The Garden Route boasts an extraordinary diversity of species throughout its extensive range – almost 7000 different species just on terra firma alone, as this number excludes the astounding web of marine life that thrives along our Garden Route coastline. A notable example is our iconic Knysna Estuary, which is considered the most important estuarine system in South Africa because it has a higher species diversity than any other estuary in the country. There is no doubt that the miracle of nature is all around us in the Garden Route, even smack bang in the middle of our urban centres and even our own backyards.
The Garden Route District Municipality has tapped into a way for us to collectively share the wildlife wonders of our region with the world by entering the annual City Nature Challenge 2020, an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in hundreds of cities across the globe. The aim of the challenge is to see which city can record the highest numbers of fauna and flora over a 4-day period. Now in its 5th year, the City nature Challenge will take place from 24th-27 April 2020.
It is super easy for all those nature lovers out there to take part. All you need to do is download the iNaturalist app, find plants and animals, take a picture of what you find and share your observation on the iNaturalist app, noting the location of your find. As of 20 June 2019, iNaturalist users contributed over 25,600,000 observations of plants, animals, and other organisms worldwide and there currently more than 1 million iNaturalist registered users.
“Knowing what species are in our city and where they are helps us study and protect them, but the ONLY way to do that is by all of us – scientists, land managers, and the community – working together to find and document the nature in our area, states the iNaturalist website. “By participating in the City Nature Challenge, not only do you learn more about your local nature, but you can also make your city a better place – for you and other species!” It’s a ‘bioblitz’ kind of competition where cities are in a contest against each other to see who can make the most observations of nature, who can find the most species, and who can engage the most people.”
iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the world. A joint initiative between the California Academy of Science and the National Geographic Society, observations recorded with iNaturalist provide valuable open data for scientific research.
We are currently living in extremely uncertain times. But we are very blessed that in the Garden Route we can find spaces outdoors to be alone, magical places where isolation will fill your soul – from sweeping stretches of sand and sea to verdant forests where few people venture. It is time for all of us to retreat and find peace in solitude and quietness and the miracle of nature.
Peace of the Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. _Wendell Berry