A few weeks ago I went on a marine biology honours trip where I visited the small coastal town of Struisbaai found along the southern coast of South Africa just before Cape Agulhas, the famed tip of Africa. With the cool ocean breeze, good fishing spots, great ocean views and very popular marine inhabitants this town is a sure fire winner for anyone looking for a relaxing and quiet retreat away.
Struisbaai is well known for their resident and friendly stingrays. One of which is Parrie, a short-tailed stingray that was caught and thereafter released back into the harbour by the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. Nowadays he just relaxes and roams the jetty area with his smaller side-kicks often receiving small spoils of leftover fish from the locals.
Short-tailed stingrays (Dasyatis brevicaudata) are cartilaginous marine animals that are closely related to sharks. They reach a maximum length of ~4m and width of 2m long and can weigh up to 300kg. These creatures are bottom dwellers who use camouflage and poisonous spines to defend themselves against predators as well as to catch prey. They feed mainly on molluscs, crustaceans and small fish which they sense using electroreceptors found in their gills. Once caught the prey is crushed with their flat teeth. Stingrays are ovoviviparous which means that like mammals they give birth to live young who during gestation are sustained by an external egg yolk as opposed to a placenta, thus making the young independent from the parent.
On arrival at Struisbaai we made for the harbour to say hello to the famous marine inhabitants before settling in for the night. It was so much fun to see these gentle giants so close in their natural habitat as opposed to a constructed display in an aquarium.
Another attraction is their beautiful beaches that give the most spectacular views. These beaches seem almost untouched by us, with no pollution or toxic wash occurring. The sand was also super soft making walking along it all the more pleasurable. Sunset is always the best time for beach strolls making sleep all the more sweeter.
The next day we headed out on the boat to do some fishing and tagging. I must admit that I did in fact suffer momentarily from seasickness, not having been on a boat in such a long time. Other though had it far worse than me and I couldn’t help but feel terrible for them. We managed to catch several fish, most however were found on the SASSI orange list (meaning that the fishery is not altogether sustainable) While it seemed like there were tons of them at the time I still had a bad feeling about reeling them in, even though they had some scientific merit. All in all, we managed to catch a few Santa, one Red Roman, some skipjack tuna (which we tagged and released) and a smooth hound shark … I can’t really remember what else. We also managed surprisingly, to see a few African penguins! They were pretty far from their home territory which just cemented further the decline they are currently going through due to lack of food in the waters.
To add a little something extra to our day we headed over to Cape Agulhas, the tip of Africa. Where the Atlantic and Indian ocean meet. Usually on calm days you can see a faint line separating the two oceans but the wind seemed to be our worst enemy with the tides growing with every second. Still it was pretty cool to tick off my bucket list 🙂
The day ended with us having a few sundowners with our lecturers at the fish shack restaurant as well as feasting on a spectacular fish braai, salads and chips. It was a really relaxing weekend in a place I hadn’t been to in a long time, perfectly placed after a stressful few weeks of varsity.
If anyone is looking for a quiet and peaceful retreat along the south coast, I would definitely recommend this place. It’s an affordable getaway that caters to a wide variety of interests.
If I could offer one hint of advice though…. bring an extra blanket 😛