Jeffrey’s Bay is situated in the Eastern Cape section of the Garden Route. This route is known for its fantastic scenery, much of which is formed by the vegetation of the various regions it comprises. Being a coastal town, J-bay is particularly fortunate as it boasts vegetation typical of inland destinations as well as the fauna and flora that make their home in the sand dunes. In addition, the countryside surrounding Jeffrey’s includes valleys, rivers and mountains, each sporting a unique mixture of plant- and animal life.
Jeffrey’s Bay is known the world over for its beautiful beaches and awesome waves. However, the sand dunes are interesting in their own rights. The vegetation that grows on these dunes is designed to anchor the sand down and prevent it from running or blowing away (e.g. the alien species Ammophila arenaria, which resembles a long grass). Although vegetation is sparse, it is interesting to note how effectively this task is executed.
The coastal area is also home to many animals, the most fascinating of which are concealed beneath the blue of the waters. Tuna, Dorado, cob and salmon are common catches in these warm waters. During spring and summer, Southern Right and Humpback whales can be seen frolicking behind the breakers, frequently with their young. Another common sight in Jeffrey’s Bay, which continues to delight young and old, is schools of bottle-nosed dolphins, leaping out of the water and cutting through the waves.
Further away from the shore is low shrubland that is iconic of the Eastern Cape. This type of vegetation includes succulent trees (sclerophyllous) and shrubs, as well as intertwining vines that can combine to make these areas quite impenetrable. These plants can survive without as much water as the more fertile areas require as they are hardier and more resilient. There is also no real grass to speak of. This type of vegetation is considered to be the halfway mark between forest and savannah.
Bird on a Aloe
Further west, the environment changes somewhat to more lush, green foliage and includes several forested areas. Forests experience high humidity levels and seldom burn, despite being very hot under the canopy. Forests are mostly made up of tall evergreen trees (such as yellowwoods, oaks and stinkwoods) as well as low lying floor cover, such as ferns. It is significant that forests are so common in the area surrounding Jeffrey’s Bay as less than 0.25% of the entire southern African region is forested, making this a rare commodity. Interestingly, each forest is different from the other in terms of the trees and plants that can be found in them.
Fynbos is a vegetation type that is unique to South Africa, although some alien species have now taken root in Australia. This is one of the most prevalent and significant vegetation types in this region. There are approximately 7000 species within this group, making up about 80% of the local vegetation around Jeffrey’s Bay. Fynbos includes some favourites, such as Proteoid, Ericaceous, Restioid and Asteraceous. Fynbos is rare in that it flourishes on infertile soils and even on granite and shale.
Valley bushveld is typical of that found in the Noorsekloof Nature Reserve. As its name implies, it occurs on the slopes flanking a valley and is characterised by dense succulents.Terrestrial animals are mainly from the small mammls, buck, insect and reptile families in the Eastern Cape. The forests closer to Knysna are, however, home to the African Elephant which roams in peaceful majesty along the dense green floor with a haunting silence. Snakes are common in the mountains and valleys around J-Bay and include puff adders and pythons. Birds of prey are frequently sighted and visitors are often fortunate enough to see eagles and owls swooping in on their prey. Jeffrey’s Bay and the surrounding area are rich in their animal and plant variety. Visitors are urged to explore these areas safely and responsibly.