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Cape West Coast Trails The Cape West Coast Biosphere are launching
5 new exciting trails! The aim of the Cape West Coast Trails is to improve the well-being of communities living within the Biosphere Reserve boundary. Guides, caterers, drivers as well as accommodation and meals in restaurants have been sourced in these communities.
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Welcome to the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve

From 2000, the West Coast stretching from the Milnerton Diep River in the South to the Berg River in the North became a Biosphere Reserve; this new status requires us that live here and those that visit to participate actively in the process to reach the objectives that all Biosphere Reserves must fulfill.

Conservation Stewardship

Conservation Stewardship


It has been estimated that approximately 80% of scarce and threatened natural habitat in South Africa is located on land that is not formally protected. Cape Nature realised that in order to ensure that conservation targets for threatened habitats are met, they cannot only rely on the proclamation of state-owned protected areas and thereby the Conservation Stewardship Programme was initiated.

The Conservation Stewardship Programme aims to create partnerships between landowners and CapeNature to ensure that the security and appropriate management of endangered ecosystems is achieved ¹. Cape Nature has designated extension officers specifically for the purpose of brokering contracts with landowners. The extension officer's role however encompasses more than purely signing of contracts, as the programme aims to broadly enhance relationships between landowners and conservation agencies and to increase awareness regarding environmental issues and management of land in a sustainable manner.

Role of the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve

The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve has placed itself in a unique situation where a civil society based organisation is facilitating stewardship contracts on behalf of CapeNature. The Biosphere Reserve is located in area which contains habitats of global significance.

The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) is one of the listed global bio diversity hotspots according to Conservation International. Within the CFR, the lowland habitats are much more threatened than the mountain habitats due their suitability for agriculture and urbanization. The lowland habitats of the CFR have been reduced to small fragments throughout their range. A significant proportion of the lowland CFR habitats are located on the West Coast. Only a small proportion of the habitats are formally protected. Therefore Stewardship will play a vital role in the conservation of these habitat fragments.

What is Stewardship?

Stewardship refers to the "wise use, management and protection of that which has been entrusted to you. Within the context of conservation, stewardship means wisely using natural resources that you have been entrusted with on your property, protecting important ecosystems, effectively managing alien invasive species and fires, and grazing or harvesting without damaging the veld."¹
The vision of Stewardship¹

The vision of the Stewardship Program is threefold:

  • To ensure that privately owned areas with high bio diversity value receive secure conservation status and are linked to a network of other conservation areas in the landscape.
  • To ensure that landowners who commit their property to a stewardship option, will enjoy tangible benefits for their conservation actions.
  • To expand bio diversity conservation by encouraging commitment to, and implementation of, good bio diversity management practice, on privately owned land, in such a way that the private landowner becomes an empowered decision maker.

CapeNature Stewardship Options

There are three options of Stewardship available. The three options vary in the level of commitment from the parties concerned. The three options are:

1Voluntary Conservation Area

2Bio diversity Agreement

3Contract Nature Reserve

For more information, please download the CapeNature flyer on Stewardship.

English Afrikaans

For each of these options, a contract is signed between the landowner and CapeNature regarding the management of the land. For options 2 and 3, a Management Plan will be compiled for the site by the CWCBR in consultation with the landowner. For option 3, the Contract Nature Reserve, the reserve will be registered as a formal protected area according to the Protected Areas Act No 57 of 2003 and will be declared in the Government Gazette. The area declared a nature reserve will have to be rezoned to Open Space III and registered as such in the Title Deed.

The option that the site is awarded will depend on the conservation value of the site. Contract Nature Reserves will only be awarded to sites that are of a significant importance in terms of the conservation value.

For all of the options the landowner/s retains full ownership of all his/her/their land

Benefits to Landowners

For Options 1, 2, and 3:
  • Basic habitat management guidelines and best practice advice
  • Farm maps can be compiled and printed
For Option 2 and 3:
  • Specific habitat management assistance such as alien plant clearing, fencing, fire & game management
  • Free Comprehensive Management Plan in consultation with the landowner (a very basic management plan can be considered for Option 1)
For Option 3
  • A municipal rates exclusion for the conserved area
  • Preferential access to government land management programs, such as Working for Water.
  • Enhanced recognition and marketing exposure


¹ CapeNature Stewardship Operational Procedures Manual



History and Society


The CWCBR has an extremely rich prehistory with fossil finds indicating that this area has unrivalled potential from a palaeontological perspective. Fossils were first found on the Samancor site near Langebaanweg in the late 50's. When mining operations ceased the West Coast Fossil Park was created in 1996 and now operates in the abandoned works area. The Fossil Park is a joint venture between Billiton and the SA Museum. It is developing into a site for research, education and tourism. The site itself is extensive and covers over 700 hectares.

Fossils of a wide range of larger mammals have been discovered, including the Agriotherium africanum, an African Bear, the Hipparion, a three-toed horse, illustrated below. These finds have great scientific importance as it is the richest Pliocene vertebrate fossil deposit in Southern Africa.

