Ethno-Botanical Garden

Ethno-Botanical Garden

This is a collection of plants that occur naturally in the Mossel Bay area and which were used by the Khoi, San, Coloured, Xhosa and European settlers for shelter, food and medicinal purposes. As well as for magic and superstitious beliefs.  The Braille trail makes it accessible to visually-impaired people so that they can read about, feel and smell the wonderful collection.

Ethno-Botanical Garden - Dias Museum Complex

The Ethno-Botanical Garden and Indigenous Field Garden

The ethnobotanical garden is a collection of plants that occur naturally in the Mossel Bay area and were used for shelter, food, medicinal and spiritual purposes. It includes a Braille trail created to make the garden experience accessible, enjoyable and educational for our visually impaired visitors.  

An indigenous field garden provides a tangible and visual experience of the unique fynbos, thicket, and milkwood forest vegetation of Mossel Bay. Aloes, bulbs, vygies, September-bush, pelargoniums, everlastings, wild olive trees and a variety of other indigenous plants are to be found here.

A live specimen display inside the Granary is stocked with examples of the indigenous plants that grow in the area. 

Fynbos is particularly well represented in the Mossel Bay area. You’ll find common species like the Cape reeds (or restio’s), as well as buchus and rarities like the Mossel Bay pincushion that flowers from April to September, and the Albertinia pincushion that flowers from July to October. 

The Chapel

The fourth Portuguese fleet to land at São Brás arrived in July 1501 to take in supplies on route to India. 

Its commander João da Nova found a message from Pedro D’Ataide that contained information about the hostility towards the Portuguese at Calcutta and warned of rough waters "to the East". Pedro D’Ataide’s ship landed at the "watering place of São Brás" (present-day Mossel Bay) in early 1501 where he left a letter in a Portuguese sailor’s shoe tied to a tree here.

João da Nova was so grateful for this timely warning that he erected a small chapel or hermitage. Presumably, this structure was the first place of Christian worship in South Africa.

Several references were made to the chapel over time as being close to "the watering place" but its exact position has not yet been found. 

A cross was erected behind the Granary in a place considered to be a possible site of the Portuguese chapel.

The Padrão (Stone Markers) 

The Portuguese erected crosses along the shoreline of Africa to record their presence. A stone padrão, or cross, was erected in 1969 as a replica of a wooden cross erected by Vasco da Gama at Mossel Bay in 1497.

Whale Watching in Mossel Bay

Female Southern Right whales of 8 years and older, usually calve once every three years, with a gestation period of 12 to 13 months. An adult Southern Right whale can reach a length of 15.5 meters and can weigh around 43 tonnes.

Between July and October, these whales arrive in the warmer waters of the South African south coast to calve in the calm waters of the bays near its beaches. During this time, you can watch the whales lobtailing, breaching, fluking, or spy-hopping. Whales and dolphins can sometimes be seen from the museum grounds and the veranda of the Maritime Museum. 

Other spots with prime views of the visiting whales include The Point, the St. Blaize Lighthouse and Rheebok (especially the Kusweg area). During a trip on a local whale watching boat with trained guides, you might see Southern Right or Humpback whales, Great White and other sharks, dolphins, Cape fur seals, and various seabirds.

Marine Conservation

Whales, dolphins, seals, turtles, marine birds and many shark species, like the Great white shark are protected. Harassing, injuring or killing them is illegal. In addition, you may not own any part of their skeletons or their teeth.

Please assist us in protecting marine life. If you find a beached or injured marine animal, please contact the following numbers: 

Mossel Bay: Stranded Marine Animal Rescue Team (S.M.A.R.T.) 072 227 4715

West of Mossel Bay: 072 477 7170 or 083 462 5345

East of Mossel Bay: 071 724 2122


Axelson, E. (ed) (1988): Dias and his successors. Saayman & Weber, Cape Town.

Barker, B.J. (Undated): Dias and Da Gama: the Portuguese discovery of the Cape Sea route, Struik, Cape Town.

De Kock, W J (1957): Portugese ontdekkers om die Kaap:  Die Europese aanraking met Suidelike Afrika, 1415–1600, Balkema, Kaapstad.

Ferreira, O.J.O. (2005): Dias, Da Gama en die Khoikhoin: ‘n Ontmoeting van kulture aan die suidpunt van Afrika. Gepubliseer deur Adamastor, Jeffreysbaai & Pretoria. 

Gon, P. (1988): Early Navigators. AD. Donker/ Publisher. (Pty) Ltd, Craighall.

Peringuey, L. (1950): Inscriptions left by early European navigators on their way to the East. (Reprinted from the “Annals of the South African Museum”, Vol. XIII)

LANTERN, January (1988): Tydskrif vir Kennis en Kultuur.  Jaargang, 37, nr. 1 (Stigting vir Onderwys, Wetenskap en Tegnologie, Dept. van Nasionale Opvoeding, Pretoria)

Ravenstein, E.G. (1986): The voyages of Diego Cao and Bartolomeu Dias 1482-88. Reprinted from The Geographical Journal, vol. 16, no. 6, December 1900, pp.625-650.  The State Library, Pretoria.

Best, P.B. (2007): Whales and Dolphins of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press.

Ethno-Botanical GardenEthno-Botanical Garden

Entrance Fees - Complex

Entrance Fees

Complex Entry

Adults: R 30
Pensioners (SA Citizens): R 20
Scholars Gr1 - 12: R 10

Preschoolers: Free

Entrance Fees - Complex & Caravel

Notice to Visitors

Caravel Closure

We regret to inform you that the Caravel is temporarily closed until further notice for your safety.

Opening Hours
  • Monday To Friday 09:00 to 16h45
  • Saturday & Public Holidays09:00 to 15:45
  • Sunday09:00 to 15:45

Contact Info

+27 (0)44 691 1067


1 Market Street

Mossel Bay, South Africa