Robberg Nature Reserve is one of the most important and iconic experiences in Plettenberg Bay. This Natural Monument and World Heritage Site, managed by CapeNature, is frequented daily by 100’s and sometimes 1000’s of local and international tourists. Located along the Garden Route in the Western Cape, this popular experience has been closed due the national government’s COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown.
Locals and local businesses are excited for the reopening and most are looking forward to the boost that might come with the reopening during the Level 3 lockdown.
“We cannot underestimate the impact that nature and the environment play in our tourism industry along the Garden Route, and particularly for Plettenberg Bay. When CapeNature contacted us last week, we were overjoyed and positive that SA Tourism is cautiously reopening and that the constant lobbying by organisations such as SATSA and the TBCSA are key to tourisms survival,” says Marius Venter, CEO of Plett Tourism. “We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and are confident it will be spectacular,” says Venter.
Owner and Manager of the Beacon Isle Kwik Spar, Duncan Brown, comments that the opening is a huge benefit for the town. He says, “Being one of the closest businesses to Plett’s most popular beaches and Robberg Nature Reserve has its benefits. Our turnover has impacted negatively by the closure of these areas during lockdown.” Furthermore, he says, “Robberg serves as a desired and popular destination not only for our residents, but also for our ‘local’ tourists. As a business we would certainly benefit from this because it also meets social distancing requirements.” The Beacon Isle Kwik Spar, like so many of the other local businesses in Plett, are a mere 1.3 kilometre or 4-minute drive from Robberg.
Former Plett Tourism Information Officer, and current tour operator Luckz Mdzeke, comments that Robberg is one of the most popular experiences in Plett. He says, “Robberg is such an important part of my business. My clients just love it, and they see so much beauty during their experience. The beauty and the historical value of Robberg is incredible. I was raised in Plett and can honestly say that Robberg is home to me. I want to share this with the world.”
Additionally, the mental health and wellbeing of locals is also paramount with the reopening. “Many locals need Robberg. It is important for us to know that it is open because it is our ‘go-to-place’. Not only physically but also mentally. It’s like a warm blanket on a cold day, it feeds the mind, body and the soul,” says local chiropractor, Dr Grant Butterworth. Like many locals, Dr Butterworth and his family hike or picnic at Robberg several times per month.
Long-time resident, owner of Bobbin Craft upholstering and Robberg enthusiast, Steph le Roux, was averaging four trips around Robberg per week prior to the lockdown. When it comes to the reserve, you can consider him one of the local enthusiasts. Le Roux is an adventure racer and has participating with local adventure teams throughout the country and across the group to compete for locally sponsored teams including the BUCO Adventure Race Team and the Plett Tourism Adventure Race Team. He was given a special permit through Plett Tourism and the Bitou Municipality to photograph his Robberg experiences to assist with destination marketing endeavors during lockdown.
He also believes that Robberg is an essential tourist experience. He says, “During my walks and runs on Robberg, I see myself somewhat of a tourism ambassador. I can’t help myself; I often point-out wildlife, fynbos and flora to tourists and often stop to show them marine life and other creatures that I have trained myself to find over the years. I’m an extra set of eyes for the Robberg Nature Reserve Team – pointing out areas that may have suddenly become dangerous due to the environment, report on wildlife that has been scarce and just general new information to the team.”
According to CapeNature, both the Keurbooms River and Robberg Nature Reserve are open from 12 June, with limited times and with the appropriate permits. The Keurbooms River slipway will be open for boats with valid annual boat permits from 08h00 to 16h00 to accommodate recreational fishermen. Visitors are not allowed to waterski or braai on the picnic sites as theses activities are excluded during the current Level 3 lockdown. Robberg Nature Reserve will also be open for anglers, hikers and trail runners, but one needs to book online as there is a limit of 120 people per day, including Wild Card holders. As for Keurbooms activities, these will be limited to the above as National Parks and Nature Reserves are otherwise closed under the current Level 3 lockdown.
– PATTY BUTTERWOTH, PLETT TOURISM MEDIA LIAISON