Witsand I: Breede River and Coastline

Willie spent this past weekend fishing at a small coastal town called Witsand (translation: White Sands). Situated east of the De Hoop Nature and Marine Reserve (which I have done posts on before here and here), on eastern bank of  the Breede River, it is well known for its good fishing. This past weekend was an especially good time to be there, as the full moon and spring tides, always increase the chances for the fishermen. So the area was busier than usual.

Map: Witsand near centre (Map source: Touring Atlas of South Africa)

The sleepy appearance of this little town belies its history as a very busy trading area. As is explained in this extract from “Discovering Southern Africa“, by T.V Bulpin:

In the 1850s when the merchant house of Barry and Nephews dominated trade in the Overberg area, it was found that three full weeks were needed for wagons to transport goods to Cape Town. The Breede river was obviously perfectly navigable in its lower reaches, and the enterprising firm acquired a fleet of small sailing vessels and built a store at Malgas.

The Breede river mouth is in San Sebastian Bay, with Cape Infanta on its south side. The bay offers little protection from the prevailing south-easterly winds which can be violent. The river mouth is wide but blocked by the sandbanks usual in rivers. Sailing vessels had a tricky time entering what was called Port Beaufort. Once across the bar into the river, navigation was more simple, but if the wind was in a treacherous mood a sailing vessel could suddenly find itself becalmed at an awkward point and end up on the beach.

To overcome this problem, the Barrys had a special steamer built on the Clyde . . . Read more . . .

Nowadays the Breede River mouth is used for recreational boating and fishing. Humans aren’t the only ones hunting fish here though. Huge Zambezi sharks (also known as Bull sharks) frequent the river. A recent River Monsters episode (on the Animal Planet) was shot on the Breede River at Witsand. The marine scientists working on the programme tracked a couple of these sharks and found them following the fishing boats and waiting for the fishermen to hook fish. Fishermen here often tell stories of big fish they have lost to the sharks. Not all tall tales it turns out, as the River Monsters programme showed.

A further attraction of Witsand coastline is its importance as a “whale nursery”. Every year during September, a large number of Southern Right whales come to give birth to their calves off the Southern Cape coast. The town celebrates this with the Witsand Baby Whale Festival!

Area known as "Kraaltjie" ahead (©2011 WMB)

Little harbour/boat ramp at Kraaltjie (©2011 WMB)

Activity on the river at low tide (©2011 WMB)

Looking upriver and towards the inland areas (©2011 WMB)

Fisherman in the river shallows near the mouth (©2011 WMB)

Looking towards mouth of Breede River and across to Cape Infanta (©2011 WMB)

On Witsand beach with Cape Infanta in the background (©2011 WMB)

View from rocks towards Cape Infanta (©2011 WMB)

View from rocks across Breede River mouth (©2011 WMB)

Shallow rockpools (©2011 WMB)

Witsand beach looking away from Cape Infanta (©2011 WMB)

Credits: Photographs: Willie (WMB); Photo processing and text: Lisa @ Notes from Africa | Photoblog

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About lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at http://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and https://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)
This entry was posted in Nature ● Environment, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Witsand I: Breede River and Coastline

  1. Slowvelder says:

    I love reading old stories about how people struggled and took so long to get anywhere. Thanks for the link. I have never been to the area you mention. Willies pictures make me long for the seaside – I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to see the sea again.

    • I didn’t realise that Witsand had such an interesting history. Or that it had been such a mission to get goods from the Overberg to Cape Town in those days. It gave me a new appreciation for the place.

  2. Incredible photos! Thanks so much for sharing them. Wondering what kind of fish Willie was fishing for————- How was the catch?

    • Thanks! I’ll let Willie answer your question about the fish etc.

      • Willie says:

        Like most of the fishermen that visit Witsand and the Breede River I was fishing for Cob or also called Kabeljou (Argyrosomus holoepidotus). Exceptionally large specimens of these fish are caught in this area, mostly from boats on the river. I was fishing from the beach and unfortunately on this trip I only managed to catch a large number of flat sharks (3 to 6 kg) and gully / other sharks (20 to 40kg). Recently some friends caught and released two Cob in excess of 55kg (that is 121 pounds for the metrically challenged) from the beach in the Witsand area. The picture at this link shows what a large Cob looks like.
        http://thebassboat.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/huge-kob-kabeljou/

  3. Lovely post, Lisa! This is where we went camping, as students, and my husband and I began dating. It’s such a beautiful part of the world – thanks for sharing such gorgeous photos.
    Sunshine xx

  4. What a great place to spend a weekend. Thank you for sharing

  5. Jan says:

    Thanks Lisa for the great post and the photographs!

  6. Sarita Botha says:

    I’m so jealous. Wish I could take a week off and go there. It is beautiful.

  7. Ah, now this reminds me of Australia! Specifically, South Australia, where I’d spend summers by my family out in a little holiday shack on a beach similar to these – sandy, but with a rocky shore just beyond it. Great for walking around, exploring and fishing, especially when the sun’s out!

  8. Jean-Pierre Broodryk says:

    Quite a coincedence, the boat being launched with the white bakkie is ours the name is “2x Jean Rox Zan”! Nice to share photos of Witsand so people can see how beautifull it is 🙂

  9. Lisa, I am so glad I stumbled across your post! The photographs are stunning and the writing so descriptive. Looking forward to reading the archives. 🙂

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