Recently I read a social media post where the account holder slated one of the trails in the Garden Route. Her complaint is that, just because a trail is established doesn’t make it worthwhile walking and that, for her, it was a boring trail.
The trail she was slating was one of the Elephant Trail loops at Diepvalle. I was amazed. All three of the trail loops are incredibly interesting. Not only is this a location where two of the Big 5, namely elephant and Leopard, roam freely in the forest, but the fern flanked streams, colourful fungii and continual birdsong make it a sanctuary for nature lovers
Though the chance of seeing an elephant or Leopard is extremely rare, signs of their presence are definitely tangible. In fact, many times I have had guests simply stop to admire a set of elephant tracks and a mound of dung, secretly hoping to have one emerge from the forest.
Indeed, on one afternoon walk we returned to our vehicles after dark using our phones as torches because my guests were adamant that an elephant would return to a feeding spot we found.
Trawling the social media account I soon realised that, sadly for her, all the hot spots she had visited had not stimulated her imagination for two reasons. Firstly, they lacked a suitable WoW factor for a selfie, and secondly, and more importantly, she was ignorant of the diversity and natural wealth that she had been walking through. So most of her images were of her on a steep cliff (presumably supposed to be scary), or been there done that next to a waterfall or some lookout point overlooking a captivating landscape.
So she had been to some amazing places in the Garden Route and South Africa, but most likely left without learning about the ecology.
Which got me thinking about the purpose of travel in the context of biodiversity erosion and environmental degradation and plastic pollution to name a few.
In all my travels I have researched the ecology of a region and hiked with guides to learn, and more importantly, understand the nuances of regional ecology.
A month ago I was scheduled to guide some European guests on a hike. There was a misunderstanding on the meeting location and they started the hike without me. Afterwards I took them on another trail. We took 2 hours doing 3km. When we finished, they were enthused and told me that they had enjoyed the second trail more than the first because, according to them, there was more to see on the second trail.
I was amazed at their comment because the first trail, in my mind, has more to see and greater diversity.
Reading the aforementioned social media account I now realise what my guests meant. Without understanding the ecology they were walking through, it was indeed just a boring trail through an avenue of trees.
Sadly, it is this exact ignorance which is part of the ecological and biodiversity erosion and degradation that is threatening the globe.
In a world threatened by species extinction and over population, it is crucial that both travellers and localslearn about the ecological significance of various regions as a means of mitigating complete destruction of the environment.