Initial discussions about a biosphere reserve for the Kogelberg area started as a controversy over construction of a major dam in the Palmiet River. Many years later, after much deliberation between various role-players, the KBR was designated by UNESCO in 1998. The KBR is Africa's southernmost biosphere reserve, comprising approximately 100 000 ha, including terrestrial and marine components. The biosphere reserve covers terrain from below sea level to the highest peak of 1270 m and stretches along the coast from Gordon's Bay in the west to the Bot River Vlei in the east, and inland to the Groenlandberg. It includes the marine zone up to two nautical miles along its 70 km coastline. Included are vast tracts of natural vegetation, important marine habitats, major wetland systems, five towns and various settlements, agricultural lands, commercial plantations and recreational resorts. . During the first number of years following designation, the management entity changed shape a few times. Eventually an independent non-profit company was selected as being the best vehicle. Thus the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve Company was registered in 2002 and updated and re-registered in 2008.
Funding was secured to draw up a Strategic Management Framework for the KBR (incorporating a Management Plan and Corporate Plan). The needs, concerns and expectations of the people have been researched and incorporated into the Strategic Management Framework. This document provides management guidelines for the KBR Company with the support of its partners.
Evidence of man's early inhabitation of the coastal areas of the KBR is plentiful. Nomadic groups probably lived off the rich marine resources as far back as 100,000 years ago.
In caves all along the biosphere reserve's coast, middle Stone Age people have left evidence of their inhabitation: hand axes, scrapers, spear points, arrowheads and shell ornaments.
Stone Fish Traps and Shell Middens
In Rooiels and Maasbaai, stone fish traps are still visible at low tide. Shell middens are found all along the coast (75 in the village of Rooiels alone). These piles of discarded abalone and alikreukel (giant periwinkle) shells and lobster mandibles are approximately two thousand years old. Some human burials have also been discovered where the bodies were placed in sitting positions. Eleven skeletal remains were found in the Rooiels cave by an amateur enthusiast in 1921. Unfortunately, these remains were removed and have subsequently disappeared.
The earliest 'modern' people were the San hunter-gatherers but unfortunately their cave paintings have all but disappeared, although some have survived in Pringle Bay up until the 1950s.
About 2,000 years ago, Khoikhoi herders moved in. They co-existed with the San but remained nomadic due to the poor nutrients of the Fynbos vegetation. The Khoikhoi supplied the early Dutch settlers with livestock – and sometimes stole them back again!
Early botanists must have ventured into the KBR area as some drawings of plants only found in the Betty's Bay area are found in European libraries.
In the early 1900's a whaling station was established in Betty's Bay, which was closed down in 1930 when the price of whale oil crashed. The local authorities have plans to develop a tourist centre around the old whaling station site, while plans are also underway for a museum / expo dedicated to Kleinmond's fishing history.
The coastal villages were created as sea-side holiday venues by farmers from the Cape interior. Two of the original 'tin and wood' holiday cottages still remain in Kleinmond. Only when a road was built from Gordon's Bay through to Kleinmond in 1942 did the first 'residents' arrive, which set off a boom in the building industry.
In the Elgin / Grabouw area, farming has taken place from the times of the earliest Cape settlers and there are some beautifully preserved historically important farm houses in the area.