South Africa offers a home to the most tortoise species in the world, some say. South Africa is also home to one of the world’s rarest tortoise species – the geometric tortoise.

The geometric tortoise is tiny. A full grown geometric tortoise is only about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Thus, due to its size, or lack thereof, and its markings that allows the tortoise to blend in with its environment, as well as its general lack of activity they are hard to spot in the wild.

Of course this makes it difficult to estimate how many geometric tortoises are alive today though it is generally believed that there could be 2000 left.

Darling Brew – who focuses on the creation of conservation awareness by highlighting the plight of individual species that are endangered – uses the black and yellow of the carapace of the geometric tortoise as their testudinal brand colours.

Darling Brew’s first beer, the Slow Beer, was inspired by the geometric tortoise.

Although Kevin Wood, owner of Darling Brew, travels a lot, likes to go to different places and goes to Namibia often he had never seen a geometric tortoise before. Until last year, that is.

On a family trip to Koës in south-eastern Namibia Kevin and his wife Philippa saw a creep of four geometric tortoises in one spot! This is even more unusual as tortoises tend to be solitary roamers.

This sighting makes one wonder whether the geometric tortoise is endemic to the Western Cape, as is generally believed.

Whenever Kevin and Philippa go to the Kalahari – and they go often – they drive to new places en route. “You tend to meet fascinating people in remote districts,” Kevin enthuses. And their hospitality knows no bounds, he adds.

Whilst At DuneSong Breathers, a guest farm with self-catering chalets, near Koës Kevin and Philippa witnessed the most incredible thunder storm.

The Kalahari has the most intense thunder storms but it is nearly always seen in the distance. This storm erupted around them and was so powerful that it ripped big acacia trees apart. The energy of the storm was incredible, just astonishing, Kevin remembers.

There was lightning everywhere, the wind picked up, a few drops of rain pitter-pattered. Thereafter it was fascinating to see how the animals reacted after the core of the storm was over.

Kevin and Philippa listened as the storm brought quick life in terms of sound all around them. After the silence the birds burst into song.

“My life is a contradiction,” Kevin confesses.

“I love the Kalahari but I also love staying in a small apartment in Barcelona.”

“But Africa, Africa is the last place in the world that brings out primeval fear within you.”

On their recent trip to the Kalahari the Woods also saw – and photographed - the Panthera Leo or African Lion, the inspiration behind their single hop saison called Long Claw, as well as the Spotted Hyaena, the inspiration behind the Bone Crusher, a witbier, white beer or biére blanche.

It’s not only Africa that gets Kevin going. His heart probably belongs in Darling.

There are seventeen Victorian houses in the village of Darling and one of them – with a wraparound stoep – belongs to Kevin and his family. They love the lifestyle Darling affords them and the way their kids are exposed to village life. Everything is close to Darling – the Cederberg, Cape Town, the West Coast and some amazing villages in the Swartland.

Which means wherever you are it’s probably close enough to go to Darling Brew for an interactive beer tasting experience. You might just be able to nab Kevin to tell you a few travel stories interspersed with conservation facts and the message that we have to protect what we have left over. Like the geometric tortoise, the secretary bird, the giant dragon lizard, the roan antelope, Verreaux’s eagle, the plains zebra, the southern ground hornbill, the black rhino, the samango monkey, the black harrier hawk, the honey badger and the pangolin.


Written by Ilse Zietsman

Who am I?

I'm a freelance journalist - I love writing about travel, food and people. Travel is my passion - I've traveled to 44 countries and I'm always planning my next trip.
I have a curious mind, I love learning new things and doing something different. And yes, I confess, I listen to Boney M over Christmas.