Penguins and Kleinmond were on my agenda with the girls one Saturday back in May, but following the always delightful drive along Clarence Drive (with all of its 77 bends), I decided to first hang a right and slowly cruise through Rooi Els, a little seaside holiday escape that I haven’t actually properly visited since my twenties.
Rooi-Els is known for its fishing and diving opportunities, not to mention the fact that it is forever being bashed by the wind and raided by the local baboon troop.
It consists for the most part of holiday homes, meaning this small hamlet is often pretty quiet, has only a few tarred roads, and thus little in the form of commercial ventures.
Rooiels is of course a part of the vaunted Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the 100,000 hectare UNESCO designated area whose landscape is home to perhaps one of the most complex biodiversity regions on our planet – featuring more than 1,880 different plant species, 77 of which occur nowhere else on earth.
This fynbos haven (sometimes referred to locally as the ‘heart of fynbos’) is also home to a wide variety of animal species like leopard, caracal, baboon, antelope and a particularly rich selection of birds.
Biosphere reserves are different from ordinary conservation areas in that these reserves have no fences to keep ‘people’ out and ‘nature’ in – instead it is the commitment of local communities, farmers, conservation agencies and local government to protect and nurture the land and its biodiversity.
(For reference, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, which interestingly enough was South Africa’s first ever registered biosphere reserve, encompasses the entire area from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River Statuary and inland to Grabouw and the Groenland Mountain.)
Of course, being that close to this particular type of vegetation does comes with a big risk – large mountain/vegetation fires are the norm, and because of this the area (and its towns) often bear the scars associated with these all too frequent blazing infernos.
Anyway, having enjoyed our scenic little jaunt, the girls insisted that I refocus on the mission at hand – visiting the Stony Point penguins of Betty’s Bay!
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Related Link: Rooi-Els