This is part of a series of travel stories from the launch of Influence Tours, a tour operator that organizes upmarket tours for small groups where all profits will go to charity and development in South Africa. Influence Tours only work with partners that share their vision of using tourism as a vehicle to make South Africa a better place. (read part one and two)
On day 3 of our whirlwind launch tour, we left the Cape Town area and headed towards Hermanus. We drove along one of the most beautiful roads in the world, Clarens Drive, and then entered into the fynbos-clad Overberg. This is an exciting wine-producing area, that makes particularly great whites and pinot noir. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore, but many of the vineyards work in absolute harmony with its surroundings and produce wine that is true to the terroir of the area. One example is Hermanuspietersfontein, where biodiversity is at the top of the agenda. Large tracts of fynbos have been left untouched and pristine, and there are also corridors of fynbos in-between the cultivated areas (that connect biomes and allows access for wildlife throughout the vineyards). Ducks provide biological pest control, and earthworms work tirelessly at tilling the soil.
For lunch, we had front-row seats for the biggest show in town: the Southern Right Whales. As we were tucking in to fresh seafood and locally produced beer, the whales were giving us a beautiful performance. They got their name because they were the “right” kind to hunt; they swim slow, float when killed and have a lot of valuable fat (blubber). Commercial whaling nearly led to their extinction, but since becoming protected in 1935 the population has grown by about 7% per year. Although the numbers are still less than 15% of what they were before whaling commenced in the 1820’s. These majestic animals can be up to 18 meters long, and weigh up to 80 tonnes (the equivalent of about 10 African elephants!). They grace South Africa’s southern coast with their presence between June and November, when they give birth and then nurse their calves in our (relatively) warm waters.
Next up on our adventure: the impossibly beautiful and luxurious Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. This is one of those businesses that you could write a whole textbook about, on how to use tourism as a vehicle for local development, job-creation and conservation. They operate a number of successful projects through the Grootbos Foundation that improve the lives of thousands of people in the local communities each year. We visited Growing the Future on Siyakhula Organic Farm in the heart of the Grootbos reserve. Here, women are taught organic agriculture, sustainable animal husbandry and beekeeping. All vegetables, herbs, lettuces, fruit, eggs, honey and preserves produced at this farm are sold to the Grootbos lodges, so that evening we knew exactly where our food had come from!
We also went on a drive through the 2,500 ha reserve, where a mindboggling 765 plant species, 100 of which are endangered and 6 of which only exist here, grow. Later that evening, we gathered in the wine cellar for a fine meal accompanied by wines sourced in the Overberg region. Grootbos is a shining example of how you can combine absolute luxury with the feel-good factor of knowing that you are also contributing towards the wellbeing of people and places. A true example of how you can #TravelWithImpact!