The Cape of Good Hope, forming Africa’s most southerly shores, is notorious for spectacular storms. I spent nearly two years roaming about the Fynbos – the name given to the most species-rich though smallest in area of the seven Floral Kingdoms of the world. I was currently living in a friend’s empty holiday home surrounded by a small coastal hamlet’s worth of other empty holiday homes in the village of Roi-els. Though mostly deserted by humans during the winter months, it did host a large population of baboons who whooped up and down from the hills behind the village and partied on from one tin roof to another during the “quiet” season. Mongooses, snakes and other fynbos inhabitants stayed well clear.
I was somewhat stuck though, as I had given over a laughably huge amount of Rands to a dog-bullying farmer in exchange for Max. I had no choice. Max was a heart-rendingly adorable young Alsatian/cross whose spirit hadn’t yet been broken by inexplicable, pointless meanness and we were soon cavorting on the beach – often by moonlight. The starlit nights were usually so bright that I tested the idea of it being possible to read by moonlight in certain parts of the world. It’s correct. One evening, after cowering indoors through a storm so extreme that even the baboons made themselves scarce [were they cowering in their hilltop caves?], Max and I set off beach-combing. All was now still and calm.
There, gleaming against white sands and clinging to one of a small forest’s worth of huge, rubbery kelp trees wrenched from their root-holds in the sea bed and flung by the ocean’s titanic forces far up the beach – was this little floating garden. The rich colours of the fynbos’ land-based species seem mirrored in the hidden ocean. As above, so below ? There are over 720 seaweed species recorded – so far ! – off Africa’s southern shores, many of which are endemic. So, of course, this sample had to be painted. © Frances Livingstone 2018