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The natural history of Noetzie

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What makes Noetzie so special is not just the castles, but its very special natural beauty, much of which is still pristine – an increasing rarity in the brash hotel-and-hamburger-stand culture that has ruined so much of South Africa’s once splendid coastline. The golden beach surrounded by forested hills, the dark waters of the lagoon, the rugged ochre rocks and the thundering breakers that roll in row after row from the far southern oceans.

The bay has even been the site of a shipwreck, the 3 masted French schooner the “Phoenix”, in 1881, that appeared to have been abandoned, for no known reason, far out to sea before finding itself laid up on Noetzie beach. Something that caused great local excitement, and much mystification, at the time!

sinclair-reserve

The Sinclair Reserve, on the other side of Noetzie beach is an extensive indigenous forest, with all the unique coastal trees such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood, Cape Beech and Ironwood to name but a few. There are trails in the forest for the intrepid hiker, which do require a permit.

Being a reserve, not only is it and it’s coastline beautiful to view, but it “frames” Noetzie on its eastern side and has to date protected that part of the coast and it’s hinterland from thoughtless development.

fish-eagle

Noetzie and its surroundings is home to many creatures that once inhabited much of our shoreline, but which have disappeared in many places as human pressure on the coast increases. Fish eagles and ospreys, can be seen from time to time flying up and over the winding river, otters which scamper across the beach after sunset, or who can be seen searching for crabs in the lagoon (always a sign of a clean environment).

leopard-printEven secretive Cape Leopards – a smaller race from those found in the bushveld further north – have made their appearance on camera traps placed by Noetzie residents, and sometimes their distinctive tracks can be seen on the beach. The forest and fynbos provide shelter to bushbuck, Cape Grysbok, bushpigs, honey badgers, baboons, and vervet monkeys to only mention a few.

In the early 20th century, elephants were sometimes seen near Noetzie, but this unique Knysna population has now shrunk to a few rarely seen individuals that survive in the forest some distance inland.

birds

On the beach Black oystercatchers – South Africa’s rarest coastal bird – can be found with their red beaks and haunting cry. In the forest, if you are lucky you can see Knysna Loeries with their distinctive flash of crimson on their wings as they glide from branch to branch in the deep forest. The shy and rarely seen Trogon, another bird of the deep forest, Paradise Flycatchers, the jewel-like Sunbirds of the fynbos and many others offer a special experience to the bird enthusiast.

In winter, the waters around Noetzie are regularly visited by the magnificent Southern Right Whale, as well as, but less frequently, the Humpback, and Brydes Whale.

There are very regular visits by pods of dolphin passing by or surfing and general disporting themselves in the Noetzie waves

For those in interested in palaeoanthropology, Noetzie was also home to people who have long since disappeared, the small bands of Khoisan hunter gatherers that wandered along the coast for many thousands of years.

Their middens, – layers of discarded shells and bone from many meals over the millennia,- are scattered along the coastal paths and are buried under some of the houses.

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Aware of Noetzie’s natural riches, and fiercely determined to maintain its uniqueness – so easily destroyed by commercialism- the residents applied to the authorities to have it declared a conservancy in order to protect and preserve its  pristine environment and  unspoilt atmosphere. In 1999, symbolically celebrated as the last year of the millennium, Noetzie officially became a Conservancy.

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NCOA – Local Guidelines for Noetzie

These guidelines have been set by common consensus of the members of the NCOA, who have pledged to try at all times to comply with them themselves and to ensure that visitors and others also comply.

1 Parking and Traffic

1.1 Limited public parking is available at the top of Old Wagon Road

1.2 Use of the Old Wagon Road is limited to residents on the beach and river, their guests, service vehicles, authorized builder and maintenance vehicles

1.3 The use of the Old Wagon Road is restricted to residents of properties on the Old Wagon Road, river and beach.

1.4 Driving or parking on the beach is only permitted for vehicles with valid permits

1.5 The demarcated parking bays on the right hand side of the Old Wagon Road are reserved for owners of beach properties (but not their guests as well), on a first come, first served basis.

1.6 If two vehicles meet on the Old Wagon Road or the track, the onus is on the ascending vehicle to reverse.

2 General

1.7 Due consideration should be given, to minimise noise levels within the Noetzie conservancy.

1.8 Open fires are not permitted on the beach, in the parking area or in any area of indigenous bush.

1.9 Water tanks are private property and no water may be drawn from any tank without the owner’s permission.

1.10 All septic tanks must be reactivated with a proper biological agent at least once per month.

1.11 Dogs are discouraged, and are to be controlled at all times

1.12 Use of herbicides is discouraged in any area where contamination of the beach, river or estuary may result.