People in the times of the coronavirus crisis – Eyewitness Ryan Larkman from Cape Canopy Tour in South Africa

Are you a tree hugger and forest lover? Do you like to be in the woods? Do you love the great outdoors and thrive on hearing the wind travelling through the trees? Read on, I bet you are going to love this story, and the thinking, of this passionate forest lover. There is no denying it. The coronavirus crisis holds the world in its grip still. Many people claim the measures introduced by their governments are

The thick green canopy of a forest with the odd blank branches sticking out.

unreasonable. Many believe there is no real threat. What would have been if countries would not have introduced measures to protect citizens from the spread of the virus?

The world cannot travel right now. Some countries are loosening restrictions. Nothing is set in stone. Some plan 'travel bubbles' within certain regions. New Zealand and Australia are thinking of introducing a 'travel bubble' between them. The three Baltic States, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have opened their borders to one another. Other countries are simply frustrated about their economy. They plan to open borders regardless of possible negative consequences. Domestic travels might become a thing soon.

Numbers of new coronavirus infections need to be low enough to not overburden health systems. Times are uncertain still. The virus is still too new to understand all of it. I trust virologists and epidemiologists when they tell us they work tirelessly to get the world as fast as possible through this crisis. No one can foresee the future. Now is the time to show patience and respect the world community. It is in everyone’s hand.

South Africa's borders remain closed for tourists. It is rather easy to travel to Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Eswatini or Lesotho from South Africa. It remains to be seen whether there will be a 'travel bubble' and whether these countries open their borders to one another. 

All over the world, there are a lot of keyboard experts who in their panic tell everyone this coronavirus crisis is a hoax. These self-announced experts are a bit like a group of lost children who do not know what else to do with their lives. They can never explain why this coronavirus crisis is apparently a hoax. What would governments all over the world gain from creating a crisis when there is none?

The situation is hard for everyone. We live in tiring times. Sharing stories and knowing that no one of us is alone in this, helps.

We cannot go to South Africa right now, but we can ask the locals about their country. Ryan Larkman lives in Grabouw in the Western Cape of South Africa. He is the Managing Director at Cape Canopy Tour.
A smiling man sitting relaxed at a light wooden table in front of an opened notebook computer.
Ryan Larkman from Cape Canopy Tour

Conservation Through Adventure

Cape Canopy Tour, a responsible tourism company, cares about the local community as well as about the environment. They employ, train, and empower members of the local community. An impressive 90% of their staff is from the area. Being the market leader in zip-lining, they offer different eco-adventure activities in the forest.

Canopy Tours will take guests on a journey through the forest with its majestic trees busy with birdlife. They fly through a network of ziplines and swing bridges. They offer guests the experience of a bird's eye view of an otherwise unreachable landscape. One zips along waterfalls, mountains and through the treetops and see the forest from its most wonderful side.

People in the times of the coronavirus crisis – Eyewitness Ryan Larkman from Cape Canopy Tour in South Africa

I wonder what is expected from locals during ‘lockdown’ in South Africa and Ryan gives me a good idea when he says “All businesses have been closed for operations except for those essential services, like medical, food, communications and banking. We are all expected to stay on our properties and social distancing is essential. We are requested not to drive around unless it is absolutely critical (as in for food or medical supplies). Schools are closed and are offering online lessons. Grocery stores only allow ten people into the shop at a time, and wearing a mask is essential. They are also encouraging people to make use of their pre-order and pickup services to limit further interactions.”

Update, according to the official Twitter page of The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa "South Africa will be placed on alert level 3 from 1st June 2020. Public gatherings and other high-risk activities, especially those that involve close contact between large numbers of people, remain prohibited to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. ... All borders of the republic remain closed except for the transportation of goods and repatriation of citizens."

