Hidden Gems January 2018


Flower Valley Farm … a fynbos paradise conserved for the future


Fynbos is the main vegetation type of the Cape Floral Kingdom – the smallest and richest of only six floral kingdoms in the world. About 75% of fynbos species are endemic to their area and grow nowhere else in the world. The trust and the farm work tirelessly to care for and protect various endangered animals. These include the Cape leopard, a shy fellow whose numbers have been dramatically reduced over the years, and who needs a well-functioning ecosystem to survive, as well as ‘corridors’ of the right habitat to travel through to reach other leopards, in order to breed.


Another endangered local resident is the padloper (road walker) tortoise, a tiny creature usually no bigger than 10cm. Sightings of these have become quite rare. The padloper lives in the Fynbos Biome, but is particularly susceptible to wildfires, from which it has no escape and has partially been much of the cause of their demise. And while natural periodic wild fires are part of the restorative cycle of the flora of the region, unnecessary ones caused by people are not – so next time you light a match for whatever reason, spare these tiny tortoises and their fynbos habitat a thought.


Another fascinating little creature found here that will have you in awe is the Western Leopard Toad. It breeds only for a short period each year, but faces annihilation from predators and passing vehicles as it migrates to ponds to breed. Flower Valley Farm, however, is working to protect the habitat for this toad, to allow it to breed safely. The Flower Valley fynbos sanctuary offers protection to many other animals and birds, among them those cute little sugarbirds and sunbirds hopping from bush to bush as they seek the nectar from Proteas and Ericas on which they depend, and in turn pollinate the indigenous flowers of the region. For nincompoops this should be clear illustration that if you destroy one part of the ecosystem cycle, you destroy the entire cycle. It is permanently irreplaceable once that has happened.

Flower Valley Conservation Trust and the farms it manages started in 1999 as the brainchild of a concerned individual, Carol Blumenthal. When there was talk that the area was to be converted to commercial vineyards, she enlisted the help of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) to purchase Flower Valley Farm. The conservation trust was then set up to manage the farm. In the years that followed more neighbouring farms were purchased and, among other things, entered into a joint venture with Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. The venture set up Fynbos Retreat on Witvoetskloof Farm, a neighbouring farm, offering three fully-furnished self-catering houses for visitors and tourists. One Erica species is found only on Fynbos Retreat, and nowhere else in the world. Grootbos itself is also a leading example of sustainable eco-tourism that includes 5-star luxury accommodation.

Fynbos Retreat also offers a number of activities, from hiking, mountain-biking, bird-watching, swimming, or simply being at one with nature in this tranquil setting. The Trust also works with Walker Bay Trails to jointly promote the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy (of which Flower Valley is a member) to potential hikers. A three-day hiking trail called The Fynbos Trail, during which hikers cross Fynbos Retreat and Flower Valley Farm, was launched in 2011. It is routed through sections of fynbos-covered mountains, afromontane forests and milkwood forests, with stunning mountain and sea views.



  • Fynbos Retreat Tel +27 06 03597086 or +27 82 4144586
  • Flower Valley Conservation Trust head office Tel + 27 (0) 28 425 2218 or email info@flowervalley.co.za
  • Flower Valley Farm Tel + 27 (0) 28 388 0713; or visit their website at flowervalley.org.za


Zulu-Mpophomeni Tourism Experience…discovering fascinating Zulu culture


Many people are fascinated by Zulu culture, but know so little about it. Have you ever been mesmerized by those feathered Zulu warriors singing and stamping their feet in a war dance, or read about the exploits of Zulu kings and their fighting impis against the mighty British armies, seen the traditional huts dotting the countryside, or the women singing and dancing while weaving baskets and cooking over open fires? If it made you feel you’d like to know much more about these proud people, then Zulu Mpophomeni Tourisim Experience is an absolute must.

Zulu Mpophomeni Tourisim Experience (ZMTE) is a community-based tourism organisation that was launched formally in 2000 to promote the people of the Mpophomeni Township 14km from Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.  Today ZMTE is an award-winning, non-profit organisation catering to an ever-growing number of local and international tourists who seek out this unique opportunity to experience authentic Zulu culture and explore unspoilt township life. The ZMTE is structured to serve the interests of the local community through value-based partnerships with stakeholders that include a variety of female-owned and managed crafts co-operatives, privately-owned B&B operators and involves youth, traditional leadership structures, story tellers, traditional healers, crafters, artists and guides.

Visitors are introduced to the rich local history, fascinating traditional culture, vibrant township life and warm and welcoming people in the embodiment of Ubuntu. The experience includes township and rural tours. Experience the lively fun vibe of a local shebeen (tavern) while enjoying the local music, playing a game of pool or tucking into some really good food. You’ll also visit artists and crafters and get to see their wonderful work. And from the hills of Mountain View overlooking Midmar Dam, you can look down on the valley below and get a panoramic view of how the people of Mpophomeni community live their daily lives.

As part of the tour you’ll visit the old Montrose farmhouse, built in 1880, which is currently being developed as a Community Eco-Museum Centre. You will also be taken to the Wall of Reconciliation commemorating the 120 people who died during political violence in the area in the 1980/90s.

A highlight of the day is when you get to sample local culinary skills by indulging in a traditional Zulu meal, while sipping locally brewed sorghum beer amongst the ancestors in a traditional hut. A Zulu praise singer will welcome you. While enjoying your meal you will also be learning much more about the social customs and traditions of the Zulu forbearers, as passed on down through the generations. In the rondavel room men will be seated on benches on the right facing east, and women will sit on grass mats on the left, facing the men…a time-honoured part of Zulu culture.  Dinner is served in traditional Zulu style on wooden trays and consists of steam bread, ujeqe, samp and beans / isitambu, ox tribe / inyama yangaphakathi, pot roast beef / inyama yezithebe, imifino, sweet potatoes / ubhatata, and yams / amadumbe. Drinks are served in a traditional clay pot. The entertainment is traditional Zulu dancing in which guests are encouraged to participate.

