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Top Billing explores scenic Stilbaai

Top Billing explores scenic Stilbaai
Top Billing explores scenic Stilbaai

We take five in Stilbaai to learn the Khoisan art of fishing; hear how steaming fynbos led to creating the world-renowned gin Inverroche & we meet a bunch of eels whose goal in life is a successful roundtrip to Madagascar!

This Africa Month our weekend getaway is Stilbaai where Jade discovers South African ingenuity spanning thousands of years from ancient Khoisan fishtraps to a one-of-a-kind fynbos gin distillery exporting its gin across the globe.

Off the N2 between Riversdale and Mossel Bay, this fishing and farming community is a peaceful holiday destination offering great angling off the rocks, a blue flag beach and more. To start our exploration we headed upriver to reveal the quieter gems to be discovered.

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Warren Matthews runs an indigenous nursery and landscaping business in the area and supports the town’s strong conservation drive. It’s led to an eco-system teeming with fish like grunter, Steenbras and cob, as well as a rich birdlife of cranes, king fishers and egrets.

All along the river there are working farms so the thick bush of the reserve offers much needed sanctuary to indigenous buck.

Heading up river, about fifteen kilometres of The Goukou is navigable by boat or if you fancy a workout then this is ideal stand up paddle-boarding country.

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While many visitors choose to stay along the beach or in fisherman’s cottages in town, we opted for the peace and quiet of self catering Stonehaven River Lodge. There are guest houses on other farms but The River Lodge is for those who love having the place exclusively to themselves.

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Around three thousand years ago, the Khoisan were the only inhabitants. Along with an Indian Ocean full of fish. Noticing how some of these got trapped in small tidal pools, the local hunter-gatherers built a series of low walls in a half moon shape – some as big as a Soccer field. This ingenious tradition of getting your catch to come to you is one which Andre Roux helps to preserve.

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Mindful of the delicate eco-system, there is a business which makes the most of the fynbos, treads lightly on the earth and has established a footprint in fifteen countries. Inverroche is the first hand-crafted fynbos gin distillery in South Africa, using rare botanicals which grow nowhere else on the planet! It’s a family business started by the intrepid Lorna Scott.

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Since the local water and floral kingdom make these export gins what they are, Lorna insists that production be as eco-friendly as possible.

The three gin types use fynbos either from the limestone-rich soil of the lowlands or the surrounding mountains or the coastline and dunes around Stilbaai. In a market dominated by famous brands, this African gin has competed through daring and innovation.

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Together with her children Rohan and Lauren, Lorna has created a global brand exporting to Europe, Australia and the U.S. and she’s done it in just six years. Bravo!

You can still sit on the beach, swim, build sand-castles and have a wonderful holiday but scratch a little beneath the surface and Stilbaai offers so much more.


Stilbaai Tourism

Stonehaven River Lodge
Goukou Valley Road, Stilbaai

Laurenskirk Estate, R323, Old Riversdale Road, Stilbaai
Booking in advance is essential

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