Reflecting on 2018, one of the highlights for us was our involvement with the Wild Flower Camp which was held on the Kersefontein Farm in August, when Travel Designer joined Andrew Bance of Pangaea Tribe and Chante Bradfield of Cape Living Collection in creating an unforgettable experience on the West Coast, one that would bring the wildflowers to the clients like never before.
The idea was born while trying to organise a trip for clients wanting to see the Spring flowers, yet not necessarily make the long drive to Namaqualand, the traditional home of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This wildflower phenomenon occurs every year from about mid-August to mid-September when after the winter rains the flowers throw back their vibrant heads to displays of white, yellow and orange, carpeting thousands of hectares of veld in colour.
A conversation at the right time with adventure guide extraordinaire Andrew, whose family owns the historic farm Kersefontein just north of Cape Town, pointed to the 9000 ha property that belongs to Julian Melck – Andrew’s uncle – and is home to over 1200 species of wildflowers, as the perfect alternative for complete immersion into nature.
Plans were set into motion, the location of the remote mobile camp near the curve of the Berg River defined by Andrew and a collection of fauna and flora experts lined up, creating a very unique and exclusive experience. Among them was Helene Preston, West Coast resident, botany expert and member of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, as well as Dr Giselle Murison, Project Manager for the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project at BirdLife International, South Africa.
On the 18th Century Cape Dutch Kersefontein farm that is to this day owned and farmed by the Melck Family, Andrew – who is 9th generation – took on the role of field guide, camp manager and stargazer extraordinaire in charge of all logistics. His brilliant wife Chante Bradfield from Cape Living Collection cooked all the delicious Cape Style dishes in the Veld Kitchen, with ingredients sourced from the farm and the surrounding community. Chante also took care of the interior design of the accommodation and mess tent, adding her magic to the layout and style of the lodging.
Ozzy was on hand during the week as driver and guide, photographer, support at the camp and of course presenting his incredible craft Gin & Tonic and sunset appreciation masterclass to the guests while charming them all with his passion for life and love of the great outdoors.
It all ran impeccably and we are so proud and excited to be offering this as one of our 2019 experiences.
An itinerary was crafted that allowed you to get the most out of the experience while having enough time to relax and explore independently. Among the activities included were a guided tour by Andrew of the Kersefontein Homestead, which is a National Monument, with a short talk on the farm and an introduction to the family history. The option of a horseback ride, veld walk or vehicle transfer to the camp that was established 3.2km’s away.
Sunset Gin Appreciation and Coffee Master Class with our very own Ozzy.
A talk was given by Wild Flower botanical specialist Helene Preston at the Veld Kitchen, followed by a captivating and insightful walk through the Wild Flowers with her. A second botanical walk was offered at the Southern Vlei section of the farm. Birding Specialist, Dr Giselle Murison, Project Manager for the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project at BirdLife International, South Africa presented on the birds on the property before an educational walk to discover as many of them as possible.
The guests rode Electric “Fat Bikes” down to the Berg river jetty where the Kersefontein River Cruiser was waiting on a secret beach on the northern bank of the river to take them on a cruise, on which Andrew and Ozzy were serving drinks. In between, there was walking on the land, a refreshing swim in the Berg River, and simply sitting back with a cup of coffee and revelling in the peace and quiet of the moment.
This section of the Berg River is listed as a significant bird area and is home to over 250 species of bird. It is the rich plant diversity and river ecosystem which attracts this magnificent birdlife. Small elusive game species such as the Cape Clawless Otter, Springbok, Common Duiker, Steenbok, Cape Grysbok, Grey Rhebok, African Wildcat, Caracal, Genet Cat, Small Grey Mongoose, Ardvark, Honey Badger, Bat Eared Fox, Cape Fox, Black Backed Jackal, Porcupine and Wild boar may also be spotted at various times of the day nearby the camp.
