About Princess Vlei
“Princess Vlei has always been a place …where the bird life with its joyful sounds soothes the sometimes angry inner soul.” – Phillip Bam
The Greater Princess Vlei Conservation Area is the gateway to a massive wetland system that runs through Grassy Park, Lotus River and Strandfontein, purifying the water before it runs into the sea. The Vlei has long been treasured by the many citizens who have enjoyed its beauty and tranquility.
The Vlei was named after a Khoisan Princess, who, according to local legend. was abducted by Portuguese sailors while bathing in its waters. During the years of apartheid, it became one of the few natural areas that people of colour could visit, after they were forcibly removed by the government to housing estates on the Cape Flats. Though loved by the people, it was severely neglected by the authorities, and became further degraded when a road was built through it with little regard for conserving its ecology.
Despite the authority's neglect, local residents, environmentalists and concerned citizens campaigned to save Princess Vlei from commercial development, and embarked on a process to restore the natural vegetation on the site. This was started by Kelvin Cochrane who managed a project called Dressing the Princess., and became a form a protest. The PFV has continued this process, and recently contracted a consultant to draw up a five year restoration plan. This represents one of the biggest community led restoration plan in the Cape Floristic region. Once this has been implemented, 20% of the land will be restored.
But what is it about Princess Vlei that has made the community defend it so fiercely? Below are some of the unique social and natural heritage features of this site:
Community: Cultural and Social Heritage
Watch the following documentary made by STEPS/SANBI. This film is available on DVD for groups and institutions who would like to use it for educational purposes.
"She cries more than just a river, she cries more than just a lake...
Our Princess of the Vlei, will we her again forsake?"
Listen to Emile Jansen and Mixed Mense's song about Princess Vlei.
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