He looks down at my toes peeping from my flip flops and asks, “Don’t you have any other shoes here?”
I pause for a second and answer, “No, but this will be okay, I’m not going to get close, I will just zoom in to take the photos.”
He hands me a white head-to-ankle suit with a hat resembling a cricket umpire and a mesh net that covers the face and says, “But I’m going to work with the bees, you have to wear this and closed shoes.”
Bees. That’s why I’m here. To take a few photos and videos for my brother who has been a beekeeper for a decade. But up until today I’ve been a bee-avoider who appreciated the buzzing creatures, enjoyed their produce and respected the work my brother has done, but from a distance. A very safe distance.
But here I am. Bee suite in one hand, a pair of over-sized hiking boots in the other hand, gloves in the pocket and a raging fire within protesting the ‘safe distance’ that quickly went out of the window.
I walk down the road – tripod under the arm and camera in hand – the boots chafe my heels one bite at a time,
In the distance I see my brother in front of a beehive.
There goes the lid.
I halt, set the tripod up and take a time-lapse as an excuse to not go closer. At least not yet.
I’ve never had a bee phobia – just a bit of a bee fear – and always went out of my way and walked in circles to avoid being too close to the buzz. I’ve also never been stung, except for that one time when I sat on a presumably already-dead-bee at the age of seven or nine or some other young age. Does that even count as a bee sting?
Ten minutes have passed and there goes another lid at another hive.
I go closer.
The sun hits the smoker bellow in the right way.
Zoom lens. Photo. Video. Click.
I take another step closer.
The sun hits the bee hive in the right way.
Zoom lens. Photo. Video. Click.
I stand next to the hive and the sun hits the bees in the right way.
Photo. Video. Click. It is only the bees that zoom now.
In front of me, in a bee suit that has had its fair share of hard work, long hours and heavy lifting, kneels my brother. In front of me, next to a hive, kneels ten years of determination and perseverance despite tough conditions, despite fall backs and weather implications; ten years of not giving up, ten years of believing, ten years of having faith, ten years of being humble and ten years of dreaming.
Ten years ago this all started in our parents’ garage, our grandfather – who always had a keen interest in beekeeping – gave his unused smoker to my brother, the garage got too small and, as it reads on my brother’s website, “From garage to workshop to eventually a piece of farm land. From a car that fitted 6 passengers (beehives), to a bakkie, to a truck…”
The ridiculousness of ‘just a bit of a bee fear’ went out of the window alongside the ‘very safe distance’.
It was never a fear but a lack of understanding.
That was a few months ago. After the first bee experience I went back, again and again – camera in one hand, tripod under the arm and closed shoes on my feet – to close the gap between fear and understanding, to get a better glimpse into the life of bees and a bigger – much bigger – appreciation for the hard work done by everyone who plays a role in putting food on our tables. And even though I still get a cold tingle in my feet when the buzz gets too loud, and even though I often back-step a meter or two and stand and wait for a minute when it is just bees and more bees in front of me, I still go back to experience more.
Bee Tour in Port Elizabeth at the Apiarist Farm Shoppe
As someone who is always looking for new and unique travel experiences, it goes without saying that I was incredibly excited when my brother announced that he wanted to offer a bee tour in Port Elizabeth. And the fact that his bee tours are a hands-on experience – yes, you will probably leave the tour being a bit sticky – makes it even better.
His idea behind the bee tours is to make it a family-orientated experience, “to cultivate family unity with the thrills of outdoor adventure living, honey bee inquisitiveness and to forget about the world’s complexity and experience the simplicity of life.”
You will suit up (please come with closed shoes) in protective clothing at the Apiarist Farm Shoppe, go out into the field, get up close and personal with the bees as you work the hives and head back to extract the honey – 100% raw, organic, pure and awesome – which you’ll get to take home with you.
The tours are weather-depending and lasts for 2-3 hours, includes a drink, tour guide, protective clothing and honey. Because it is a working farm, booking is required and tours are usually available on Mondays (9am and 12pm), Fridays (9am and 12pm) and selective Saturdays (9am). The cost is R375 per person and minimum tour group size is 4 people, maximum 6 people.
Have a look at the video and see what you can expect on a Family Bee Tour in Port Elizabeth.
The Apiarist Farm Shoppe – your start and end point of the tour – also sells raw honey on tap (bring your own container), bottled raw honey, beekeeping equipment, Mastertons coffee – you can enjoy it there or get the 250g bags of coffee – gifts, farm produce, wood products, rusks and more. Apiarist Farm Shoppe is open from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday and 8am to 12pm on Saturdays. For more information about the shop or tours, click here.
Please note that Apiarist Farm Shoppe does not accept cash, only cards, and it is not open on national holidays or during the shutdown period. The farm is situated on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth at 4 Murray Park, Draaifontein Road, Colleen Glen (click here for the map).
There are also more exciting things come in 2018 such as educational bee talks, the outdoor boma classroom, basic beekeeping courses and accommodation for those who want to experience life on a working farm.
Win a Family Bee Tour in Port Elizabeth!
To celebrate the opening of the Apiarist Farm Shoppe and the newly launched Family Bee Tours, we’re giving one family the opportunity to experience it all!
All you have to do to enter is answer this question (comment below): What is the minimum group size for a Family Bee Tour?
Comment below or visit this Facebook post and enter there to win a Family Bee Tour in Port Elizabeth. Winner will be selected via a lucky draw and will be announced on Sunday, 26 November 2017 (you can enter until 12pm on the 26th of November).