The Scarborough fire in Cape Town raged through about 1000 ha of fynbos, destroying vegetation and animals in its wake. Leaving behind a blackened, scarred earth at the Wildschutsbrabdvlei plot was not what the Hideaways team had envisioned for their marketing brochures.
Hideaways is intent on conservation, sustainability and eco-friendly architecture. The new lodge was supposed to be nestled in the lush, fynbos-laden hills of Scarborough. But sadly, the fire destroyed so much of nature’s beauty and came five years too early. “So what can we do? We need to focus on the good. We can help surviving animals and know that the fire, while too premature for the region, will soon see re-growth for the endemic vegetation,” says company director Garth Jenman.
Staff members went to the site for a day and looked for animals who had survived the fire – especially tortoises who due to their slowness are the most threatened. “We found three survivors who had managed to bury themselves in the ground or under logs,” said Garth Jenman, owner of the family-run business.
They dropped the tortoises off at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. The following week on another site visit, another three tortoises were found and rubbish cleared away.
“Wild fires are part of Cape Town’s landscape,” says Liz Rampfshaw, Project Manager at Hideaways. “The biggest difference we can make as human beings is to create a luxury lodge that treads lightly on this earth. Just like our lodge in Zimbabwe, Elephant’s Eye, we want to recycle everything we use, buy only biodegradable products, and source food locally. We are excited for this project in Cape Town even though the fire has ravaged the land!” says Liz Rampfshaw.
There is hope. Green buds and flowers are already beginning to grow – and while the torched shells of tortoises are still littering the veld. Nature’s persistent cycle of life continues as ever.