Mossel Bay: A Big Six destination
Did you know?
The history of Mossel Bay starts at Munro’s Bay when Bartholomew Diaz landed there more than 500 years ago.
Although its African roots go back many thousands of years, Mossel Bay’s recorded history stretches back only to 1488, when Bartholomew Dias, the first Portuguese navigator to round the Cape, landed here.
This is a nautical town – past and present. Mossel Bay's acclaimed historical attraction is the Dias Museum Complex (a cluster of 7 different museums which attract more than a quarter of a million visitors a year), which includes a full-sized replica of Dias’ caravel – the ship in which he and his crew sailed round the Cape all those years ago.
The sea is the focus of many of Mossel Bay’s activities and visitors can enjoy everything from yachting and kayaking to boat trips to nearby Seal Island, where great white sharks roam in search of a seal feast.
Whales, too, are a great attraction here, and can be seen calving and mating along this stretch of the Garden Route coast. During whale season, between May and October, you can sit at The Point with its sweeping views across the bay or anywhere along the cliffs and enjoy excellent whale-viewing.
In fact, you can see Africa’s Big Five in Mossel Bay plus humpback or southern right whales, all in the space of a day. This group of animals is affectionately known by locals as the Big Six and is testimony to the incredible natural diversity and wildlife on the Garden Route. Wildlife safaris in Mossel Bay will leave you wowed.
The Big Five are elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, and tourists visit South Africa just to get a peek of these magnificent creatures. In Mossel Bay you can see all five plus more, as whales abound in these waters.
What’s more, in Mossel Bay you don’t have to stay in a reserve to do game viewing. Lodges offer programmes for day visitors, and land- and boat-based whale and dolphin watching is excellent. Game reserves in and around Mossel Bay each offer a unique way to experience the wildlife of South Africa.
Gondwana Game Reserve’s 11 000 hectares is the only place in the Western Cape where the Big Five roam free (that is, predator species aren’t separated from other animals).
Garden Route Game Lodge is a popular stop on the drive from Cape Town to Mossel Bay as its main gate leads directly off the N2. The lodge has great programmes for children and families.
Botlierskop Private Game Reserve is a gorgeous lodge that oozes luxury. There are great experiences here, from elephant picnics and horseback safaris to river trips and downtime in the spa. It’s pricey but amazing.
You can even walk with lions at Zorgfontein Game Lodge. It’s an easy 90 minutes under expert guidance. And guaranteed never to be forgotten!
Nature lovers can also go birding, horse-riding, scuba diving, hiking or cycling in the area, whilst adrenalin junkies can bungee jump off the Gourits Bridge or charge around on quad bikes.
No holiday – no life – would be complete without long, lingering lunches with friends and Mossel Bay has attracted some of the finest chefs in the country. Which means that good food is a way of life, especially at The Point and in the old part of town where many of the best restaurants are found.
For a touch of local flavour, tour operators in the town offer a range of tour options for visiting nearby townships. Here you can experience the best of African hospitality and culture.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Mossel Bay Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 44 691 2202
How to get here
Mossel Bay lies just off the N2 highway, about halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The town is 30 minutes away from the George airport.
Best time to visit
Although whales and dolphins can be seen throughout the year, the best viewing is generally from May to September, when the migratory southern right and humpback whales come to mate and calve.
Tours to do
Nyaru Game Lodge, just off the R328 to Oudtshoorn (north of Mossel Bay), offers guided game drives, quad bike safaris, and nature walks, with cheetah being one of the biggest attractions.
Self-drive is best, especially if you want to explore the beautiful Garden Route at your own pace.
Length of stay
You can see the Big Five plus One within a day if you play your cards right. But your soul will want you to experience it all at a more leisurely pace. A weekend at least, longer if possible.
What to pack
You definitely don't want to forget your camera for this one. Never forget a hat and plenty of sunscreen. A pair of binoculars are also a must if you plan to whale-watch.
Where to stay
All game reserves provide unusual accommodation – with everything from luxury lodges and permanent tents to family units and basic camping. Mossel Bay has a wide variety of accommodation options, from budget B&Bs and backpacker hostels to luxury hotels.
Don't miss the Summer Sun Festival – a feast of arts, crafts, music and sports – held annually in December.