Love is in the air. The weather is scorchingly beautiful and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. We live in a part of the world where there are plenty of eco-friendly and inexpensive ways to celebrate love on this day.
As is the case with most special days, this day started out with noble intentions as a simple celebration of love, and has evolved into another capitalistic spending spree. St. Valentinus, an early Christian saint, was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. A hopeless romantic then, and how appropriate.
Yet today, it is impossible to miss the advertisements urging you to spoil your loved one by buying expensive perfume and jewellery, or taking trips to exotic, romantic locations. One such advert actually says “giving a diamond is a sign of love.”
This type of programming should be taken off the air, I think. What we sometimes forget, is that we already live in an exotic, romantic location! And the best gift is the one that is being celebrated, the love shared between two people and their planet. We have been on a quest to find ways in which we can celebrate this love in such a way that we help the world, rather than hamper it.
Nature at the heart of romance
If you’re in Cape Town, why not take your loved one on a romantic hike up Lion’s Head and watch the sun go down over the city skyline? You could put together a picnic basket full of healthy, organic food, and then enjoy this on top of the mountain. So many not-too-strenuous hikes present themselves across the country, with Nature inviting us to spend time with her.
Another favourite for us is the first waterfall, in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, just outside Stellenbosch. A twenty minute hike takes you to a majestic waterfall, which includes a fresh, cold mountain pool at the bottom. You might even want to go further to the second waterfall. Just be sure to bring a lot of water with you, and a first aid kit just in case!
Probably our personal favourite is the Kirstenbosch gardens. There is such a wide variety of flora and fauna there to set the scene for your romantic picnic. My partner and I like to find a quiet location in the shade, and lay down our blanket there. On a busy day like Valentine’s Day, you might be a bit less lucky when it comes to privacy, but if you are willing to take a bit of a walk a bit higher up, you should find the perfect spot. Apparently you can also take a hike right to the top of Table Mountain, starting at Kirstenbosch. I would ask for the route at the entrance before attempting this though.
Wildlife and birds complete the setting
If you are in Pretoria, there are a number of romantic places to go. The Faerie Glen Nature Reserve would be the first choice for many couples. This is a beautiful place of national heritage, located close to the residential areas of Pretoria. There is plenty of wildlife here, including over 150 species of birds, making this a great place for a romantic picnic on Valentine’s Day.
While Johannesburg also has its fair share of Parks to picnic in, I would probably rather opt for a horse ride for two. There is something very romantic about the idea of taking a horse ride together. It allows you to cuddle up close and experience something which is very different to your average date. It’s the sense of old fashioned courtship that creates a romantic occasion or the thrill of doing something completely different.
If your partner is fond of animals, why not go check out the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre near Hartbeespoort Dam? The center houses a variety of rare and endangered species of cheetah in their natural surroundings, and you can take a guided tour of the centre. You will be shown the different behavioral patterns of these magnificent creatures, and what scientists are doing to preserve their existence. Make sure to book in advance, as it is very popular.
Learning is a good way to love
‘Environment: People and Conservation in South Africa‘ is produced by WESSA, the oldest conservation organization in the country. This quarterly publication informs, educates and enlightens readers about the crucial environmental issues facing southern Africa, while also providing information about eco-friendly products and services for the home and office.
I think another great way to enhance your beloved’s life is to give her a course of some kind, to learn something you know she’s keen on, like a course in eco art. Learn from eco artist Janet Botes or find a teacher in your area.
Readers from Durban will know how crazy the beaches can get on a day like this. While it can be great fun on any other summer’s day, this is a day in which you would want to spend quality time with your partner, not a million screaming kids. I would rather take a drive to Amanzimtoti, which is just over 20kms south of Durban centre. This attractive nature resort has a bird sanctuary that features a captivating self-guided trail, winding through the forest.
There are three hides from which you can see many of the 150 species of bird which visit the large expanse of open water in the sanctuary. Even if you’re not serious about birds, the sanctuary offers a very scenic day out, but they do add their own happy music to the environment.
