Out and about with guide and manager Riehan Groenewald
11 March 2021
“Nature is not a place to visit.It is home.”– Gary Snyder.This couldn't be more true for Guide and Manager Riehan Groenewald. This passionate nature lover invites us into his day-to-day world in the De Hoop Nature Reserve and gives us a taste of what guests visiting Morukuru can expect to experience. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to work in De Hoop Nature Reserve: I’m originally from Kleinmond, which is a small coastal town in the Overberg. It is just over 70 kilometres from Cape Town but has that “small-town vibe” where most residents know each other. Growing up there, I was exposed to the ocean and marine life from a young age. I guess you could say I became passionate about environmental protection and decided to dedicate my life to encouraging others to do the same. Plenty of residents in Kleinmond still make a living out of diving and fishing, and not much has changed since I was a kid. I love the outdoors, and I studied Nature Conservation to qualify with my trails, guiding tracking and FAGASA Qualifications which allowed me to work all over Africa. I was always drawn back to the ocean, and I got involved with a volunteer programme run by Cape Nature, working at the penguin colony in Betty’s Bay. My wife and I managed a lodge close to Hermanus for two years when we got Morukuru Family De Hoop’s call. We have been here in the De Hoop Nature Reserve for five years now and love it! What is your favourite aspect of your job? To be out in Mother Nature every day, no two days are the same … you never know what you might find. Do you have a motto or mantra? Life is short, be good to others and enjoy your life as you cannot change what is in the past. Guests also enjoy keeping active when on holiday. Morukuru Family De Hoop offers so much to do, and marine walks are always popular. Explain what type of marine life can be found in the rock pools? The Marine Protected area in the De Hoop Nature Reserve was established 36 years ago. It covers an expanse of 51km along the shore and stretches up to 5 miles out to sea. Marine life in the pools is amazing. At low tide, you will find all sorts of fish, including starfish, and if you are in luck, you might spot an octopus or two. We also have a lot of sea urchins, sea anemones and many more little sea creatures. Tell us about an extraordinary wildlife moment you were able to share with a group of guests. A few years ago, I had a group of guests that wanted to spot a caracal. Although we have a lot on the reserve, I explained that it is quite a rare sighting, especially during the day, as they are more active during the night. We went on our drive and stopped for a drink. We were busy with a discussion about honey badgers when suddenly, a honey badger appears out of the bush; we got back on the vehicle to get closer to the honey badger. As we turned the corner, we saw the caracal running across the road with a flamingo in its mouth! To this day, I am still suspicious of the sighting and the coincidence, but I like telling the story with the idea that anything is possible. You might be in luck and see that rare sighting after all. Snorkelling is a fun activity - are you a keen aquatic explorer? Do you enjoy teaching guests the ins and outs of snorkelling? Is it an easy skill to master? I have always loved the under-water experience. I do a lot of diving back home, as it is a big hobby of mine, especially when the season opens for crayfish diving. Here at Morukuru, we supply our guests with wetsuits and full-face masks, making the experience so much more “real”. The facemasks are excellent as they cover your entire face, and you do not have to worry about water running down the snorkel. It makes it a lot easier and more comfortable for both adults and kids alike. Kids love all types of creepy crawlies - tell us a fun, fascinating or weird fact about a couple of marine creatures? The very smart, very intelligent Octopus!!! Bizarre fact about the Octopus… They have 3 Hearts, 9 Brains and Blue Blood; they can also regrow new legs if one breaks off. De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to leopard. They are very rare to spot. Tell us about a memorable encounter with one of the elusive leopards. I have spent many hours trying to spot the cape leopard—many, many days tracking. The closest I’ve got is fresh tracks at low tide just above the watermark. That one got away into the dune thickets. I have had success filming them on camera traps. One day I hope to see one in the flesh! Do you have a favourite animal from the reserve? I’m very passionate about birdwatching, so my favourite animal on the reserve would be the Cape Vulture. There is only one colony of Cape Vultures, and we are very fortunate to have them here at the Potberg Mountains in the De Hoop Nature Reserve. The nature reserve also has more than 260 bird species, including many water birds living around the De Hoop vlei. How many species have you managed to identify, and do you keep a bird spotting log? Yes, I keep a logbook; in the last few years, I have spotted 238 different types of birds on the reserve. You lead guided fynbos hikes. The reserve is home to a notable 1500 species of fynbos. How have you managed to study and learn about these unique plants? This is the most diverse plant kingdom in the world. The plants change entirely from area to area. 1500 species is a considerable amount, so I take it day by day and learn more and more. Whale season ( July - October) offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the world. Is this one of the highlights of the year? Yes, every year during that period, we have an abundance of whales in the bay; from the middle of winter in to the spring, which means the Fynbos is in flower, making the beautiful scenery even more spectacular. Guests come to Morukuru Family De Hoop to relax, recharge and reconnect. Tell us how you choose to relax? I enjoy water sports, diving, bodyboarding, fishing, boating, and land-based activities like marathons and hiking. I love hanging out with my wife and spending quality time with my family, especially my family’s newest addition, my daughter.