The Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay, Western Cape, is named after Bartolomeu Dias, the 15th century Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southern tip of Africa without realizing it. The museum’s most popular exhibit is the life-size (104m) replica of Dias’ ship, the Dias Caravel. You can pay a fee to board the ship and discover just how authentic a replica it is.
The Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex houses the Maritime Museum, the Shell Museum and aquarium, and the Granary. The Botanical Garden has a Braille trail that makes it accessible to visually-impaired visitors so that they can read, feel, and smell the wonderful collection. Mountain tortoises, ducks, and museum cats can be spotted on the grounds. The garden leads to the Fountain, Malay Graves, and Munrohoek Cottages.
The complex is also home to the legendary Post Office tree. In the 1500s, a shipwrecked sailor left a written record of his disastrous encounter in an old shoe that he hung from a milkwood tree. For centuries, the tree was used as an honorary post office, until a boot-shaped post office was erected and declared a national monument. Mail is still collected from this letterbox twice a day (once a day out of season), so be sure to pop a postcard into the mailbox and wait for it to arrive with a special commemorative postmark.
The Dias Museum Complex is close to the beach, shops, restaurants, banks, and the tourist information centre. The Maritime Museum has a shop with postcards, stamps, books, souvenirs, and small gifts. Whales can be observed from the museum grounds from June to November.