I’ve mentioned countless times that I’m smitten with South Africa’s Overberg – a region east of Cape Town on the far side of the Hottentots-Holland mountain range. Katarina Mancama and I travelled through Gansbaai – a prominent area in the Overberg – celebrating this desitination’s recent GOLD for Best Responsible Tourism Destination at the International Responsible Tourism Awards in London. 

A visit to Gansbaai is not complete without popping in to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) …

Katarina Mancama outside the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) near Gansbaai.
Katarina Mancama outside the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) near Gansbaai.
African Penguin Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) Kleinbaai

Why did I come and visit APSS again? 

Katarina has never been here and as Louise said in our blogpost before:

The story of the African penguin is unfortunately not a very happy one. Their numbers have dwindled from more than 2 million adults at the start of the 20th Century to as little as 38,000 in 2014. This equates to a population decline of an average of 90 birds per week since 1956! Dyer Island, a critically important breeding colony off the coast of Gansbaai, is no exception and has now only around 900 breeding pairs remaining compared to 23,000 in 1979.


Seabirds that are badly hurt battle to survive in the wild. Much like us they need hospitals and emergency rooms. The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS), with help from dedicated professionals play a significant role in counteracting the negative knock-on effect on the critically endangered population of especially the African Penguin.

I initially didn’t understand why APSS would remove the chick from Dyer Island, but then Brenda du Toit – Executive Assistant to Wilfred Chivell at Marine Dynamics – explained it to me.

It is not because African Penguins are bad parents, in actual fact they do a really good job to raise and feed their young in spite of some challenging circumstances. October-November is the end of the breeding season, chicks are suppose to be fat & healthy and ready to be kicked out of the nest to start fending for themselves.

Between 15h00 and 16h00 every day, the patients are fed and it is really a sight to behold.

In collaboration with the International Marine Volunteers program,  volunteers assist in APSS’s operations. APSS offers an incredible opportunity to people wanting to work with marine wildlife.

Xolani Lawo
Xolani Lawo and a volunteer from the International Marine Volunteers program get ready to feed an injured baby African Penguin.

Xolani Lawo is the most inspiring and dedicated person I have met in a long time. Not just is he Kleinbaai’s very own Penguin Whisperer – I’m convinced he speaks Penguin! – he is also the main full-time carer at the sanctuary.

When a rescued bird is brought into the centre, the vast majority oil victims and penguins with shark bite injuries, Xolani records a range of information that is shared with CapeNature. He records the nature of their injuries, their general condition, such as hydration and weight, and the medication the birds receive. All birds are routinely checked for tick related diseases and avian malaria. The admitted birds are first kept in their ICU unit, where they are closely monitored, given antibiotics, and fed three times a day.

APSS cares for a variety of marine bird species, from the Cape Gannet to the Albatross to the African Black Oyster Catcher. Here you can learn more about these species and how we help them.


The patients are fed sardines, and as this is the main form of hospital food that is not freshly available all year round, stock is frozen in high season. This Sardine stock does however not come cheap and donations from the public play a significant part in feeding many a hungry beak.


If you’re ever in the area, you should pop in and have a great cup of coffee and slice of freshly baked cake. Similarly, if you think you could donate toward a few Sardines, consider sparing a few Rands here.

Dyer Island Conservation Trust – the umbrella of APSS – is a registered Public Benefit Organisation in terms of section 30 of the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962.  Donations to the organisation are exempt from donations tax in terms of section 56(1)(h) of the Act.


Words and pictures © Daréll Lourens | www.onetwodee.com

I travelled courtesy of Gansbaai Tourism.

Opinions expressed are my own.

This is the third in a series of posts on my and Katarina’s road trip. Read about my reasons for visiting this quaint little seaside town or backpack along with a Beachcomber Guide across the Universe.

Stories featuring Creation Wines and Grootbos Private Nature Reserve to follow. 

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