Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Mom & daughter on a mission

When eight-year-old Sabria Basson started Cheetah Cubs Conservation Adventures in 2021, a nature conservation club for children, it was no surprise. She’d seen her mom Leilani Basson organising conservation outreaches for women under the Bush Babes Adventures banner her entire life, and now also wanted to make a difference. Sabria’s idea was to get kids involved and passionate about taking care of our planet. Since most of these trips are attended by moms and their children, their “Mommy & Me Adventures” was born – which brings this particular mom and daughter duo to Cape Town in search of wholesome animal encounters that will be part of future events.

It was a typically windy day when we touched down at Cape Town International Airport on a Friday morning for our Mommy and Me recce. The excitement on Sabria’s face was a joy. Finally she was going to experience this fascinating part of the world.

Our excitement grew when we picked up our ride – a brightblue, brand-new Suzuki S-Presso. This was the ideal baby SUV in which to zip around the Mother City and surrounds. In a jiffy all our luggage was stashed in the deceptively spacious boot (it takes up to 270 litre), and we could take in all the other bells and whistles – including a rear-view camera for those tricky parking spots – now that is a bonus!

Our first conservation visit was to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in Table View. Stepping out of our blue buggy, we were almost swept away by the strong winds which this part of the city is known for. I had not noticed it in the vehicle, which seems to really cling to the road.

We are met by SANCCOB communications officer Ronnis Daniels, who has given us special permission to witness some behind-the-scenes work, and to shoot some video clips for Sabria’s Cheetah Cubs Facebook page. Although penguins are their core conservation brief, other seabirds have found their way here as well. Some will never leave. In the front enclosure where all the ‘permanent residents’ are housed, three Rockhopper penguins eagerly patter up to the volunteer in charge of feeding. Ronnis tells us that, just like in the movie Happy Feet, these little guys had been picked up by the crew of large ships in the Arctic, only to be discarded in a different ocean when their cuteness waned – never to find their way back home. Luckily most of the other seabirds at SANCCOB are not here for the long haul. Their destiny is to be returned to the wild, and all the staff and volunteers work around the clock to make this happen.

Two white buildings with large windows on the far side of the property attract our attention. Ronnis explains that this is where newly-hatched chicks and those up to a few weeks old are kept in a sterile environment and fed every three hours. Night and day. These chicks mainly come from rescued eggs. We learn that it takes an unthinkable 50 hours for a penguin to hatch, and they often need help. It was amazing to witness these fluffballs eat a mushy soup of sardines, which is meticulously weighed and mixed.

The most fascinating part of our visit is watching the penguins do their daily swimming exercises, so they are strong and fit enough to be released into the ocean. They swim for about an hour each day and cannot voluntarily stop, as the little gates at the sides of the “gym” pool are closed. Of course, the dedicated team (many of them volunteers) keeps a watchful eye!

We end our visit in good time and have the luxury of a leisurely drive to our accommodation for the weekend, the luxurious Hotel Sky in the city centre. Since Sabria has never been to Cape Town, we figured a high-rise building would give her the best birds-eye view of the Mother City. Round and round and round we went as we ascended to the parking level in our zippy little S-Presso. The tiny turning circle of this baby astounds me, and there’s plenty of room for cars going down in the opposite direction.

After taking in the magnificent views from the 26th floor of this skyscraper while enjoying dinner, it’s time for an early night. We have a long day ahead of us.

New day, ne adventure

The view of Cape Town harbour from the 25th floor while enjoying our buffet breakfast was mesmerising. One moment we could see little sail boats trying to outrun an enormous wall of fog, and the next everything was covered under a thick blanket. All we can see is the highway miles below and a few cranes protruding through the mist.

In the parking bay our blue robin is ready to fly. Two different sets of visitors give our wheels a thumbs-up and comment on the popularity of these little beauties in Cape Town. It’s true. We see them everywhere.