Accommodation is also available for visitors and tourists. ZMTE currently partners with six fully-operating B&B establishments in the township that are privately owned by separate families. They have been graded as two stars by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. The B&Bs offer comfortable, well-appointed rooms that sleep between 1 to 4 guests and are located throughout the different sections of Mpophomeni. These families have been involved with ZMTE from its inception and have catered to visitors from all over the world.



Tel +27 (0)33 238 0288; cell +27 (0)82 228 2044; email info@zmte.co.za.


The Apartheid Museum & Constitution Hill … travel back into the rise and fall of apartheid


We’ve all heard about apartheid, but the numbers of those who actually lived through it are becoming less, and an entire generation that came after 1994 have no real inkling of what it was like. However, two museums in Johannesburg – absolutely unique in the world – will take you back in time through the rise and fall of apartheid. The one, Constitution Hill, together with the Constitutional Court, is part of the Constitution Hill Human Rights Precinct. The other, the Apartheid Museum, is located next to a reconstructed mining village and theme park called Gold Reef City. It is a journey everyone should undertake, lest we forget what humans can do to each other.

In 1999 Nelson Mandela said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. This is the fundamental message that these two museums seek to reinforce by documenting the era of apartheid in South Africa, and that which came thereafter.

Constitution Hill is a living museum – fittingly next to the highest court in South Africa which endorses the rights of all citizens – that tells the story of South Africa’s journey through apartheid to democracy. The site of the museum is a former military fort and prison – the Old Fort, Women’s Jail and Number Four jail – where many world-renowned men and women were incarcerated. Among them were Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and Fatima Meer.

In the run-up to the historic Treason Trial in 1956, Mandela and Tambo were held here along with 154 others who had been arrested. The Anti-Pass Campaign of 1960 saw additional prisoners incarcerated, and many schoolchildren below the age of 18 were arrested after the student uprisings of 1976 and detained here.

But during its 100 years in operation, these jail cells also held tens of thousands of ordinary people: men and women of all races, creeds, ages and political agendas; children too; the ordinary and the elite. On the walls of these cells, preserved as they were, you can read the graffiti of the many who passed through them. This stands in stark contrast to the adjacent Constitutional Court, where the essence of constitutionalism and freedom in a modern democracy fill the courtroom and passages in a celebration of art, design and architecture.

The Constitutional Court building is also remarkable for its fusion of architecture, art and adornment, housing its own permanent, curated art collection here. The creation of this collection was driven by two Constitutional Court judges, Justices Albie Sachs and Yvonne Mokgoro. They commissioned Joseph Ndlovu to create a tapestry that would reflect humanity and social interdependence in the new democratic South Africa’s Bill of Rights, which is on display in the collection today. Included in the collection are works of other famous South African artists like Cecil Skotnes, Willie Bester, William Kentridge, Robert Hodgins, Marlene Dumas and Judith Mason. The foyer’s chandeliers and light fittings were designed by sculptor Walter Oltmann, while the court’s rugs, carpets and acoustic panels were designed by Andrew Verster.

Finally, on 31 January 1983, the prison doors to the Old Fort and Number Four were officially closed and the place stood derelict until is re-birth in the early 2000s.

From Constitution Hill, driving across town following the M1 going southwest, you will reach the Gold Reef City theme park…and next to it the solemn, sober concrete structure of the Apartheid Museum. Its architectural starkness is a reflection of the stark history that it holds within its walls. This museum, established in 2001, has gained recognition the pre-eminent museum dealing with 20th century South Africa, with the era of apartheid at its core.

Careful attention was given to its design and an architectural consortium, comprising several leading architectural firms, conceptualised the design of the building. It stands on 7 acres of land and is a superb example of design, space and landscape. A multi-disciplinary team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers was assembled to organise its exhibits. The museum houses 22 individual permanent exhibitions, while it also puts on addition exhibitions form time to time.

The first permanent exhibitions covers the ‘Pillars of the Constitution’, dealing with the drafting and adoption of the constitution by the Constitutional Assembly between 1994 and 1996. Another deals with ‘Race Classification’ as the foundation of all apartheid laws. The exhibition titled ‘Journeys’ deals with the discovery of gold in Johannesburg in 1886 which attracted migrants from all over Southern Africa and elsewhere, and how they became integrated with apartheid being designed to prevent that. Another exhibition called ‘Segregation’ deals with the situation following the formation of the Union of South Africa in which the majority of blacks and white women were denied the vote, setting the foundation for apartheid. It also details opposition to these policies and developments. The exhibition titled ‘Apartheid’, examines the social and political forces that led to apartheid, such as the poor white problem following the Anglo-Boer War and the rise of Afrikaner nationalism.

A thought-provoking display of large photographs provides a powerful window on the process of physical removal and relocation at the core of apartheid. Other exhibitions include ‘The Turn to Violence, following Sharpeville in 1960; ‘Life under Apartheid’ with an excellent presentation of photographer Ernest Cole’s photographic record, which was banned in apartheid South Africa; ‘The Homelands’; ‘The Rise of Black Consciousness’; ‘Political Executions’; ‘The Significance of 1976’ dealing with consequences of the Soweto students’ uprising; insight into Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and release; the National Peace Accord; the 1994 first democratic election; and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As the museum’s website proclaims: “For anyone wanting to understand and experience what apartheid South Africa was really like, a visit to the Apartheid Museum is fundamental”.