- Western Cape
- Dassen Island Nature Reserve
Dassen Island Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Dassen Island, South Africa’s second largest Island, after Robben Island, lies 9km off the coast of Yzerfontein, approximately 55km north west of Cape Town. In 1987 it was proclaimed a nature reserve and is managed by Cape Nature Conservation, primarily to protect its seabird colonies.
The island’s most significant attraction are its seabirds, in particular its large population of African penguin, white pelican, African black oystercatcher, three species of cormorant, and kelp gull. Egyptian geese, sacred ibis, Cape wagtail, Hartlaub’s gull and swift tern breed on the island in smaller numbers. Pelagic species, including Antarctic terns, Sabine’s gull skuas and white chinned petrel occasionally visit the island, and despite some human presence, the birds are far better protected than on the mainland. However, because of the extremely sensitive nature of the seabirds, particularly in breeding season, public visits are only allowed by special permission.
Dassen Island’s lighthouse, the most isolated lighthouse on the SA coast, built in 1893, stands on the southern and highest point of the island. The island has always been a danger to ships and small craft as witnessed by several shipwrecks that litter its coastline.
In 1601 the island was named after its abundance of dassies, by Dutchman Van Spilbergen. According to early records, it was covered in plants about 2m tall and riddled with burrows in which penguins bred. Due to the shortage of fresh water attempts at sheep, pig and rabbit farming was unsuccessful but the island still has a large population of now wild rabbits. The large numbers of Cape Fur Seals that used to breed on the island are now rarely seen due to them being extensively hunted between the 17th and 20th Centuries. Angulate tortoises brought from the mainland and guinea fowl brought as eggs from Robben Island also occur on Dassen Island.
46 Main Road, Yzerfontein.
Tel: 022 451 2985
Fax: 022 451 2985
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