It is a weirdly quiet Saturday morning for a big city, and it’s hot as we head towards Somerset West for our first conservation visit for the day, Cheetah Outreach. There are no signboards on the main road, and I doubt my navigation, but we turn towards the Somerset Mall and suddenly the entrance is there, amid a very urban setting of coffee shops and other businesses. This is what Sabria has been looking forward to the most: coming face-to-face with a live cheetah. The staff are very keen to meet Sabria, and our email correspondence means they are all informed about Cheetah Cubs and Sabria’s mission. She beams with pride as they know her name and all about her dream of becoming a “first response for animals”. Cheetah Outreach is a world-class facility with expert staff who are in constant communication with one another via two-way radio. The operation is run super smoothly, and despite the pressure of various groups of visitors and overseas tourists, there is never a long wait or congestion at any enclosure.

We are told about the humble beginnings of Cheetah Outreach in January 1997, when founder Annie Beckhelling started her cheetah conservation project on a small piece of land on Spier Wine Farm. Annie’s guiding principle, which still applies today, was to ensure “the conservation and promotion of the co-existence of the free roaming cheetah in South Africa that live on farmland areas in South Africa”. Our aim is to collect some more video material, and while mom handles the camera, Sabria gets to hone her interviewing skills. She chats to various team members and volunteers about the animals on the grounds, and obtains interesting facts about the cheetahs, two meerkats, a caracal, bat-eared foxes and tortoises that call this home. The highlight of our visit? Sitting a mere metre from a cheetah while filming a short “Five fast facts” clip on cheetahs in general.

It’s a rush to get to our second planned visit of the day. Cheetah Outreach had far more planned for us than we anticipated, and in truth one could easily stay for a full day. This is going to a wonderful part of our actual tour and the children and their moms are going to love it.

Even though it is dreadfully hot, the air-conditioner in the S-Presso quickly gets our wilting bodies refreshed as we race to Eagle Encounters in Stellenbosch. It is located on the Spier Wine Farm, and with 45 minutes to spare, we follow the signs to the eateries. We enjoy a delicious ‘take-away’ bite under the trees on the lush lawns. A little further down we spot a craft market. Now who can resist that? We manage to make it through all the beautiful stalls, and declare it really worth a visit.

We are welcomed by Tracy Chalmers and her son, Josh, who tell us the daily ‘Birds of Prey’ show is about to start. The little arena is packed, but we manage to get a frontrow seat. Josh’s knowledge and passion is astounding, and it is clear to see why Tracy and her husband are ready to hand over the reins to Josh. He captivates the audience for the entire duration of the show. Various owls, falcons and eventually vultures are on display. The owls come swooping down on the spectators, much to everyone’s delight. One of the boys in the crowd knows the answer to every one of Josh’s questions, and his mom tells me later they are regulars. It’s easy to see why. Eagle Encounters is a must that is worth visiting again and again.

The story behind Eagle Encounters is as wholesome and enchanting as everything you will find on the premises. It all started with Josh’s grandfather, who was one of the first falconers in South Africa. He passed that passion on to Josh’s dad Hank, who had his first encounter with a falcon when he was only five years old. From the age of eight, Hank’s first love was raptors, until he met Tracy many years later and they started Eagle Encounters together.

Penquins & seals

The following morning we hook up with Ursula Botha, my best friend from primary school. I last saw her on a Bush Babes trip to the Cape in 2012, when we were both struggling to have children. Ten years on we are reunited, along with our two daughters Sabria and Leané, who were born just two months apart. Unreal. As we stand and hug each other, not even attempting to fight back the tears, our daughters get to meet for the first time. Meanwhile, Ursula’s husband Louis is happy to turn his attention to the S-Presso. He gets in and, after admiring it from all angles, declares it the perfect mommy car.

Today is penguin and seal day. We leave Ursula’s hubby behind and us four girls embark on a cheerful road trip to Boulders Beach to admire the penguins in their natural habitat. We drive through Simon’s Town, and I instantly lose my heart to this quaint little town with its harbour, preserved old buildings and beautiful cobbled central square.

