The Blaauwberg Conservation Area (BCA) was proclaimed a local and provincial nature reserve in 2007. The reserve has a spectacular view down fynbos slopes, across the city, to 7 km of rocky, sandy coastline, the ocean and beyond. It is the only viewpoint in the world from where you can see two proclaimed World Heritage Sites, namely Table Mountain and Robben Island.
The BCA conserves three threatened vegetation types: Cape Flats Dune Strandveld (Endangered), Swartland Shale Renosterveld (Critically Endangered), and Cape Flats Sand Fynbos (Critically Endangered). The rich biodiversity embraces a wetland, 558 plant species, 42 mammals (including whales, dolphins and seals), 140 bird species, 28 reptiles and five amphibians. The BCA is the only City of Cape Town nature reserve where you can still find the white-tailed mouse (Mystromys albicaudatus), the ant bear (‘aardvark’; Orycteropus afer) and a bird known as Layard’s titbabbler (Parisoma layardi).
The BCA will eventually conserve about 2 000 hectares, and will be stocked with larger animals, such as eland and red hartebeest. Within the current 953 ha is evidence of early human occupation – with shell middens dating back 15 000 years. The reserve also conserves the site of the 1806 Battle of Blaauwberg, when the British took possession of the Cape from the Dutch for the second time. On Blaauwberg Hill, several buildings were constructed during World War II. These include a radar station, a lookout and a mess room.
Since the BCA’s proclamation, conservation in the area has progressed rapidly. Simple bollards at the coastal parking areas have stopped 4x4s from driving on the beach, and already, the endangered vegetation is recovering and the black oystercatchers (Haematopus moquini) have returned. Illegal vehicles had not only endangered the vegetation and black oystercatchers, but had destroyed a number of the shell middens. Management is limiting the population of Cape gerbils (Tatera afra), whose population exploded following alien vegetation clearing. Conservationists encourage the introduction of barn owls (Tyto alba), which eat the gerbils, by providing barn owl nesting boxes. The owl pellets are however carefully monitored to ensure that they are not eating the endangered white-tailed mice.
An initiative of the Friends of BCA, involving the closure of 4×4 tracks and the judicious clearing of alien vegetation, has shown that the strandveld vegetation can be restored. Partners of the BCA include CapeNature, the Western Cape Provincial Government, the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, the Table Mountain Fund, the Botanical Society of South Africa, the South African Heritage Resources Agency, the Development Bank of South Africa, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, C.A.P.E., the Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa, and the Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area.
NEW LIZARD FIND ADDS TO BCA’S ALLURE
In 2002, two Americans discovered the first specimen of a new lizard species in the BCA. Given the spectacular views of Table Mountain from the reserve, the animal was named Scelotes montispectus. ‘Montispectus’ means ‘to behold the mountain’ and ‘Scelotes’ refers to the genus of dwarf burrowing skinks to which this animal belongs. The presence of this species within the BCA is of immense conservation importance, and to date, only six specimens of this enigmatic lizard have ever been found. The fact that this lizard was so long undiscovered while occurring so close to Cape Town, emphasises the need for more intensive and detailed sampling.
ADDRESS: Bloubergstrand and Eerste Steen Resort, Otto du Plessis Drive, Blouberg
OPENING HOURS: Coastal section: Sunrise to sunset (seven days a week); Eerste Steen braai and picnic facility: 08:00-19:00 (Nov-Apr), 08:00-17:00 (May-Oct)
SIZE: 953 ha
BLAAUWBERG HILL: By prior arrangement only
ENTRANCE FEE (2020): Adults R17.00; children (3-17 years), students and senior citizens R10.00; children under 3 years free (for annual permits, special rates and updates, visit www.capetown.gov.za/naturereserves)
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Taxi or bus
ACTIVITIES AND FACILITIES: Picnic sites, braai areas, hiking trails, historic buildings, surfing, windsurfing, birdwatching, whale watching and fishing (permit required)
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: Classes on history, archaeology, geography and geology, as well as on the plants and animals in the local ecosystems (booking essential)
FRIENDS GROUP: The Friends of BCA host monthly activities
CONTACT: Tel 021 444 0454; fax 021 444 7317
Source: City of Cape Town (2010) City of Cape Town nature reserves: A network of amazing biodiversity. City of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.