Grotto Beach is the most popular beach in Hermanus. It is one of three Blue Flag Beaches in the Overstrand. The Blue Flag is regarded by the World Tourism Organisation as the most coveted and respected international award that could be bestowed on any beach. The award guarantees that Grotto will always offer top-notch life-saving standards, effective ablution facilities adequate parking and access for the disabled.
Grotto is well known for its 18 km long stretch of stunning sandy beach and clear ocean. It provides a view of the mountainous areas behind Hermanus and Voëlklip whilst still having a seemingly unending view of the beach. This beach is perfect for swimming, sun tanning, games and long, leisurely walks. Even during the peak seasons there is room for everyone.
The beach has pristine sands, yet there is plenty of wildlife to be spotted, if one knows where to look. Living in the intertidal zone are mussels, black (on the rocks) and white (under the sand). Plough shells (snails) provide endless entertainment if lured from under the sand with a bit of bait (dead fish, bluebottles or jellyfish). Southern Right Whales may also be spotted off-shore in the whale season (June to November).
A firm favourite with families is the Klein River Estuary that forms a lagoon on the eastern side of Grotto Beach. The lagoon is shallow, warm and safe for swimming and is also used for water sports such as wind surfing.
The Klein River originates on the northern slopes of the Klein River Mountain range. Although the Klein River is 80 km long, it is the river with the shortest distance between its origin and mouth in the world (5 km as the crow flies)!
The river is of paramount importance to farmers along its course who rely on it for irrigation farming. However, some of the flow is generated from the southern flanks of the Klein River Mountains - water crucial to the ecological functioning of the estuary ecosystem.
The Klein River Lagoon is about 10 kilometers long and just over 2 kilometers wide at its widest point. The lagoon is important ecologically for the recruitment of many fish species that spawn and grow in it before heading out to sea.
The estuary is environmentally extremely sensitive. Ideally the lagoon should breach naturally as it receives more and more water. However, this does not happen frequently these days. Lower rainfall and extensive water abstraction upstream means that the ecological water reserve for a healthy estuary is negatively impacted. Furthermore, pollution of the waterways with fertilisers and other organic material cause abnormal enrichment of the water leading to algal overgrowth which depletes the water of oxygen. The resultant death of algae, fish and other life in the estuary leads to an unhealthy (and smelly) water body.
The management of the mouth area has seen extensive contention amongst stakeholders about when and where it should be artificially breached – if at all – every year.
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