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S Is For "Sand Dunes"

Sand dunes are some of my favourite things along the coast. Of course, climbing a sand dune is not my favourite thing, but going down is always more fun. i always marvel at how much wind it takes to collect all those little grains of sand. The shape is another point of wonder. The mere thought that millions and billions and trillions of little objects (which you come to realise are not even the same shape or made of the same material if you look at it through a microscope) swept together into a corner of a corner of Creation creates one single dune, seems to be an immense task. Yet, it’s just another normal day at the beach.

Then one day i learned that many seaside hills are actually sand dunes that have turned to stone over time. It seems that tiny, individual grains of sand started to bond together, layer by layer, until it formed the highest sand dunes in Africa. That-Man had just told me about these dunes, and we were going to travel in that direction anyway, soon. So we immediately rearranged our plans and booked a stop in Sedgefield.

On a stretch of less than 10km, you’ll find one fossilised sand dune after another, and even some large pieces of rock that have broken off and now decorate the shallows of the ocean. Although there are a number of beaches around Sedgefield where you’ll find these dunes, we’d been camping at the Swartvlei campsite, so we turned left at the gate and about 500 metres later we arrived at the beach. Here we turned right towards Gericke’s Point and followed the beach. It’s not far to walk to the first exposed fossil dune and we stopped there for photos. The variety in the formations were such that i could add many photos to my letter photos, in addition to the ordinary photos.

The wind swept more sand around the beach. A few visitors passed by, some with their dogs exploring all the wonderful smells of the ocean. A couple of seagulls came to see if we’d brought along anything worth scavenging. Upon discovering nothing, they stood at the water’s edge for a while, deciding whether to check out the picking on Myoli beach, or rather to head towards Wilderness. We were too busy to notice which way they chose, but after a while we were once again alone.

That is, of course, until we realised that there was a breeding pair of Swarttobies (African Black Oystercatchers) close by. We’d heard about these birds on previous trips and had seen some on a beach here and there, but never had we seen a nest before. Swarttobies are the second most endangered birds in South Africa, mostly because they nest on beaches, where vehicles had been allowed to drive previously. That’s a thing of the past now, and the Swarttobie populations are increasing steadily.

The nest of this pair was high up in the rock formations of the ancient sand dunes, and even though we couldn’t get near it if we wanted to, the male came down to the beach and did everything in its power to draw our attention away from the nest. It ran around the water’s edge, trying to lure us away, but we continued taking pictures of the rocks. Of course, it didn’t know that we weren’t interested in its babies. Its antics escalated and eventually it started intimidating us noisily, encouraging us to leave. By this time we’d taken all the photos we needed, and as the tide was turning, we thought it best to return. Two relieved Swarttobies remained behind, safe from the high tide up on their perch, keeping watch over their eggs.

It was a relatively short day at the beach, mainly because of the tides, although the icy wind did its part to nudge us toward a cozy cup-of-something. In spite of that, a special new jewel found its place in my treasure box. The dunes are not impressive in size compared to the Alps or the Himalayas, but it made an impression on me because i realised for the first time that the dunes in this part of the Garden Route had turned into immense blocks of stone and were no longer individual grains of sand.


The beach is open to the public and easily accessible. Myoli and Cola beaches are also good places to visit.

If you’re in the area during full moon or new moon, and weather permitting, why not try the Moonlight Meander (R150) with Judy Dixon (Tel 044-883 1015), a local guide who leads groups on these tours. Be prepared to walk around four hours. There’s lots of interesting things to see at night. They also do a day tour, which is a bit longer (R200). Be sure to book in advance, as places fill up fast.

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