Mossel Bay is a medium size town situated in the Western Cape Province of South Africa on the N2 highway, 300 kilometers east of Cape Town. While the Garden Route officially starts in Swellendam to the west, Mossel Bay is known as the gateway to the Garden Route, perhaps because the Garden Route is closely associated with the temperate Indian Ocean and Mossel Bay is where the N2 highway first encounters the coast after leaving Cape Town.
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 Mossel Bay is generally cool during winter months and mild to warm during summer months, but can occasionally become cold with sustained onshore winds.
Mossel Bay was a relatively unimportant fishing village until the discovery of natural gas fields 100 kilometers offshore in the late seventies. Following the discovery, and the subsequent construction of a highly specialized gas to liquid fuel refinery outside the town, Mossel Bay rapidly expanded to become one of the larger towns in the Western Cape with a population of over 100 000.
Mossel Bay is one of seven sea ports of entry in South Africa and is the country’s smallest commercial harbor, primarily serving the local gas mining operation and a large commercial fishing fleet.
While there’s no doubt that Cape Town is by far the most visited city in South Africa, Mossel Bay is a popular holiday destination in its own right, both in the local and international markets. Large cruise-liners often stop in the bay and the surrounding area offers a unique combination of adventure and nature oriented activities.
And while it is a vibrant town, it is not nearly as busy as the much larger cape Town and one can easily find tranquility and relaxation in among adventure and excitement.
Mossel Bay also has a rich history and is home to perhaps two of the most significant historical sites in South Africa.
One of the most popular local beaches is named Diaz Beach, after the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeo Diaz, who was the first European to sail around Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of the African continent located 200 kilometers west of Mossel Bay.
While the Portuguese never colonized South Africa, but instead established their colony in neighboring Mozambique, these early Portuguese voyages certainly laid the groundwork for the Dutch and later British colonization of South Africa.
Mossel Bay is also home to the now world famous caves at Pinnacle Point, where archeologists discovered in the early 2000’s the world earliest known evidence for modern human behavior. Artifacts from the site include remains of advanced tool and art and date back to over 120 000 years ago, well beyond what was previously considered the earliest known date for modern human behavior.
Mossel Bay is also an excellent location for surfers of all levels. Diaz Beach is a prime location and considered to be one of the best places to learn surfing along the Southern Cape coastline, with several kilometers of sandy beach offering lots of space and countles sandbanks for surfers to enjoy quality waves.
There are also 4 very consistent reef breaks where intermediate and advanced level surfers can enjoy rides of up to 100 meters. The surrounding area also offers several other beaches which depending on the wind, swell and tide, can offer fantastic and uncrowded surf.
Mossel Bay also boasts a quaint town center with many restaurants, cafes, bars and shops located within a district that is safe for walking around. While the town becomes very sleepy late at night, there is a vibrant local scene, especially during summer months, and visitors will find many interesting local events to enjoy!
Mossel Bay is also home to a resident population of juvenile Great White Sharks and while these creatures certainly inspire fear, they are mostly misunderstood. Humans and sharks have co-existed in Mossel Bay for decades, with the last (and only) two fatal shark attacks in the vicinity of Mossel Bay occurring in 1990 and 2009.
Estimates vary, but a 2010 study at Stanford University estimated the world population of Great White Sharks to be lower than 3,500 individuals, making the species more vulnerable to extinction than the tiger.
Many mysteries remain surrounding Great White Shark behavior, there are large parts of their existence that are unobserved by humans, and Mossel Bay has become a critical location for research into this ancient but highly sophisticated apex predator. Shark diving operations in Mossel Bay give visitors the chance to encounter thee animals up close.
The surrounding area is also home to wide variety of other nature related and adventure activities. The Mossel Bay area is home to some of the best private game reserves in South Africa, offering visotors the chance to see Africa’s greatest animal, Elephant, Lion, Giraffe, Rhinoceros and Buffalo, at home in their natural habitat, in free, natural and open surroundings.
Other adventure activities on offer nearby is what’s perhaps one of the most scenic sky-dives ever and the world longest zip-line over the ocean!