The educational aspect at the West Coast Fossil Park provides a small fossil exhibit and on-site tours and enables visitors to experience a live fossil dig. The site is developing into a tourist attraction with additional attractions such as a mine museum, nature tours, horse tours and a picnic area.

The West Coast Fossil Park has international, national and local importance. It has unique attributes that suggest that it should become a central feature of the CWCBR.

Further west, at Kraal Bay on the Langebaan the fossilised footprints of a hominid were discovered in 1995. The footprints are dated as 117 000 years old and thus are representative of a group of the earliest anatomically modern humans.

The skull of an early hominid, now known as "Saldanha Man", was found on the farm Elandsfontein, near Hopefield.


Justice cannot be done to the fascinating history of the West Coast in a few lines. It is however a history divided between that of the San and Khoi peoples inland, for whom we unfortunately have few records, and that of the coastline as it became more colonised. The KhoiKhoi were settled in the area from 200 to 400 AD according to archaeological finds, and involved in herding, hunting and whale trapping. Human habitation of the area however stretched back to the middle stone age, as rock tools dating back 125 000 to 30 000 years attest.

Saldanha Bay was used for whaling from the 15th century (by the Basques). It was the site of a number of famous battles, including a sea battle between the Dutch and English in Saldanha Bay in 1791. The Bay was used continuously as a naval base and for fishing and guano collection (on Malgas Island) from the early nineteenth century.

At that date the beauty of the West Coast was highly appreciated, as a passage from the 1863 log of Captain Semmes of the Alabama (now mythologised in song) indicates;

"I looked forth, from the eminence on which I stood, upon a wild, desolate and yet picturesque scene. The ocean was slumbering in the distance, huge rocky precipices were around me, the newly risen sun was scattering the mists from the hills, and the only sign of life save the Alamaba at my feet, and the ox-team of a boer which was creeping along the beach, were the screams of the sea-fowl, as they whirled around me, and from time to time, plunged into the still waters in quest of their prey. A profusion of wild flowers, bloomed in little parterres among the rocks…" (Quoted in Burman & Levin)


Much of the West Coast culture focuses on the sea. A unique cuisine using Crayfish, Perlemoen (abalone) and dried fish developed in the small fishing villages. The latter is the Cape Bokkom, a salted dried Mullet that has been prepared for centuries.

There are a number of architectural gems on the west coast. These are simple buildings, such as the Geelbek farmhouse, the Yzerfontein municipal offices, and some original cottages in Paternoster. Of interest are the circular lime kilns, used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for lime production from mussel shells.

A newer, vibrant culture associated with the arts, and the wildflower season, is now centred in Darling.


Some of the important socioeconomic characteristics of the CWCBR area are set out below:

  • The predominant language in the CWCBR area is Afrikaans. In the Saldanha Bay Municipal area the first language of residents was 87% Afrikaans, 6% Xhosa and 4% English. (Saldanha Bay 2003)
  • The average household size in the CWCBR in 2001 was is 3.65, with a range from 2.7 in Milnerton to 6.3 in Malmesbury.
  • There are high levels of poverty and sharp inequalities in household incomes. In the Cape Peninsula in 1997 the average income per head of whites was R 30 700, while it was R 14 102 for coloured people and R 8.876 for Blacks. (Wesgro)
  • Within the CWCBR in 2001 there was a huge range of average individual incomes, from R900 in Witsand to almost R12400 in Melkbosstrand.
  • The official unemployment figure for the Western Cape Province, 18,4%, is substantially lower than that of most other parts of the country. The unemployment rate for Cape Town is 20%, but with a higher of 30% for black residents.
  • The unemployment levels within the CWCBR range from 3% in the "rural" areas to 54% in Du Noon, with an average of 13% in 2001 – illustrated in figure below. This is lower than the 18.9% average for the Western cape Province as a whole. There is also a wide range of level of economic activity from 46% in Llinge Lethu to 81% in Witsand.
  • Along the West Coast as a whole unemployment is 12.6% on average. The influx of migrant job seekers to the Vredenburg-Saldanha complex and the fishing industry (Bek and Taylor, 2001; McCarthy et al., 1998) has resulted in an increase in this figure.
  • There is a sharp difference in unemployment levels, with Africans at 26% and whites at 4%.
  • The average infant mortality rate of the Province is 29 per 1000 births. The HIV infection level of the province is 7.1%, about a third of the national average.
  • Further details of the socio-economic profiles of the population are provided in a specialist study "Population Dynamics and Characteristics of the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve".

Cape West Coast Trails

About Us

What is a Biosphere

Biosphere reserves are territories with beautiful landscapes, a considerable abundance of species of fauna and flora, its own and unique culture, where harmony between development and the natural surrounding is promoted.

They are like specific areas where models of sustainable development, that seek better living conditions based on environmental principles, are tried and proven.