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It’s that time of the year when outdoor activities are becoming popular again. The weather is getting warmer and the days are longer. If you’re visiting the Western Cape, why don’t you add a trip to the Kogelberg to your itinerary, in the company of a local group of enthusiastic enviro guides?
An easy, 90-minute scenic drive from Cape Town, in the fishing village of Kleinmond, members of Sisonke Enviro Tours are standing ready to showcase the beauty of this biodiverse and culturally rich region.
Sisonke Enviro Tours (sisonke in isiXhosa means “together”) is a tourism co-operative which came out of a WWF initiative aimed at diversifying the livelihoods of the Kogelberg’s coastal communities that have been impacted by declining seafood stocks in the area.
With support from WWF, the tour guides – Jackie Jakobs (25), Lebo Mbhele (27), Lejone Setloboko (28) and Selwyn Gertse (49) – completed training in eco- and cultural tourism guiding in 2020. They recently registered their tourism company and proudly launched it as a business in July 2022.
The entire Kogelberg area, which takes its name from the mountain range that stretches from Gordon’s Bay to the Bot River estuary, is magnificent! Some people call it the jewel of the Cape Floral Kingdom, so no surprise that it is also the site of South Africa’s very first UNESCO-declared biosphere. The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is home to approximately 1800 plant species, about 70 of which are only found in this area.
Here you will find beautiful stands of fynbos, unique birdlife (including a rare breeding colony of endangered African penguins), soaring mountain peaks, valleys, rugged coastal plains, sandy beaches and estuaries, all of which make this region an extraordinary natural gem.
Sisonke offer their visitors a range of tailored options to suit their interests – from exploring nature through hikes and walking tours to more adventurous activities and cultural explorations. Guests can choose to do one or more activities according to their preferences and abilities.
Nature hikes and walking tours
Go on a 90-minute, low-impact hike to the top of Jean’s Hill while learning about the unique fynbos on the way. You have the choice of a sunrise, daytime or sunset tour up the hill, where you will have a spectacular bird's eye view over the town of Kleinmond, including part of Palmiet and Kleinmond beach estuaries. It is a perfect spot for a scenic picture of the town.
If the Jean’s Hill hike is not long enough for you, the Kogelberg Nature Reserve hike will take about three hours with a chance to explore more mountain fynbos along your route. Be on the lookout for Cape sugarbirds and orange-breasted sunbirds – among the fynbos specials found in the area.
When talking about nature in Kogelberg, one cannot forget the ocean! You can go on a guided tour to see the Stony Point penguin colony in Betty’s Bay, home to the iconic and endangered African penguin. They share their home with many other marine bird species, such as Cape cormorants, Kelp gulls and Hartlaub’s gulls among others. A local whaling station, which was used to harvest and process whale meat in the early to mid-1900s is also nearby, and the guides will tell you all about it.
For an extra special experience, you can spend time with the coastal community locals, learning first-hand about their hometown, prominent landmarks, the local lingo and favourite foods. Tourists also get a chance to talk to the local fishers who share their journey, plus the fishers prepare and enjoy local sustainable seafood dishes, snacks and drinks with the guests.
While nature and culture hikes can be experienced individually, they can also be part of a package, together with other fun and informative tours and activities. Tourists can incorporate any of the activities into a package along with: a Palmiet River hike, Kleinmond estuary tour or canoeing, Harold Porter Botanical Gardens tour and horse riding, among others.
In their activities, Sisonke collaborates with the wider local community and other like-minded organisations like Hangklip Kleinmond Tourism Office, Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens, CapeNature and the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve to provide the best experiences for their visitors.
In December 2021, they also launched their first collaborative food and craft market in Kleinmond – the “Kogekberg Table” – where they invited the community to showcase their creativity and sell their products and food to make extra income during the festive season. So, if you happen to be in the area around the week of Christmas, make sure to visit them and purchase something arty, crafty or fishy for yourself or your loved ones. By doing so, you will be supporting the small-scale fishing communities with much-needed extra income during holidays.
With time and the growth of the Sisonke Enviro Tours business, their goal is to employ youth from the area so that everyone can benefit from local tourism and be part of uplifting the community, “together”.
For more information, follow Sisonke Enviro Tours on Facebook and Instagram.
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