If you're a resident or even an annual visitor to Gansbaai, you’ve probably noticed a tortoise or two crossing the road...
Kleinmond boasts many outdoor treasures, but the wildest of them all is certainly the 20 or more horses that freely roam the wetlands of the Rooisand Nature Reserve. It is a surreal experience to watch as they graze in the shallow marshy land or canter across the dunes.
The reserves is situated less than 5km outside of Kleinmond on the East side between town and the Botriver Lagoon. Drive all the way to the bottom and follow the wheelchair-friendly path that snakes through the reserve. Sometimes you will have to venture off the path in order to seek out the lightning-fast creatures.
They are the only herd of wild horses that occupy a wetland habitat in the country and through time have become well-adapted. During the winter months the horses grow a thicker fur that shields them against the frigid breeze and icy rain. The hooves of the wild horses are saucer shaped and manage the soft, wet underfoot conditions surprisingly well.
One thing that has remained a mystery is how the horses got there in the first placed and remained wild. There are countless theories and speculations, some of which involve the horses swimming to shore after a ship sunk. One of the more trusted theories is that the horses were brought here with the early Dutch settlers and survived a massive cull when the role of horses on farms became redundant. The breed was almost wiped out and these few “survivors” now roam a protected area.
Although the horses are wild at heart and often bear battle wounds from getting into fights with fellow horses, they are often simply curious of people or shy away. Human interaction has been kept at a minimum but some horses have been exposed to more than others and might have a tendency to walk straight up to you or follow you closely. At first intimidating, this is an incredibly touching experience that could thaw a cold heart.
Unfortunately because they are wild there is no guarantee that you will see them. Although most people see them quite regularly this is an activity that will have to be revisited until you have them in your sight. It is most certainly worth the effort.