Finding parking near Boulders Beach is a challenge. The sidewalks are a hive of activity. Street vendors have caught on and are selling penguin soft toys and little penguins made of beads. Luckily our baby SUV fits snugly, and again the rear-view camera comes in handy!

The walkways down to the beach are perfectly maintained. Even the coin-operated binoculars from yesteryear are clean and in working condition. The girls find this rather large contraption a real treat. We see a penguin chick at its’ mother’s feet, and spot both natural and manmade nests secreted in the coastal bush. It’s evident that SANParks puts a lot into ensuring the safety and successful breeding of these Cape Penguins.

We tackle Chapman’s Peak Drive to get to Hout Bay for our trip to Seal Island. The S-Presso handles the twists and turns with aplomb, and I have to gear down to third just once after braking to avoid a cyclist. I think to myself that dynamite truly does come in small packages.

Hout Bay is a totally different experience. Apart from the charters, you need cash for everything, even to use the toilets. We book a boat ride on Drumbeat Charters, and while we wait decide to put all our coins and leftover cash together for a feast of the best local slap chips. For the Sunday only, Drumbeat are including a ‘visit’ to the Bos 400 shipwreck. What a bonus! It has been on my bucket list for some time.

The waters are calm as we slowly motor towards seal island, which you can smell long before you actually see it. The boat is very full, and we have trouble hearing the guide share information over the crackling speakers. At the island, there are quite a few boats with scuba divers and snorkellers who are geared for a more personal meeting with the seals. For now, admiring these sea creatures from a boat is by far the safest option for our girls. Just sitting and watching the beautiful cliffs and the clear blue water is a treat, and Ursula and I watch from behind as the two new friends silently take it all in. The cruise ends just as Sabria and I start to feel queasy. On our planned conservation adventure, we will arrange with Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre to get more involved and do something useful with and for the seals.

Another animal encounter we would have loved to include on our recce is Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary in McGregor, but sadly we ran out of time. The sanctuary was founded by Dr Johan and Annemarie van Zijl in 2001 when they were asked by the SPCA to take in Vaal and Japie, two severely neglected donkeys. It didn’t take long before the plight of many other donkeys urged them to open their farm and to offer food, water, shelter and care. This led to the establishment of Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary, which was officially opened to the public by their patron, the musician David Kramer, in November 2007.

We have one last night in our fancy hotel, and before sundown we take a dip in the pool on the 20th floor. True to Cape form, the wind has picked up again. We enjoy our last dinner overlooking the night lights and enjoy the hotel’s 360-degree mountain and sea view. We chat about what we have achieved, the work that is waiting for us once we get home, and just how blessed we indeed are. We head to the airport early the next morning to drop off our Suzuki S-Presso and catch our flight back to Jozi. We enjoyed this mini-SUV and feel quite sad to say goodbye. As we lift off and Cape Town disappears under the clouds, Sabria stares out of the window with a far-off look on her face. It’s been an exciting few days for her, and the Cape has certainly delivered its magic, yet again.

S-Presso at a glance

Engine: 1.0-litre

Transmission: 5-speed MT / AMT

Power: 50kW at 5 500rpm

Torque: 90Nm at 3 500rpm

Fuel index: 4.9-litres/100km*

*We averaged a very close 5.3 litres/100km in our 1.0 S-Edition 5MT test vehicle.

Model line-up & Pricing

• 1.0 GL 5MT: R152 900

• 1.0 GL+ 5MT: R157 900

• 1.0 GL+ AMT: R171 900

• 1.0 S-Edition 5MT: R166 900

• 1.0 S-Edition AMT: R180 900

*The Suzuki S-Presso comes standard with a 2-year/30 000km service plan and a 5-year/200 000km promotional warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000km or once every 12 months, whichever comes first.

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