Vermaaklikheid (loosely translated from Afrikaans as ‘Entertainment’) is a small settlement on the south coast of South Africa, neatly slotted between Witsand to the west and Stilbaai to the east. The village itself is barely more than a handful of quaint rural buildings, aggregated around the lower reaches of the picturesque Duiwenhoks River, which merges into the sea only a few kilometres further downstream. The landscape around Vermaaklikheid is mostly open coastal heathland, which grades into thicket on the slopes that drop steeply away to the estuary, and into intensively farmed cereal cropland towards the interior. There are quite a few river-centric places to stay in the area, boasting tranquil water-frontage and with ample opportunity to chill, boat and fish, but when my family and I visited there recently we opted to stay at a more terrestrial venue. The Koensrust Farm extends from just south of Vermaaklikheid all the way down to the coast, and is covered mainly by an impressively pristine tract of limestone (?) fynbos, stocked with indigenous game including small herds of Bontebok and Eland. It is doubtless also packed with rare and endemic plants and smaller animals.
The birdlife is typically low diversity, but with a good compliment of regional endemics. The large stands of proteas support plenty of Cape Sugarbirds, Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds are abundant, and Southern Tchagra and Bokmakierie are plentiful in and around the thicker vegetation. Also, sections of habitat look great for nesting Black Harrier, and we bumped into adults of this charismatic and highly threatened species on a couple of occasions during our four-day stay.
But it is the coastline at Koensrust that steals the show. We found the elevated view from our cottage of the blue ocean rollers extending to the horizon strangely hypnotising, and even more so from the very crest of the low, broken cliff-line that denotes the abrupt end of both the property and the continent. From this remarkable vantage point we saw the essential character of the coastline change radically with the variable weather. We spied surfing dolphins, breaching Southern Right Whales, plunging Cape Gannets and rafting Cape Cormorants, and the potential for seeing other dramatic sea-life from this comfortable crow’s nest seemed endless. The beach below the cliffs appeared and disappeared with the tides, and proved to be an intriguing mix of sand, pebbles, grit and bare, pointed rocks, all laid about with stranded logs and driftwood and a baffling abundance of paper nautilus shells. There is a rocky reef offshore that moderates the incoming breakers and reveals acres of fascinating rock-pools every low tide.
We spent the vast majority of our time at Koensrust walking these beaches, fossicking for stones and shells, sucking in lungs full of tangy ocean air, watching Peregrines, Rock Kestrels and White-necked Ravens coursing along the ragged cliff edges, and staring at the ever-surging, ever-changing sea. Vermaaklikheid indeed!