From Stone Age humans living in caves at the edge of the world to modern travellers on sparkling cruise ships, Mossel Bay has always known where the heart is.
162 000 years ago, the coolest home was a seaside cave outside Mossel Bay. The remains inside the Pinnacle Point grottos bear witness to what countless of generations thereafter have found to be true: few things beat a seaside holiday.
The Point of Human Origins caves boast not only a spectacular view, but are also so archaeologically important as they have literally changed the way science contemplates mankind’s beginnings. Until the first cave was discovered in 1997, it was believed our ancestors first displayed ‘modern human behaviour’ – such as making tools with intricate stone blades and points, which represent major development in mental capacity – in Europe about 50 000 years ago. Evidence at Pinnacle proves such behaviour in fact dates back as far as 160 000 years – which in effect proves Mossel Bay is the birthplace of culture and advanced technology!
To find out more about what this means, and visit the cave where it all began, enjoy the Point of Human Origins Experience with one of its discoverers, archaeologist Dr Peter Nilssen. 071 690 8889 www.humanorigin.co.za
The first Europeans loved it here too
Stone Age humans weren’t the only ones who thought Mossel Bay a treat. When intrepid Portuguese sailor Bartholomeu Dias and his crew landed here by accident in 1488 (he was aiming for Cape Point but missed it due to bad weather), he discovered a spring and named it “Aguada de São Bras” (watering place of St Blaize), traded a little with the locals (considered the first economic transaction in South Africa), and then went home to tell others about his adventures.
In 1501, another Portuguese navigator, Pedro d’Ataide, sought shelter in Mossel Bay after losing much of his fleet in a storm. He left an account of the disaster, hidden in an old shoe suspended from a milkwood tree, to his explorer buddy João da Nova, who found it. For decades thereafter, the tree served as a ‘post office’.
In the letter Da Nova received was a timely warning of problems near Calcutta, for which he was so grateful that he built a small stone hermitage to be used for religious purposes – the first religious building in South Africa. A cross stands where it is thought the chapel or hermitage was built.
Take a step back in time and post a letter from the tree, find the spring and explore the replica caravel (ship) at the Dias Museum Complex. www.diasmuseum.co.za
The Dutch made it home
The Dutch arrived in the 1700s and turned Mossel Bay into a major port that remains active to this day. The first European building in town, the Granary, now houses the largest shell collection in the country, while stonemasons who emigrated from Cornwall in the late 19th century built the many beautiful stone buildings that can be found in the old quarter of Mossel Bay.
Pick up a map of historical Mossel Bay at the tourism office or download it from www.visitmosselbay.co.za/history and explore the town on foot.
Lighting the way
Cape St Blaize Lighthouse, built in 1864, is the only lighthouse open to the public in the Southern Cape. The keeper will take you on a tour and, if you are not afraid to climb to the top, the view is breath-taking. Access is via Montagu Street Monday to Friday 10am-3pm. Lighthouse.firstname.lastname@example.org | 021 449 2400
Don’t forget the British
No former British colony would be without a very British building and first-time visitors to Santos Beach may be forgiven for thinking they are in Brighton in England. The twin of this world famous silver domed Victorian beach pavilion was built in 1906. While it may no longer attract royalty like the Prince of Wales, who visited in 1925, the impressive structure, which houses a restaurant, is worth at least a photo in your album. www.thejackal.co.za
Natural gas was discovered offshore in 1969 and the subsequent development of a gas-to-liquid refinery has turned Mossel Bay into a booming town, which has made the most of this economic advantage without sacrificing its charm.
Today Mossel Bay is as stunning as ever and our shores continue to welcome sea craft from afar. The bay plays host to many an international sailing competition and cruise ships transport passengers here from across the globe.
No matter who you are or where you are from, the call of Mossel Bay is real. The Stone Age people felt it, the seafarers felt it, and you will feel it too. Mossel Bay is where your heart is.