NEW MOSSEL BAY RESERVE TO SHOWCASE BIODIVERSITY
A new community nature reserve - the first of its kind in Mossel Bay - will showcase the unique biodiversity of the region whilst creating job-, education-, and tourism opportunities.
The 300 hectare Oyster Bay Reserve was established in 2003, and is situated alongside the Garden Route Casino, the Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort, and the suburb of KwaNonqaba: it runs down to the sea at Oyster Bay itself.
“The Oyster Bay Reserve is set to open to the public in November, and this is good news coming as it does at this time, because we’re in the middle of South Africa’s Tourism Month - and the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, has declared ‘Tourism and Biodiversity’ to be its theme,” said Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm.
“It’s also significant that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity,” she said.
Manager of the Reserve, Aiden Beck, said that the term biodiversity describes the number and variety of life forms found within a given environment.
“It’s really just a new way of saying species diversity or species richness, and it can be applied to a small area like our reserve, or to the entire planet - but it’s important, because it’s one of the ways we measure the health of an ecosystem.”
He said that, as in many other areas of the world, Mossel Bay’s biodiversity is threatened by a raft of factors ranging from urbanisation to global warming.
“Tourism in Mossel Bay relies significantly on the area’s natural, pristine beauty, and our natural and cultural assets are vital for creating jobs and income.”
He said that the Oyster Bay Reserve will feature an Environmental Education Centre as well as a number of tourism products ranging from donkey cart tours, to hiking trails and bird watching. A penguin rehabilitation centre, and beekeeping and worm farming projects will also be established.
“The Education Centre - which will feature an intimate amphitheatre for lectures and demonstrations - has been designed to showcase sustainable living technologies, and will welcome the local community as well as visitors.”
Mr. Beck said that the hiking trails would be the first of the projects to open to visitors, and that they will follow a route to the coast via a number of watering holes, and through three distinct fynbos biomes.
“Although this is essentially a botanical reserve, there is a variety of game, and the bird watching is excellent,” he said.
Ms. Holm said that, besides its value as a conservation area and an educational resource, the Reserve will play an important role in the local tourism industry.
“People come to Mossel Bay for its natural beauty, and many of them are hungry for information about its unique environment.
“Now, with a well-managed Reserve so close to the centre of town (it’s only about five kilometres from the tourism office), we’ll be able to offer meaningful experiences that will fulfill that need - and we hope that the awareness these experiences create will go a long way towards preserving the rich biodiversity of our area,” she said.