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A Peek into our Distant Human Past at Nelson Bay Cave

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

The Nelson Bay cave provides a spectacular view into our past. Nestled along the Robberg Nature Reserve shoreline following a brief walk, this cozy cave stands majestically, inviting visitors and passers-by to glimpse back in time.

The cave, being home to everything from early humans (dating back to c.120,000 years ago) to evidence of local animals (including the extinct Giant buffalo & Hartebeest, Eland & Quagga), lets visitors imagine what life was like in the past.

Upon entering, you are greeted with darkness & a sign reading:

“Welcome to the past. You have just stepped into a part of Nelson Bay cave that was excavated by archaeologists. The deposits they removed were built up slowly by the rubbish left behind by the cave inhabitants.”

The excavation site has fortunately remained largely untouched allowing for the preservation of the area and very noticeable layers of debris that date back millennia.

Evidence of Climatic Change

‘Nelson Bay Cave is best known for the evidence it provides for the adjustments made by its hunter-gatherer inhabitants to changing sea levels over the past 100,000 years during the most recent glacial and inter-glacial cycle. The Later Stone Age sequence dating within the last 20,000 years has sufficient bone and shell for reconstruction of the local environment and the diet of its human inhabitants over that crucial time period from the peak of the Last Glacial ca 15,000 years ago, when the coastline was at least 80 km away, through the gradual rise in sea level to the present day.’

(Dr John Anderson, Cape Corridor Book (unpublished) - Earth Alive Corridors Project)

Did you know... Judging by the remnants, the inhabitants loved their shellfish, and who can blame them? With such an abundance of oceanic delicacies like mussels & oysters, which would pair perfectly with a Sauvignon, I find myself growing jealous of some elements of their diet and the simplicity of life back then. Though the lack of wine may be something of a problem…

We brought with us a selection of 3 wines that were perfect accompaniments to the salty sea spray and sound of waves rolling in & crashing against the magnificent Robberg shoreline. A taste of SA's terroir and climate from Cape Town to the most Southerly tip of Africa.

Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc 2020

A superb wine that continues to impress year after year. Created on their breath-taking estate in Constantia, it is a full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc-based blend that offers an array of fruit characters including ripe gooseberry, green melon & hints of tropical fruits ending with a green pepper finish. It is a wonderful addition to any evening and pairs remarkably well with seafood.

Jordan Chameleon 2020

An old vine chenin grown in the spectacular Stellenbosch wine region with a fresh & fruity nature boasting rich tropical pear flavours and a zesty citrus finish, perfect for everyday drinking!

First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc 2020

This Sauv Blanc from Strandveld is a wonderfully refreshing wine with a tropical & citrus fruit nose, a full crisp palate, and expressive notes of buchu & minerality. Situated between Elim & Cape Agulhas this estate is the southernmost winery on the continent of Africa.

The kids found the site to be most interesting, though there was much talk of skeletons jumping out of the darkness which shifted the dynamic from one of historic inquiry to comedic horror with the old classic of 'the jump scare’.

Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘You have to know the past to understand the present’ and with us celebrating our SA heritage this September, this seems fitting.

If you are in Plett for this Heritage season, the Plett Arts Festival or your holiday, make sure to pay Robberg Nature Reserve a visit. Whether this be primarily for a glimpse into our human or climatic past, or to continue hiking around the breathtaking Robberg peninsula.

Sighting of the Cape Fur Seals is common at the large resident seal colony in the Robberg bay, while sightings of Humpback and Southern Right Whales are also fairly common from Winter into Spring. Dolphin & Great White shark pods can be regularly spotted along the bay, particularly in Wintertime.

The panoramic views, gorgeous beaches & general sites are a glory to behold. If you decide to venture out into the waters, please watch out for the currents on the western side of Robberg as it’s aptly named ‘the wild side’. Alternatively, head down to the cave for a spectacular sunset & revel in the chance to enjoy a glass of wine and bask in the orange rays as you bid the day farewell.

Feel free to contact us for more info & ideas for further touring the wild side of Plett or the Plett Winelands.

Bespoke personalised tours can also be arranged to suit YOU (and your tots, if you have any!)

Please support our SA wineries, stay safe and take care!

If you liked this content, please like our page, follow us on Instagram @winetots, and subscribe to follow our adventures in and beyond the spectacular Cape Winelands!


Important info:

Robberg Nature Reserve: Opening Hours: Monday-Friday: 7am–6pm

Entry fees: R50 Adults; R30 Kids

Free entry with a WildCard - support SA nature and get yours today!

Plett Arts Festival: From 1-11 Oct 2021;

See and the Earth Alive Corridors Project for more information regarding the history of Earth time.

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As suggested, what a splendid place to have lived say 100,000 years ago: as a hunter gatherer nestled in Nelson Bay Cave near the start of the Robberg Peninsula! Should one find oneself in a dream being asked when and where you might choose to live, this very place midway along the southern Cape coast would be hard to beat!

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