A large heronry located about 1 km west of the farmhouse is known to have existed for the past 300 years and holds 13 breeding species, including substantial numbers of Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed Egret and African Spoonbill, as well as Glossy Ibis. The reed marsh immediately adjacent to the floodplain is important for breeding African Marsh Harrier, while the African Fish Eagle and European Bee-eaters can be seen along the river.
There is a significant roosting site for four of South Africa’s cormorant species and at night thousands of Cape Cormorants come and roost here.
(Information supplied by Wild Flower Camp)
An adventurer and experience specialist, Andrew is a 9th generation Melck Family member and nephew of Julian. Passionate about his heritage at Kersefontein, it is here that he shares a candid yet enthralling view of farm life. Andrew has made a successful career of exploring the outdoors in the far corners of the globe, but it is here at home where his knowledge of nature, heritage and culture is honed to make for the most memorable experience. As the man behind the Wildflower Camp, you could not be in better hands – not to mention how well he and Ozzy get on with their like-minded passion for creating the very best experiences for their clients, who quickly become fast friends.
For eight generations the Kersefontein farm has been handed down to the sons, with Julian Melck the present owner. A dedicated farmer, an advocate of the High Court of South Africa, aviator, musician and storyteller, this multi-faceted character has been aptly described as a modern Renaissance Man. It is here on Kersefontein that Julian continues the centuries-old tradition of quality farming practices to yield and raise the best possible product and during the Wildflower Camp and on a visit to Kersefontein, you will go horseriding or for walks with him, and spend time soaking up the evocative tales of life on this historic West Coast property around the campfire, or in his Manor House library.
The Kersefontein farm experience stands alone as a must do, and starts as you enter the property and are welcomed into the grace and beauty of a bygone era. This is the ultimate place to spend time enjoying the gentle pleasures of lifelong walks along farm roads, a good read from Julian’s library, lazing on the banks or boating on the picturesque Berg River, while simply soaking up the peace and magic of this special place.
The Berg River is host to thousands of waterfowl every spring and beyond the house, the veld abounds in countless wildflowers in season. As a working farm, cattle, horses and sheep are some of the farm animals you will encounter on your wanders. Many figureheads and members of high society have visited the farm to witness the transformation of a semi-arid landscape into an explosive cacophony of colour and sound – notably Graça Machel and the late Nelson Mandela.
(Information supplied by Wild Flower Camp)
Set on the snaking Berg River, with hiking and walking trails, cycling and horseriding, as well as a river cruises offered as part of the three-day itinerary, the guests took in the views and wonder of the flower season from every perspective. The classic mobile luxury tented camp was created within three months by Andrew and Chante, becoming the base for an incredible week of luxury accommodation and unrivalled activities.
Personally hosted on a family farm by Andrew, Chante and Julian with Ozzy in the support role, drinks were served, meals were lovingly prepared and the guest’s every need was catered for, nurturing their souls on this precious land that is covered by wildflowers each year.
The tents featured Queen size or twin beds with duvets, pillows and blankets, additional blankets and hot water bottles, carpets, luggage racks, soft natural lighting and LED lanterns, water and flask tea stations with rusks, Melvill and Moon directors chairs, a small outside table and reading material. The private ablutions included authentic reed clad ensuites with chemical flush toilets, warm water bucket showers, a Melvill and Moon canvas wash basin, towels, mirror and luxury amenities.
For three days and two nights, the guests lived in the fields of colour. The scene enhanced by a communal fireplace where everybody gathered for a Gin & Tonic in the evening to talk about the discoveries and adventures of the day. Meals were served in the communal Bedouin tent with dining chairs and tables, linen, crockery, cutlery and glassware, all complimenting the delicious meals. It was a triumph.
After the week on the farm, the clients departed and the camp was packed up, leaving behind little evidence of its existence …
Contact Travel Designer to book your visit and stay at Kersfontein Farm, which is available throughout the year and offers an authentic farm experience hosted by Andrew, Julian and Ozzy.
The incredible photos are supplied by Andrew Bance and our in-house photographer Dale Staples (below).