The Breede River Estuary:
The Breede River is originally translated as the ‘Broad River’. It gives rise to the Ceres Mountains and navigates a total of 322 km towards the Indian Ocean. The Breede River is the last port-of-call for the Western Cape longest navigable river.
This stunning estuary is a confluence of the saltwater tides and freshwater river currents, stretching up to 52 km upstream. The Breede’s water flow is strongly determined by the seasonal peak flow of incoming rainwater and therefore can flood during the winter months. The estuary always has an open mouth for water to flow back and forth from river to sea.
Due to the river covering over 12 500 km squared, it contains a high number of organisms resulting in a very high biodiversity. Recent reports have shown that the Breede Estuary is the 5th most important estuary located in South Africa.
Some amazing creatures can be seen in the estuary throughout the year, some of them make the estuary their holiday homes and others choose to live in the estuary permanently.
The Breede River ‘Big 5’:
The Breede River is home to many creatures, which now uniquely make up the ‘Big 5’. The Breede Big 5 consist of the Dickson’s Opal Butterfly, the Ducky Kob, the Humpback Dolphin, the Breede Jellyfish and lastly the Zambezi Shark.
- The Dickson’s Opal Butterfly:
South African boasts more then 830 species and Sub-species of butterflies alone. One species that hasn’t been seen for great lengths of time until the early 1990’s was the Dickson’s Opal Butterfly. It was spotted in Witsand just when it was believed the population was next to non-existence. It has always been a scarce butterfly and has a history of disappearing from the originally known habitats. Its now a critically endangered species to the expansion of farming and encroachment of alien vegetation.
- The Breede Jellyfish
Very little is known about the Breede jellyfish and they do not yet have a species name. This species swarms in large numbers and swims in and all around the Breede River. The numbers start to decrease during autumn and by early winter, they have disappeared.
- The Dusky Kob:
Dusky Kobs is one of the largest members of the Kob Family. They are a migratory fish that can be found around Cape Town all the way through to Mozambique. It is an inshore species, usually occurring in the estuaries and the surf zone. Juveniles are restricted to estuaries and adults move along to coral reefs and wrecks in order to
spawn. This makes them an easy target for commercial and recreational fisherman. Dusky Kob are shoaling predators and hunt mainly by using smell and lateral senses instead of sight. They consume anything from fish to crustaceans, squids to cuttlefish. Dusky Kob are a restricted species where a catch must be greater than 110 cm in length and are limited to 5 per person per day if fishing from a boat, if you choose to fish from the shore, the fisherman is limited to one fish per day.
- Humpback Dolphin:
These dolphins are characterized by the conspicuous humps and elongated dorsal fins found on the backs of adults of the species. They are found close to shore along the coast of West Africa (Atlantic species/variety) and right along the coast of the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Australia. Humpback Dolphins mainly feed on mullets and other fish while traveling. The Humpback dolphin has been known to enter the Breede River and been recorded on a few occasions. Interestingly, more is known about the animals feeding habits then the animal itself. By the mid 2000’s, most members involved in the conservation of these species accepted two subspecies, the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin. In late 2013, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Natural History museum proposed classification of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin into three species based on morphological and genetic analysis.
- The Zambezi Shark
Another name for the well-respected creature is the Bull Shark. Living as long as 16 years in the wild, you can expect the shark to be around for a long time. Bull sharks have been known to be aggressive and to live near well populated areas. They’re the only shark species that can occur in both fresh and saltwater ecosystems. The Zambezi shark heads to the fresh waters to give birth to her live pups in nearby rivers or tributaries. Because they live in such close proximity to people, Zambezis have be classified to be the most dangerous shark. This is also because they are capable of living in fresh water. Zambezi (Bull Shark) originally got its name from the short, blunt snout as well as the habit of head-butting their prey before attacking. Bull sharks for fished widely for their meat, hides and oils. Due to this, there numbers face a rapid decline. Local Zambezis that occur in the estuary have been tagged and further research about these creatures habits and trips are being recorded for further studies and research.