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Information on Gansbaai, Western Cape, South Africa

Conference Venues South Africa brings you information on Gansbaai situated in the Western Cape Province of South Africa including information on history, location, geography, attractions.

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Gansbaai is a popular tourist destination and fishing village in the Overberg District Municipality, Western Cape. It is known for its dense population of great white Sharks and a whale watching location. Cage diving with Great White sharks is the main tourist attraction in Gansbaai. Great White sharks attract some of the highest number of visitors to South Africa for any singular activity.

Gansbaai is situated in the centre of a number of small bays with miles of unspoiled beaches, rocky inlets, ancient milkwood forests, nature reserves with over 1500 variety of Fynbos, caves and spectacular views across Walker Bay. It is a well-known great white shark viewing and whale watching destination.

This quaint traditional fishing village is situated on two harbours where many fishing boats and trawlers come and go daily, supplying fresh catches to fishmongers and local restaurants.

Gansbaai History

Gansbaai at De Kelders has one of the oldest associations with man in the world. At the time when Neanderthal man was still the dominant species of "homo" in Europe, a group of modern people  had already made Klipgat Cave their home. Remains have been excavated showing modern man living here more than 70,000 years ago. Klipgat Cave is located in the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, next to De Kelders, the residential shore area of Gansbaai. As one of only three places in South Africa where such old remains have been excavated, Klipgat Cave is one of the most important historical sites in the Western Cape. The reserve and the cave are open to the public.

The earliest evidence of the presence of sheepherding Khoi people  in the Western Cape has been found in Klipgat Cave as well. Until the arrival of the first white settlers at the end of the 18th century, the Khoi people thrived in this region. An expedition sent by Jan van Riebeeck to the area, described meeting people of the so-called Chainouqua-tribe near Baardskeerdersbos, a rural hamlet, 15 kilometres from Gansbaai. The river flowing through the Baardskeerdersbos Valley is still called Boesmansrivier Bushman is a name commonly used the for San-people, but will in this case have reflected Khoi-people.

It was people of Khoi-descent that erected the first permanent settlement in the Gansbaai vicinity. In 1811 fishing-cottages were built at Stanfords Bay in De Kelders.

The first white settlers in the area were nomadic farmers. They copied the Khoi herding techniques of using a grazing area until it was exhausted, then moving on to greener pastures. The area was spacious and fertile enough for such purposes. On many of the large farms around Gansbaai, the old and original homesteads and mudstone-houses tell of the days that the white farmers settled down.

The troopship HMS Birkenhead was wrecked off Danger Point in 1852. A barely visible rock 2 kilometres from Danger Point was fatal for the troopship carrying young Scottish and Welsh soldiers and their officers and family on their way to Eastern Cape to fight the Xhosa. The Birkenhead became famous because it was the first shipwreck where the women and children first protocol was applied. All women and children were saved; most of the men perished. Most of the horses swam ashore and were the ancestors of a feral herd that roamed the plains east of Gansbaai until late in the 20th century.

More than 140 ships have been wrecked and thousands of lives lost between Danger Point and Cape Infanta, to the east of Gansbaai. In 1895, the Danger Point Lighthouse was built, providing more security for the ships in these dangerous waters.

Gansbaai was founded in 1881 after 18-year-old fisherman Johannes Cornelis Wessels walked there across the dunes from Stanford and discovered excellent fishing in the area. He settled there, and soon after other families followed suit. Up until the late 20th century, however, it was little more than a primitive fishing village due to its isolation and lack of communication with the outside world.

Gansbaai's economy received an economic boost in 1939 when a small factory was built to process sharks' livers for Vitamin A and lubricant, which was in demand during World War II. After the war, however, demand fell and the few short years of prosperity were over.

It was not until local school principal Johannes Barnard persuaded village fishermen to set up the first Fishery Cooperative in South Africa that the economy began to recover. Barnard helped the fishermen obtain capital from the Fisheries Development Corporation, deepen the harbour and establish a modern fish meal factory. The town became a municipality in 1963.

Towns and Suburbs of the Western Cape province of South Africa

Arniston , Albertinia , Bantry Bay , Bellville , Barrydale , Beaufort West , Bloubergrant , Bloubergstrand , Brackenfell , Caledon , Century City , Ceres , Camps Bay , Cape Town , Citrusdal , Clanwilliam , Claremont , Constantia , Darling, De Rust , De Waterkant , Durbanville , Fish Hoek , Franschhoek , Fresnaye , Gardens , Gordon's Bay , Gansbaai , George , Grabouw , Green Point , Greyton , Hout Bay , Hermanus , Kenilworth , Kleinmond , Knysna , Lakeside , Lambert's Bay , Langebaan , Malgas , McGregor , Melkbosstrand , Milnerton , Morreesburg , Muizenberg , Montagu , Mossel Bay , Mowbray , Newlands , Noordhoek , Observatory , Oranjezicht , Oudtshoorn , Paternoster, Paarl , Parow , Pinelands , Plettenberg Bay , Prince Albert , Pringle Bay , Rawsonville , Robertson , Riebeeck West , Rondebosch , Stellenbosch , Somerset West , Simon's Town , Saldanha , Sea Point , Sir Lowry's Pass , Stanford , St Helena Bay , Strand , Swellendam , Table View , Tokai , Tulbagh , Tygerberg , Uniondale, Vermont , Vredendal , Wellington , Wilderness , Witsand , Worcester , Wynberg , Yzerfontein

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