San Sebastian Bay is named after the Saint, and the point south of the mouth is named Cape Infanta, because of the abundance of baby whales encountered in its sheltered waters.
Later it was to become a haven for small shallow draft sailing vessels, then steamers, who navigated up the river some 45km past the ports of Port Beaufort, and Kadie, on to Malgas, where the local farming fraternity around Swellendam and down the valley received their food and stores.
Here the Pont was built to cross the river over one hundred years ago, and, in turn, the area exported its cattle, sheep, and grain, back to Cape Town on the same steamers. In those days ships were a far more practical and a quicker mode of transport than the treacherous wagon trails, which had to cross the Breede River, then the Botrivier, and on through Grabouw over the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
Several ships, however, did perish in trying to maintain their schedules and cross the bar in dangerous weather conditions.
he river has through the centuries been known as an estuary fisherman’s paradise, and the bay, home at times to huge concentrations of sardines and anchovies, a prolific source of line fish, hake and east coast sole.
Eventually it was recognized by the scientists as not only a nursery area for the whales, but also, at the other end of the scale, the East coast sole population. The result was that it was closed to commercial bottom trawlers working out of Hermanus, Gansbaai and Mosselbay, on the rich east coast trawl grounds.
Furthermore a 50km stretch of coastline, off the De Hoop Infanta peninsula, is a fully closed Marine Reserve where not even recreational fishing may take place. The coastline and the adjacent dunes and hills are home to the largest known collection of dune and Protea vegetation on this planet, known colloquially as the “Cape Fynbos”.
Scenic Drive ( 2-3 hours )
A local trip around the area, including the famous hand drawn pont at Malgas.
See the two churches in the area that were built in the 1800’s as well as other places of interest.
Swellendam & Bontebok Tour (6 hours): Swellendam is an old historical town dating back to not long after Van Riebeeck’s arrival in the Cape, and lies at the foot of the majestic Langeberg Mountains. But, first a visit to the Bontebok Park on the banks of the river. Then on to the Berry farm before enjoying a good lunch, after which we will call in at the Museum and art gallery.
Local Coastal Whale Watching and Picnic (5 hours) Note: Subject to season & weather: A cruise across the river followed by a short hike to the quaint little village at Infanta; then on to the well-known lookout “St Sebastian Point” before returning to the river for a picnic lunch, then back to the Hotel. St Sebastian Bay is home to the largest winter migration of Southern Right whales who come to calf off these shores.