Salome Willemse

This Vanrhynsdorp lady is all hustle and bustle while juggling five occupations.

If you thought country living means long, lazy days of doing nothing much, think again. Salome Willemse is a case in point. She’s chairperson of Namaqua West Coast, guides hiking tours, manufactures leather bags, runs a guesthouse and manages the Namaqua Bird Club.

Originally hailing from Volksrust in Mpumalanga, Salome and her late husband Japie used to visit the West Coast for holidays. ‘When scouting around for a good school for our son in 2008, we settled on Augsburg in Clanwilliam. But Vanrhynsdorp appealed to our farming hearts for living purposes, so that’s when we bought the Botuin smallholding. Six years later we converted an existing cottage into a guesthouse and built another two to welcome guests to this magic part of the world,’ she said.

In 2015, Salome joined Namaqua West Coast, was appointed to the board five years later and for the last two years has been at the helm as chairperson.

However, the fun starts when she wears her Matzikama Hiking Club hat as nature guide. ‘That’s when I’m in my element,’ she said. ‘I cover about 10 different trails which include specialist succulent tours for botanists and some awesome bouldering. The cherry on top is our annual big hike as a group. This year, the formidable Amatola Hiking Trail awaits.’ (Just so you know, this 86.4-km point-to-point trail at Hogsback in the Eastern Cape is extremely challenging. It takes on average 30,5 hours to complete. Ouch!)

Having started the Namaqua Bird Club in 2014, it goes without saying that Salome is a passionate birder. The club has an annual big birding day when members usually manage to spot 150 of the 260 species in the area, including vagrants, specials and migrants.

Throughout the year she also collates data for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP). Using standardised methods to ensure that the studies continue in the future with comparable results, this ornithological work provides information on the distribution, abundance, long-term change, as well as seasonal patterns of bird occurrence.

To aid conservation and help PhD students, Salome also does bird ringing. Ringing helps to keep track of the bird’s movements and its life history by taking measurements, noting feather moult conditions, subcutaneous fat, sex and age. All in the name of providing ornithologists with information on migration, longevity, mortality, population, territoriality and feeding behaviour when the bird is recovered.

Life in the fast lane comes to a grinding halt when she finally takes a breather with a spot of painting, cuddling her three dogs and visiting her son on his vegetable farm in Vredendal.

To relax I go birding
My sport is hiking and jogging
Favourite West Coast place is Jacobsbaai
Best restaurant for me is Isabella’s in Lamberts Bay
I love eating seafood
My signature drink is G&T
I like reading both fiction and non-fiction