[CV-19 Conversations] Oh, baby it's a wild world
A glimpse of the prolific spectacle, the annual wildflowers of the West Coast
September is Tourism Month in South Africa and coincides with the onset of Spring. It heralds our family's annual flower safari in the West Coast National Park in September, a tradition started many years ago. This year, our pilgrimage to the seasonally open Postberg section that sees us seeking out all things 'wild', particularly the carpets of bright flowers, did not disappoint. The weather played along beautifully and despite COVID-19, the lockdown, and all associated challenges, a great day was had by all. All the photos were all taken with my trusty smartphone mostly, from our car. Hashtag, 'no filter'.
The open road
We ventured out on a crisp, windless, azure-skied Sunday. The kind of day we refer to as 'the Mother City showing off'. Taking the road less travelled, we ignored the GPS and enjoyed the off-the-beaten-track sights and sounds en-route. The only downside meant it took us a bit longer than expected to arrive at the park gate, and I was chomping at the bit. Examining the lengthy queue of cars almost got the better of me. A few deep breaths, a game or two of 'I-Spy' and some groovy tunes later, I managed to stay the course. And, boy am I glad I did. We queued at the gate for about forty minutes and at the entry point, all COVID-19 safety protocols observed, we paid our reasonable local South African resident Rand-friendly entry fee and away we went.
Soon after passing through the gate, we found our healthy appetites were along for the journey too. We made light work of finding a picnic spot taking a sharp left off toward the Atlantic Viewpoint, which greeted us with a stiff sea breeze. After enjoying the view for a spell, casting a quick scan over the deep blue sea for whales (sadly, spotting none), we opted to move on in favour of a slightly more protected picnic spot.
Imaginations running riot as they tend to do on road trips, we marvelled at the incredible rock and cloud formations. We embarked on a friendly game of 'spot hunting', one of our favourite past times when on a safari of any nature. Is that an ostrich or a bush?
Carpets of flowers in the Postberg area of West Coast National Park
Local is 'lekker'
This year, one of the most notable differences in the park was the absence of foreign accents swirling about us as we picnicked on a warm, flat granite rock overlooking the wild beach of Plankiesbaai in the Postberg section of the park. We spotted three large tour buses, but due to South Africa still being in Level 2 of the national lockdown we were left wondering which part of our Rainbow Nation they hailed from not which country. It was rather interesting to think that this would likely be the first and last time in my life that I would share my experience of this extraordinary national park with predominantly South Africans. A historical moment in time, for sure.
View from the bird hide looking back at Geelbek Restaurant and pink flamingos
For the birds
The time came for us to turn the nose of our trusty car back toward Table Mountain, home bound. We were, however, determined to tap every ounce of adventure out of our day before waving goodbye to the beautiful West Coast. So, instead of heading for the gate, we took a detour toward one of the bird hides. Driving through the park that day we saw plenty ostrich, bontebok, some lovely birds including soaring raptors and pink flamingos, the latter from the bird hide near Geelbek Restaurant. That was an exceptional experience for me as I'd never seen such vast flocks in the park before. The explosion of colour when they took flight en-masse will stay with me always. We took a leisurely stroll back and then popped into the restaurant for a delicious early seafood supper before we headed out.
South Africa Is Travel Ready
At the Geelbek Restaurant, all COVID-19 safety protocols were observed. The reasonably-priced menu, consistently good food and friendly service is something we can always look forward to here. It felt good to see how travel ready this awesome destination is. Also, knowing we were supporting the local community, wildlife and our economy with our custom made our experience even more meaningful. We pondered these things as we sat outdoors in the sunshine soaking up the mood-enhancing vitamin-D with the flamingos and the bird hide now on the horizon. Another fantastic memory made. Leaving, I even bumped into an industry friend unexpectedly. She shared enthusiastically how she and her family had gone on a beautiful hike through the reserve before enjoying afternoon tea at Geelbek Restaurant. How lovely! There are so many ways to explore the park, you'll be spoilt for choice.
Going on safari with a young child is different in a myriad of ways. Sure, it's noisier than you may like, and goes along in fits and starts, often fraught with all sorts of unexpected events. But nothing can compensate for the richness of experience. Seeing the wonder in their eyes and their evident excitement as they encounter nature's wonders is awesome. This year, our flower safari memories were made through the lens of a worldwide pandemic; a visceral reminder that it is our responsibility to tread lightly on the earth. Living in a world without wild spaces intact where we can embark on soul safaris, topping up our energy levels and renewing our connection with Mother Nature, is not something I wish to imagine. Conservation is therefore not a choice, it is imperative.
We stopped in our driveway almost eight hours after entering the park, heaps happier than when we'd left it. Many more unforgettable memories of wild, beautiful Africa imprinted on our hearts and mind.