Muizenberg outside Cape Town can boast many things – golden sand, colorful beach huts and great surfing. But it also has something its competitors can’t match – teams of 30 huskies pull sleds.
Every Saturday, tourists and hikers are treated to direct sights of the Arctic with dogs who trade snow for sand.
Locals and vacationers alike are amazed to see bands of barking huskies roaming along the white beach at speeds of up to 25 km/h with a blue sled in the back.
It was the brainchild of husky lover Sam Gunter, 43, who realized that the breed, while very popular locally, wasn’t getting the amount of exercise they needed.
He built two sleds and started inviting husky owners to bring their hounds to Muizenberg Beach outside Cape Town every Saturday.
Eleven years later, there are now about 100 strong dogs who skate regularly on various weekends.
Today, 23 thick-furred, black huskies showed up with their owners – some of whom have driven for up to an hour ashore.
Gunther ties them in blue belts.
Once everyone is safely inside, shout «Go» and the dogs do what comes naturally. Always in a straight line, they run back and forth, stopping briefly to rest.
«It’s perfect exercise for husky dogs who were bred to pull sleds and they just love them,» said Gunter of Strand, a small resort town 40 kilometers from the beach.
«They are so excited… they can’t wait to start working. After working hard all week, this is my weekly treat, and it’s great to see,» the financial broker told AFP.
Notorious for their thick fur and bright blue eyes, he warned, they «can easily be neglected». “Husky dogs need a lot of exercise… they need to run up to 20 kilometers a day.
«In this way, at least once a week, they run five kilometers for 35 to 45 minutes.»
The dogs only work in the evening or when temperatures are 15°C or lower, because they are Nordic dogs, “so you have to be careful in the South African climate not to overheat.”
Depending on the day, the husky sled can attract a large crowd of onlookers.
He’s the only person in Africa who skis a husky, says Gunther, «and the looks you get from some sunbathing when 30 huskies pass by with Santa Claus hats pulling a sled, is one worth seeing.»
«This time of year people are looking for reindeer pulling a sleigh in the sky, but in our case we have huskies pulling a sled on the beach!»
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