Whilst the majority of Hermanus residents are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the successful outcome of the future Special Rating Areas which will boost general security in the town, spare a thought for one of the most precious natural resources we have.
Fernkloof Nature Reserve is a place where residents and visitors alike should be able to enjoy nature in peaceful surroundings. However, this sense of tranquillity was shattered in the middle of one afternoon last week when a young couple from Cape Town were ambushed on the boardwalk leading to the waterfall by two men wielding knives.
Fortunately, they had nothing of value on them and whilst one of the attackers agreed to back off without harming them, one threatened to “cut” them. Thankfully, his companion persuaded him otherwise, but understandably this young couple was left severely traumatised. Word of such an occurrence spreads and taints the reputation of our beautiful town as a desirable tourist destination.
Although the Hermanus Botanical Society is viewed as the guardian of Fernkloof, taking responsibility for the maintenance and management of the reserve, the municipality owns the land and needs to take seriously the safekeeping of the visitors, both local and from many parts of the world. Formerly, there were at least two guards based at the Visitors’ Centre, appointed by the municipality to either offer to accompany walkers or simply be there to keep an eye on the vehicles. Unfortunately, these guards were removed due to ‘cost cutting’.
Please will those in authority take on board the severity of the present situation and ensure that positive steps are taken to prevent such attacks from becoming the norm.
The Municipality answers:
Following the incident last week, two meetings were held between role players to address the critical issue of safety in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve (FNR), which is one of the top three activities enjoyed in Hermanus.
The drafting of an FNR operational safety plan was facilitated by Neville Michaels, municipal Director of Protection Services. This plan will be tabled at the next Hermanus Safety Forum meeting on 24 February. The essence of the plan is the establishment of a Tourism Safety Monitoring Team who have already been deployed on Monday to do patrols.
These monitors will focus on the hotspots within the FNR and will be available to accompany visitors on hikes. In addition to the daily visible patrolling, private security and Law Enforcement officers will do patrols and the SAPS will be requested to do the same. Weather permitting, a drone will be used to give an aerial overview of FNR. Visitors who would like to make use of a free guide to accompany them, can contact Hermanus Tourism on 028 312 2629.