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Wild Fire and the Rebirth of the Dragon

Dear Friends,

Today we feel humbled by Nature and grateful for community.

Last Friday evening, a veld fire ripped through all 1,000 hectares of Drakenskloof. After saving our team village, our incredible team, together with professional fire fighters and local farmers, fought the fiercest, most devastating fire we have ever seen as it tore through our Homestead. Thanks to their heroic efforts, they narrowly saved both India House and Mapacha House.

Everything else is gone.

Among the most tragic realities is the devastation of wildlife. As we made our way through the smouldering ground the day after the blaze, we came across the remains of a puff adder and an angulate tortoise that never stood a chance. The abundance of kites still circling in the sky overhead bears testimony to the many animals that were consumed by the fire.

But there are two sides to every story. 

In tandem with this black and white catastrophe is the very real sense of an important natural cycle at work. It has been 12 years, to the day, since this landscape last burned. This fire is, in fact, right on time. Without it, important fynbos species cannot reproduce. The Cape Floral Kingdom not only depends on, but is designed to facilitate these quick, shallow burns every decade or so.

The earth is already awash with copper red seeds from the Sugarbush Protea. The fire lilies should be out in the next 6 days. Once the land cools and the first rains come, we will have a front row seat to witness the rebirth of this incredible Floral Kingdom - an opportunity that may only come again when our grandchildren are born.

The Chinese word for “crisis” comprises two characters. One means “danger”, the other means “opportunity” or “change point”. In this culture, the dragon and the phoenix are the two most auspicious animals. The phoenix symbolises the union of the yin and yang, the two opposing forces of the universe. It is also a symbol of immortality and rebirth, as it is said to be able to be reborn from its own ashes. 

Inspired by this age-old wisdom, our 2024 plan at Drakenskloof has transformed into “Disaster Management and the Rebirth of the Dragon”.

We see the opportunity: to manage the disaster well - for our team, our trade partners, our guests, and the broader community. And then to tell the story of renewal, showcasing this rare corner of the Cape Floral Kingdom during its natural cycle of recovery. To see our land with fresh eyes, removing alien vegetation at ground zero and placing new infrastructure with the clearest view of the landscape that we will ever have. To embrace the unknown and let our appreciation for Nature and its work flourish all around us. 

Right now, there is still much work to do on the ground. While the fire has passed us, it continues on its path of destruction in our neighbouring mountains and communities. Over 25,000 Ha of mountain area has burned, with many properties continuing to be saved by 12 fire fighting vehicles and 115 brave fire crew. Once the immediate crisis is over, we are looking forward to sharing this rare journey of renewal with you.

We are deeply grateful to those who have helped, and continue to help us and others in the region. Thank you CWDM Fire Services, NCC, Leading Edge Aviation, West Coast District, Swartland, Breede Valley, Drakenstein and Witzenberg Municipalities, CapeNature, G24, Volunteer WildFire Services, Working on Fire, Department of Fisheries, Forests and Environment, Provincial Disaster Management Centre and the Fire Protection Association.

With love,

Sam, Keri and the Drakenskloof Team

Follow our journey of renewal at @drakenskloof_sanctuary.

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