Every year on the 22nd of April, Earth Day is celebrated around the world. Many important events have been celebrated on this day since it was first established in 1970, including the recent signing of the Paris Agreement, a binding international treaty on climate change.
The day was created to drive meaningful action towards protecting our planet, drawing attention to issues such as climate change, plastic pollution, and regenerative agriculture. However, we shouldn’t just be taking care of our planet on one day of the year. It’s important that we work every day to take care of this one Earth we have been given.
And that is just what we’re doing here in the Garden Route:
One of the key mandates of Earth Day is to drive societal change when it comes to protecting and restoring biodiversity. Preservation of the globe’s biodiversity is seen as one of the solutions to the climate crises and a key issue not only for Earth’s wildlife but humanity as a whole.
The Garden Route is one such place where biodiversity is in abundance. Here you can find a web of unique coastal lake systems, a rugged coastline, magnificent indigenous forests, wild fynbos areas, and a network of protected areas. Here urban areas lie on the doorstep of conservation areas of national, and international importance.
The Garden Route has many experiences to offer visitors who wish to appreciate this beautiful biodiversity and get out into the wild. You can get up close and personal with nature; hiking, kloofing, mountain biking, kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, and stand-up paddleboarding or view it all from above with world-class paragliding available up and down the Garden Route.
Another important mandate of Earth Day is conservation and the protection of the wild species that call this planet home. More than 300 mammals, 100 different reptile species, and over 500 bird species call South Africa home, many of which can be spotted on the Garden Route. National and provincial parks and rescue centers recognise the importance of wildlife to local tourism and global conservation and are working to care for and protect these species in various ways.
Did you know that there are three elephant parks along the Garden Route? The sprawling Addo Elephant National Park where you can view elephants in the wild and the Elephant Sanctuary and Knysna Elephant Park, offering one of a kind experiences for visitors who wish to experience and learn about our Earth’s largest living land mammal up close.
The Garden Route is also home to many excellent wildlife rescue centres including the 2.3 hectare Birds Of Eden; the largest single, free-flight aviary in the world, and Monkeyland; the world’s first free-roaming primate sanctuary. You can also find the Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation & Awareness Centre that aims to protect and rehabilitate wild cats impacted by man's ever-increasing encroachment on previously wild areas.
Another area of importance on Earth Day is increasing awareness and education amongst various cultures when it comes to protecting the planet. The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) said that development should, “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
We are lucky enough to live in a place where our communities are rooted in sustainability, from the days when the Khoisan first used Oudtshoorn’s Cango Caves as a shelter some 10,000 years ago. On the Garden Route, tourists can interact directly with the local communities through a variety of initiatives including township tours, cooking classes, and cultural experiences. On the face of it, townships seem to be sprawling, chaotic zones, overflowing with South Africa’s most disadvantaged citizens, but in the Garden Route, we recognise that townships are also places of great strength, courage, song, dance, survival, love, family, community and yes, happiness.
The Beautiful Knysna Villa properties are surrounded by nature and beauty. We are constantly reminded of how blessed we are to live so close to nature. Daily we witness how our behavior, positive and negative, impacts the system. Caring for our world, and by extension, the planet has become a part of who we are and informs our business decisions and investments, and planning. We monitor and clear thirsty, invasive plants that threaten our diversity and resources, harvest and use rainwater and solar energy, as we move towards energy-efficient lighting, and water-efficient bathrooms in our accommodations, and away from single-use plastics and harmful chemicals.
It is gratifying to see a love for the land and appreciation for our Earth that grows in the soul of travellers both passing through and living on the Garden Route.
Beacon House Luxury Apartments and many of our Villas are on the water right at the magnificent Heads. The soundtrack to a stay here is the powerful ocean waters as they surge in and out between these two ancient sentinels, cleaning and renewing the fragile Knysna estuary. It is good to be reminded that if nature is to keep playing the role we expect and rely on, we need to play ours. A fine balance.
Alkira Lodge is situated on a private nature reserve of pristine World Heritage-listed Fynbos. It has been educational to watch the reserve recover from the 2017 wildfires that exposed the rich fynbos kingdom as the ancient dune that it is. The fynbos, which thrives on fire, recovered quickly with pioneer plants providing food and shelter to insects, which in turn fed the birdlife enabling them to grow in number and diversity as the variety of fynbos and fauna grew. Now the reserve is once again sustaining antelope, tortoises, and even small wildcats!