Situated at the southernmost tip of Africa, the Cape Floral Kingdom is classified as a world ecological “hot spot”. This minute region houses botanical species within heathland known as “fynbos” which is found nowhere else on earth. This flora, unique in its diversity, is in great danger of extinction from human activity. Some 9,000 plant species have been identified within the region, of which 70% exist nowhere else on the planet. However, over one third of the fynbos has already been lost to development, agriculture and the invasion of alien plant species. What remains is being rapidly fragmented and degraded to the extent that some 30 species are already known to be extinct and some 1,700 are considered threatened. In short, unless swift action is taken, South Africa (and the world) will lose a critical and irreplaceable part of its natural heritage. 

 Within this region lies the Robberg Coastal Corridor (“RCC” or “Corridor”), an 18-kilometre stretch of beautiful pristine coastline that links the Garden Route National Park to the Robberg Nature Reserve. By connecting these two ecological sanctuaries, and by protecting and maintaining it, the RCC will facilitate the natural movement of flora and fauna along it, preserve the diversity of genetic species and thereby secure the last remaining ecological lifeline to the increasingly isolated Robberg Peninsula. 

 This crucial ecological challenge mobilised a small group of landowners within the Corridor “the Founders” (namely Dr “Robbie” Robinson (formerly CEO of SANParks), Chris von Christierson (founding Chairperson), Andrew Hill, Dawn Leggat and Eden District Municipality) to constitute the RCC Landowners’ Association (RCCLA) in 2010, in order to protect the Corridor for posterity. To this end, the RCCLA, in a ground-breaking initiative, and with the support of the Eden to Addo Corridor Initiative, SANParks, CapeNature and Bitou Municipality, voluntarily made application in 2011 to the Minister for Environmental Affairs and Development Planning of the Western Cape, to declare its members’ properties a Protected Environment (PE) in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act. 

 The five properties were finally declared and gazetted a Protected Environment in September 2015. Known as the Robberg Coastal Corridor Protected Environment (RCCPE), it gained non-profit status in November 2018, whereupon the RCCLA changed its name to the RCCPE. 

 Currently, the RCCPE covers the major portion of the 18 kilometre RCC. A second phase of PE applications by certain remaining Corridor landowners is soon to be submitted. This will be followed by a final PE application phase which, together with the Admiralty Zone and the protection afforded by prevailing Environmental Laws, will see the Corridor sufficiently consolidated and protected to meet its long-term objective of a functioning coastal eco-corridor. 

 An essential requirement of the RCCPE is the adoption by PE Landowners of a Management Plan compiled by CapeNature in collaboration with the RCCPE, which sets out how the Corridor will be managed in accordance with best ecological practice. The Management Plan includes ongoing clearing of alien species, wetland/water protection; pollution/waste monitoring; fire protection; controlled burning of the fynbos; security; appropriate fencing; visual pollution; and general monitoring, patrolling and protection of the PE. The Management Plan is currently operational and monitored by CapeNature. 

 One of the biggest challenges facing the RCCPE is its long-term economic sustainability. Maintaining the RCCPE and adhering to the Management Plan comes at significant cost and commitment, for which viable economic solutions need to be found, not only to sustain the Corridor, but to contribute to the local economy. Given the unique natural attributes of the RCC, to which can be added its rich paleoanthropology and Origins of Man history, and its proximity to one of South Africa’s prime tourist destinations (Plettenberg Bay), eco-tourism is clearly an essential activity to promote. To this end, guided day walking trails were recently initiated with a view to establishing overnight trails along the entire RCC in due course. Once sustainability of the trails has been successfully demonstrated along the Corridor, our objective is to engage with SANParks to extend the trail to include the Garden Route National Park. This would result in a 35-kilometre, 4-day trail from Robberg to Noetsie which would match the renowned Otter Trail on the Tsitsikamma Coast, in length, experience and beauty.