The Sacramento is a popular 8 km round trip coastal walk through the Schoenmakerskop-Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve and is accessed by traveling along Sardinia Bay Road. The trail is suitable for moderately fit persons who are advised to walk in a group, wear stout shoes, take a sun hat and drinking water. Dogs are permitted on the lower (coastline) part of the trail.
The area offers attractive seascapes, landscapes and, depending on the season, some remarkable displays of dune vegetation and wild flowers. At Schoenmakerskop, a bronze cannon points towards the wreck site of the Portuguese galleon, Santissimo Sacramento, which foundered on 30 June 1647.
The route continues past the Sacramento monument towards the far end of the sandy bay, aptly named Cannon Bay where the ruins of a mill, which used to crush seashells are located, and then on to the Sacramento Tea Room.
After the shipwreck of the Sacramento 72 survivors embarked on a march up the coast towards a port in Mozambique, from where they hoped to be transported back to Portugal.
The distance from Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth to the port in Mozambique is nearly 1400km. The Sacramento survivors stayed on the beach near the wreck site for 11 days before beginning their trudge up the coast. Along the way, their numbers dwindled to nine survivors.
As they walked, they came across two other wreck sites of ill-fated Portuguese vessels: the Nossa Senhora de Belem and the Atalaya. More than four weeks into their trek, they met up with a large contingent of survivors of the wreck of the Atalaya. Eventually, 127 people from the wrecks of the Sacramento and Atalaya made it to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo).
The Sacramento, a highly prized man o’ war with 60 fixed cannon, was heavily loaded with a cargo of brass cannon destined for the Portuguese-held districts of India. One of the cannons carried an inscription from its maker (famous gunsmith Antonio Backer) bearing the name of Antonio Telesdemenez, the Portuguese governor of India at the time.
The many cannon of the Sacramento lay undisturbed on the ocean bed for 330 years until most of them were salvaged, by local dive expert Dave Allen, in 1977. One brass cannon had been totally submerged under the sea sands and was brought up in perfect condition.
One of the original Sacramento guns stands at a special site on Schoenmakerskop, pointing out in the general direction of where the warship met her fate. A plaque briefly tells the story of the wreck of the Sacramento.
Another of the cannons is housed at the Prince Alfreds Guards building in Central, Port Elizabeth.
From the cannon the trail follows the coastline where numerous freshwater seepages can be seen. At the Sacramento monument one of two tall white beacons marks the boundary of the adjacent Sardinia Bay Marine Reserve. This reserve was proclaimed in 1974 and exteds to Bushy Park in the west. The reserve comprises the area from the high water mark to 1 km out to sea. Removal of marine life is prohibited; this includes angling.
Sardinia Bay is the source of a 7,000 ha drift sands area stretching to Humewood. In the late 1800’s the area was stabilised by dumping the city’s refuse onto the dunes. Natural processes are nevertheless continually trying to re-establish the drift sands. Any disturbance of the sensitive pioneer dune vegetation, either by foot, vehicle or animals will lead to “blow-outs” which will eventually endanger roads and buildings.
Directions to The Sacramento Hiking Trail (34°2’24.91″S | 25°32’2.12″E):
From the central or seaside parts of the city: Continue on Marine Drive right through the Cape Receife Nature Reserve until you reach Shoenmakerskop village. The trail starts at the far end of the village by the cannon.
From the west: From Buffelsfontein Road turn into Victoria Drive, next to Walmer location and follow this to the sea. Turn right into Marine Drive and drive to the end of Schoenmakerskop village where the trail starts at the cannon.
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