Blindfold enhances the magic
I think we must disconnect the day from how much we spend. It’s about the memories you create and share. I like to do silly stuff, like the old blindfold trick. Once you’ve decided on a location, you make it more special by not telling her where it is. I gently blindfold my partner and lead her to the spot. This could even be somewhere at home, once you’ve prepared the room/garden with some special goodies.
Now for our gifts to you… we went in search of ideas for eco gifts and found some green companies who were prepared to gift our readers with something on Valentine’s Day! Thank you to them – these are all products we believe in. Please support our green friends and make their initiatives part of your life. Do play fair – if you manage to hit the jackpot with your first mail, allow others the rest.
- African Aromatics are artisan produced, 100% natural perfumes born out of many years of research into forgotten ancient techniques of preservation of nature’s bounty. This wisdom was all but forgotten with the introduction of synthetic preservatives, or chemical synthetic flavourants. Many of the techniques are now considered too costly and time consuming for mass production. Here you can find Real perfume, steeped in ancient history, combined with modern scientific research into each of the ingredients used.
- SoyLites candles are made of soya instead of petrochemical by-products.
- iPhepha Bads is a community initiative in the Natal Midlands that produces the most beautiful beads made from recycled paper – Elma’s favourite jewellery at the moment.
Organic food rules
How about a romantic meal in an organic restaurant?
- Mango Ginger in Observatory, Cape Town – THE place for magic organic cakes and whole-earth food and intelligent, conscious staff. “Mango Ginger is a pavement café that bakes and serves the most delicious fresh breads, quiches, pies and cakes. With an emphasis on only the freshest, healthy ingredients, a number of wheat-free and organic options and a large vegetarian section in the menu, it’s the kind of café you can happily eat at every week without feeling guilty. Hell, it’s the kind of place where even the chocolate cake must be good for you, if for no other reason than because it’s been sitting in such a lovely environment all morning!” says food reviewer Bridget McNulty.
- Vredenhof Organic Estate is a Swiss family run, fully organic estate nestled in the Winelands on Bredell Road, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. The Coffee Shop with professional in-house Mixologist and Barista is a large scale kitchen run by 2 professional chefs. The Organic Deli features organic fresh farm produce and supports other organic farms in the area. On the estate, they also offer a nursery, themed children’s play area, rose garden, miniature golf course, amphitheatre and animal petting area, according to EatOut.
- Eight is a new restaurant on the Spier winery grounds in Stellenbosch. The number eight highlights balance, cycles and abundance. With this focus in mind, Eight only serves organic foods and hopes to bring customers a little closer to their food. By utilizing the farm-to-fork method, only the freshest local ingredients end up on the table, and you’ll be able to taste the difference. In addition to fresh foods and organic Spier wines, Eight also displays local African art and other local products.
- Earthmother Café, 106 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, Durban: I have not experienced Earthmother Café, but what I read about them online made my mouth drool. Not only is it vegetarian, but produce is organic, free-trade, ethically sourced and so fresh it squeaks. Think of a variety of exotic salads, unusual bakes, quiches and more, plus a gluten-free selection for the wheat intolerant.
- Govinda’s Durban: A low cost café-style restaurant located inside the grounds of the largest Hare Krishna temple in Africa. It specialises in vegetarian Indian food, especially curries, snacks and desserts. The staff are knowledgeable and can advise if each dish is suitable for vegans … most are!
There are actually very many organic restaurants spread out around the country, you just need to know where to look.
We live in a very busy age, so the biggest gift you can give is your time and your love. For this day, make sure that this person is the only priority on your mind. It is often difficult to give a relationship the daily attention that it needs, so that’s why I feel that Valentine’s Day is important. Go ahead, spoil your beloved, bearing the Earth in heart and mind.
Let’s make it our life’s work to celebrate Love every day. Look for romantic and inexpensive spots to visit with your beloved, or your family, to honour Nature and learn from her. That is how we will find our centre again.
By Elma Pollard