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“Ease permit restrictions,” asks Oranjemund business owner

Proud owners of Op My Stoep Lodge, Fanie and Maria Smit

Proud owners of Op My Stoep Lodge, Fanie and Maria Smit

“Op My Stoep” is a mere kilometre away from the world’s longest privately-owned bridge, the Harry Oppenheimer Bridge. A half-hour’s drive away from Alexander Bay, the establishment qualifies as the most pristine lodging facility, given its proximity to a RAMSER site on the Orange River, home to at least 130 bird species as well as the fact that it is perhaps the only lodge south of the Sperrgebiet. Op My Stoep Lodge is proudly owned and managed by Esteban Alberto Smit, aka “Fanie”. Like other business owners in and around Oranjemund, Smit continually has to deal with the challenges resulting from restrictions placed on the town. Said Smit, “Due to Oranjemund being a closed town, it can only be visited with a diamond permit, which takes three to four weeks to process. We often get queries from people standing at the Alexander Bay or Sendelingsdrif gate, enquiring about visiting Oranjemund, but due to the permit situation, they have to turn around.”

Clientèle consists mainly of people on official work duties for either NAMDEB or DebMarine, whilst only 2% of the total are actual tourists. Added Smit, “I also believe that others in the private enterprise community in Oranjemund feel that we can make a big contribution to the economy if the town could be opened. Or the other alternative is that they become more flexible with the permit situation. We do not know where the hiccups are, because the ball is being thrown around between the different parties involved.” Smit opened up the establishment in 2006 after being granted permission by NAMDEB to start with a small-scale operation, converting the old Riding Club, aiming at combining his knowledge of South American and South African cuisine. Said Smit on the town’s tourism potential, “The town of Oranjemund can offer a lot of activities such as organised dune rides, bird watching, canoeing, golfing, museum visits and fishing.” Smit is the proud owner of a collection of 2,375 different caps, unmatched on the continent. One third of his collection is proudly displayed in the establishment, which also includes a fine array of ancient artefacts, number plates, hunting trophies as well as a collection of currency notes and coins from across the world.

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