Together we are strong

It is ever so inspiring to hear how people find ways to get through this crisis “We are of course very worried about our business, all our staff and how everyone is going to get through this. The tourism industry is completely shut down. We are lucky enough to be based on a farm so have plenty of space to move around and get out. It is helpful to be able to go for a run or a cycle just so that we can clear our head and come up with constructive ideas.”

Each one of us can see that the world is in a state of emergency. Once more it is proven that an intact community spirit helps “Our local tour operator community here is very strong, and we are lucky to have each other. We reach out daily, keeping each other positive and helping each other strategize where we can.”

Waterfalls, national flower in bloom, and a vivid birdlife

Let us daydream ourselves to South Africa where we would experience this right now “We are having an unusually cool autumn and plenty of rain, so our waterfalls are full and absolutely stunning. The Proteas – our national flower, have also started flowering (it is early for them), they are really beautiful to see. The birds are also enjoying the early flowers, sugarbirds, mousebirds, fork-tailed drongos, finches, weavers are all out and busy. It is so special to see.”

Right now international tourists cannot visit South Africa, this situation must have an impact on people’s feelings, and Ryan confirms “It is a difficult one to explain – we are used to interacting with people and making other people happy makes us happy, it is a strange time for those of us in tourism right now.” Again, it is the community who makes up for it, where it is now all about “unity and collaboration.”

Ryan sees a lot of positive change happening because of the coronavirus crisis. “People of South Africa are truly standing together, and it has been a bonding experience, and very needed in our country. It has been exceptional to be a part of this, despite everything else going on around the globe. That he obviously fell in love with the new slow shows when he says “The other thing has come to mind, is that a slower pace of life is actually ok. We are always under such pressure to get things done immediately, and it has been great for the world to see that nothing will happen if we all just slow down a bit.”

South Africa and the coronavirus crisis – A long road back to normal

When I ask Ryan what he predicts when he expects the situation in South Africa will begin to normalize, his answer is as careful as it is circumspect. “It is going to be a long road. Some industries will recover quicker than others. For those of us in tourism, hospitality, and wine, we are expecting a good 12 months before all our businesses return to what we know as normal. Some other industries, like, banking and schooling will be quicker. However, in saying this – this pandemic has opened the world to so many new possibilities regarding conducting business remotely and I think for many businesses this will change the way they conduct business going forward.”

Cape Canopy Tour offers employment to over 40 families

There is so much talk about what the world at large plans to do differently once the coronavirus crisis is under control. Ryan gives the most refreshing and honest answer possible since there are so many most amazing things Canopy Tour established already. “We are so proud of how our Cape Canopy Tour operates. We are completely paperless, almost 100% plastic-free and we offer employment to over 40 families, while at the same time not having any stagnant staff positions (every single staff member is essential to our operation) – we are already pretty streamlined, so we wouldn’t change too much there. We love our business and love how it works. I think most people will answer the need to diversify here – we discussed this, but tourism is our passion and we would not want to do anything else.”

We should never stop daydreaming. It helps pretty much against everything and Ryan loves to dream too. “We are a family run business and do everything together - our dream trip would be something as a family. Our little boy is only five years old, but already an adventure junkie. Our absolute best is grabbing the tents and camping gear and exploring different parts of our country. Maybe in a dream reality, we would take a year off and cover as much of Southern Africa, South Africa, and its neighbouring countries. We love the bush and the wild, and there is no better way to experience something other than as though you were a local.”

As a farewell Ryan shares the uplifting message of “Ubuntu” with old and new friends and customers of Canopy Tours. “Together we are stronger, together we are better.” With this, I already feel that there is absolutely nothing left to say but it gets better when Ryan adds “LIVE! No matter what your idea of adventure is, rowing a boat, riding your bicycle, braai with friends or something more extreme. Just Be Alive.”

Visit the Cape Canopy Tour website for more information and to check out when they can show you the beauty of the forest again. I am ready to be swept off my feet and zip through the forest when they are ready. We can all dream now and travel later.

Looking for more stories from South Africa? Dream now - Travel later.

From Berlin with love