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Between mountain and sea

Cape Whale Coast
18 May

Between mountain and sea

I count myself fortunate to have been able to experience the natural beauty of the Kogelberg, both as a child and an adult, working with WWF South Africa to secure as much as possible of its biodiversity and surrounds for the benefit of people and nature.

Clarence Drive Kogelberg

© Andrea Weiss
Looking back towards Clarence Drive, the road that carves its way between mountain and sea to the coastal towns of Rooiels, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond in the Kogelberg.

Home is where the heart is

With its high mountain peaks, rugged kloofs, sometimes wild seas and incredible plant diversity, many believe the Kogelberg is the crown jewel in the Cape Floristic Region – and with good reason. I have travelled the world, and there are very few places that are so diverse in nature and people. Among the many things I love about living here is experiencing the fierce winter storms, and the ocean that gives and takes each year – you can still feel and see natural forces at work here.

Kogelberg seas

© Andrea Weiss
This coastline is also known for its wild seas – something Jan relishes.
When I was a little boy, we visited for family holidays and on school excursions. Back then there were just a few small fishing communities and retired people living along the coast. Now people from all over South Africa and abroad also call this place home. And who wouldn’t want to? You can literally walk out of your front door to the beach or from the back door to the mountains. 

Views for days

Clarence Drive is the gateway to this natural wonderland. Once on the road, you immediately sense that you are in a special place.

Along the way, you may spot some animals like klipspringers, dassies and baboons, and if you are lucky and are travelling at night, even a leopard! Take in the beautiful fynbos on either side of the road, with some species that are found nowhere else in the world, and don’t forget to look at the sea view too. Once, while driving on this road, I saw literally hundreds of dolphins feeding on a shoal of fish. It was one of many priceless encounters for me!


© Andrea Weiss
The Rooiels baboon troop in the Kogelberg takes a break from foraging in the fynbos.
About 5 km from the Stony Point penguin colony, one of only two breeding colonies of the endangered African penguin on the mainland, is the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden. Here, in summer you can see red disas, the official emblem of the Western Cape, as well as South Africa’s national flower, the king protea.And if you continue along this road through Betty’s Bay, you’ll pass by the entrance to the beautiful Kogelberg Nature Reserve where I enjoy hiking with friends and family.
African penguin

© WWF South Africa / Dimpho Lephaila
The African penguins at Stony Point near Betty’s Bay are a popular tourist attraction.

From farm to the “Panda” family

The beauty of the Kogelberg and its rich plant life reminds me of my childhood. From the age of around five, I often spent time with my grandparents on various farms in Namaqualand, on the Knersvlakte and in the Karoo. I loved spending time with my grandfather. He had a deep respect and passion for the veld, and it was from him that I learned how nature works, how to tell when it will rain, experiencing droughts and learning how to use what nature gives you with respect.

Even when I went to work in London in the UK in the financial sector early on in my career, I took this love of nature with me. There I noticed the smallest things that other people would overlook – like a bird of prey catching a pigeon in the middle of the city.

Now, as part of the WWF team my work contributes towards the expansion of, and investment in, protected areas in South Africa. This is a dream come true and extremely rewarding every time we secure a piece of land that will benefit people and nature into perpetuity.

Camphor bush Kogelberg

© Andrea Weiss
Camphor bush in the foreground with typical mountain formations of the Kogelberg. Part of WWF’s work here is to create natural corridors from the mountains to the sea.

For people and nature

WWF is in the process of securing land between the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden and the sea that will create a vital wildlife corridor. This is one of several properties that we’ve bought to conserve the unique biodiversity in South Africa, something that I am grateful to be part of. WWF was also instrumental in creating Brodie’s Link near Pringle Bay which also connects the mountain with the sea.

Land team

© Angus Burns
Jan Coetzee (black jacket) on a field trip with his team in the Overberg.
Our work in the Kogelberg also extends into the marine world. My colleagues in the marine programme work with small-scale fishers in the area looking at, among other things, how to create sustainable alternative and supplementary livelihoods for coastal communities. The future of our natural world lies in the wellbeing of the people as well. When nature prospers, people prosper. 



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