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The new Stony Point Eco Centre on the old whaling station site was officially opened on Friday, 10 April, by Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, accompanied by local dignitaries and the trustees of the recently constituted Mooiuitsig Trust.

 

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The initiative is owned by the Mooiuitsig community and provides much-needed employment to its residents. The aim is to develop a sustainable, vibrant tourism economy that will give the local community the opportunity to share in the benefits of tourism.

All profits generated by the project will be used to uplift the Mooiuitsig residents, with educational opportunities for the youth being a top priority.

The facilities were built by the Department of Tourism in conjunction with the Overstrand Municipality and include a restaurant and a visitor information centre that has a display documenting the history of whaling in the area.

The restaurant, ON THE EDGE, which offers indoor and outdoor seating and is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is appropriately named. It is almost on the water’s edge and offers a beautiful view of the sheltered bay that for decades has provided a safe launching place for fishing boats and, before that, for the locally-stationed whaling vessels.

As it is at the entrance to the walkway to the Stony Point penguin colony, the development is intended to attract both international and local visitors.

Already, the penguin colony is a popular destination for tourist buses and their frequency is sure to increase with the facilities that ON THE EDGE has to offer.

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The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), also known as the jackass penguin and blackfooted penguin, is an endangered species, confined to southern African waters. It is called the "jackass" penguin for its donkey-like bray.

There are only two mainland-based colonies in South Africa, both near Cape Town. One is at Boulders Beach, near Simonstown, and the other at Stony Point in Betty’s Bay. Both colonies were established by the penguins in the 1980s.

In the early days of the Stony Point penguin colony the birds were allowed to roam free, but after a couple of vicious attacks by our local leopards it was decided to enclose the area to safeguard the birds. A walkway has been built and visitors are charged a small fee to view the colony. The proceeds have been used to maintain the enclosure and its access.

[Betty’s Bay in Autumn boasts some perfect days—wind-free and sunny, with calm, clear seas. Today was like that, so ideal to try out ON THE EDGE for the first time. We sat on the deck in the early morning sunshine, sipping some really good coffee and revelling in the uninterrupted view of the bay . We were amazed and heartened when we saw the seemingly endless stream of visitors to the penguins, even though it was far too early for the tourist buses. What a pleasant experience!

I had just returned from a stay in Johannesburg, where almost every restaurant and coffee shop overlooks a car park. We both ordered the mini breakfast—bacon, eggs, mushrooms and grilled tomato, served with lashings of toast—and jolly good it was too! Best of all were the staff, charming, enthusiastic and helpful, and all of them members of the Mooiuitsig community. The menu was extensive and varied and the items fairly reasonably priced. There is also a specials menu that changes daily.

The restaurant is in the process of applying for a liquor licence and this will materialise in six months’ time. A wide variety of soft drinks are on offer, but the manageress is quite happy for patrons to bring their own wine and beer in the interim.

At the moment, the Mooiuitsig Trust is operating in partnership with Casidra, the Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas, and is chaired by Kobus Oosthuizen. Marghrieta de Bruin, from Mooiuitsig, is the vicechairman. Casidra is an implementing agency of its sole shareholder, the Provincial Government of the Western Cape.

The mission of the organisation is to make a difference in the lives of rural people through effective project management. It provides leadership, strategic direction and appropriate support services to its many projects. Once an initiative becomes self-sustaining, the reins are handed over to the relevant community and Casidra retains an advisory role.

The information centre is fascinating, albeit a bit sparse at this point as it is work-in-progress. However, it contains excellent information boards outlining the history of whaling in Betty’s Bay and providing insight into the whale species frequenting our coast. Information on the African penguin is also presented.

Please support ON THE EDGE. Visit it yourself and suggest to your friends that they do the same. Our local community stands to benefit from our support. — Ed.