St Blaize: Oystercatcher shows the way
24 November 2011 - Mossel Bay Advertiser
MOSSEL BAY NEWS - The African black oystercatcher (swart tobie or Haematopus moquini) has been chosen as the icon that will lead hikers on their way along Mossel Bay’s popular Cape St Blaize Trail.
This follows a decision by the Mossel Bay Environmental Partnership (MEP) to improve signage on the famous contour path which runs from the St Blaize Cave (directly under the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse) to Dana Bay, 13.5 km to the west.
"There’s often been great confusion as to the correct route to take, and hikers have tended to get lost," said the MEP’s Fred Orban.
He said that the silhouette of an oystercatcher was chosen after a 12 month long consultation process because the species represents something of a conservation success for the Mossel Bay region.
"Although the bird itself is black with a red beak, red eye rings and red legs, we chose to paint the icons on the trail in white so that they would be conspicuous against all the colours in the rocks - and also so that they would be visible at dusk for people who find themselves detained by the beauty of the walk."
Volunteers - including the St Blaize Conservancy’s Rhenia Niemand, the MEP’s Lucretia van der Walt, and Willie Komani, a full-time guide on the five day long Oystercatcher Trail (which traverses the St Blaize Trail), are currently spending their own time marking the route using purpose-made stencils and long-lasting paint
"... Always with the beaks pointing the way," said Mr Orban.
He said that in a recent incident, a foreign couple got lost on the section of the trail that passes through the Pinnacle Point Golf Estate.
"This happened purely due to lack of proper signage, and unfortunately - but avoidably - interfered with people who were playing on the course.
"In order to prevent this from happening again, the Pinnacle Point Home Owners Association has agreed to upgrade the signage through the estate."
Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm said that it’s important for all role players in Mossel Bay to do everything in their power to provide top class facilities for tourism. "Pinnacle Point Golf course is a draw card of note, and the St Blaize Trail is a world renowned hike - and cooperation between the people who run them can only benefit both our community and our visitors," she said.
Mr Orban said that the Mossel Bay Municipality has helped with the project, and that the Garden Route Casino Community Trust has sponsored a brochure on the Trail, which will be published before the upcoming holiday season. "With the help of the Trust's Sandra Falanga, who has been a driving force behind the project, the Trust is also paying for the cost of marking the trail."
In an effort to make the Trail more accessible to visitors, various local conservation bodies are planning to begin training community guides in the new year.
"These plans are far advanced, and they mean that professional people will soon be available on a daily basis to educate walkers who want to know more about the unique area between Mossel Bay and Dana Bay," said Mr Orban.