declaration as a nature reserve in 1992 also put a moratorium on any further development, meaning that today, almost 30 years later, Buffalo Bay still looks and feels very similar to what it did in the early nineties.
Older houses are often demolished and re-built in a modern style, but there have been no allocation of new plots and all construction since 1992 has been for non-commercial purposes only, meaning there are no hotels or bed & bed breakfasts, and only one small shop and restuarant. Nothing that wasn’t already there when the moratorium took effect.
“The result of this has been not only the preservation of the surrounding nature, but also the preservation of the unspoiled atmosphere.”
Buffalo Bay’s peninsula creates two distinct beach areas. The main beach is located on the bay side is and uninterrupted by rocks for several kilometers. While the beaches located on the unprotected “wild” side of the peninsula feature a more jagged coastline.
The main beach can become quite busy with day visitors during high-season, as it offers safe swimming conditions, but the wild-side is almost always completely desolate. Swimming here is very dangerous as there’s no protection from open ocean swells, causing strong currents.
“It isn’t unusual to be completely alone on the wild side beaches, even during the busiest times of the year.”
Buffalo features an unusually high number of surf spots within a relatively small area. There are four recognized and consistent surf spots on the main beach side, comprised of an entry level beach-break, an intermediate level reef-break, an intermediate / advanced level point-break and a advanced level beach / reef-break. All these breaks are within easy walking distance of one another.
There are also some-advanced-level-only semi-secret surf spots on the wild side.
And unlike many other surfing beaches in the surrounding area, Buffalo Bay’s entry level beach-break is very well protected and offers suitable conditions for learning to surf in a much wider variety of swell conditions.
In terms of accommodation in Buffalo Bay, there are no hotels, guesthouses, backpackers or other commercial options. The only option is to rent a holiday home directly from one of the owners or through a local agent.
There are approximately 300 houses in Buffalo Bay and less than a third is available for rental. The rest are reserved by their owners exclusively for their own use. And of the houses available for rent, only a small portion is modernized and suitable for larger families / groups.
Unravel Surf Travel has a working relationship with all the rental agents in Buffalo Bay and knows just about every available house. For the purposes of running surf trips the most comfortable house/s are selected based on the group size.
Several pristine and unspoiled empty beaches, a protected nature reserve, a multitude of surf spots, and a perfectly preserved laid-back beach atmosphere, all these things make Buffalo Bay a truly special place.
But the crown jewels are the sunsets. Because Buffalo Bay is located on South Africa’s southern most stretch of coastline, combined with the fact that it sits on a peninsula and is thus surrounded by ocean on two sides, both the sunrise and sunset happens over the ocean.
And it truly is spectacular.