There is a growing trend in South Africa to empower communities to lead sustainable lives and to help them pull themselves out of severe poverty. One of the ways that this is being done is by training community members with different skills to help them. There are luxury accommodation options popping up all over the country, and if you visit, you could choose one of these awesome places, and feel good that you’re giving back to impoverished communities. Get ready for some awesome places to stay!
Oh what an amazing treat awaits you at the Madikwe Safari Lodge! This is a 5 star luxury lodge like no other. It’s a luxury experience at a reasonable rate.
If you’re concerned about malaria in Kruger, are travelling with a family or are looking to stretch your budget a little further then you should definitely consider the Madikwe Reserve.
What’s there to do?
So what can you see here? The game viewing is spectacular, as all the guides are in radio contact with each other, so they know exactly where to head off when a sighting occurs. You’ll see Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Warthog, White Rhino, Lion, Wild Dog, Elephant, Brown Hyena, and Spotted Hyena. Leopard sightings are happening way more often now, as they’re becoming a bit more used to the vehicles in the area, and sightings of Buffalo and Black Rhino are also increasing…everything in one. You might not see Elephants and lions all that much though, but they are there!
For the travelling family this will be an adventure of note as they offer family safari drives, bush orientation, bug CSI, dung tracking, track pack with plaster of paris, baking in the kitchen, making pizzas in the boma, star gazing, games night and much more. Pretty adventurous we think!
You can expect to pay anywhere between $400 and $700 per adult per night here. It’s an exclusive place, but there’s also a lot included in your price. Rates change, so please check!
Why should you stay here?
The Madikwe Reserve is an excellent example of a joint venture initiative in South Africa between the State, the private sector and local communities.
What they do at Madikwe is take careful consideration of local communities in order for them to live sustainable lives. The communities benefit from the micro-economies from the lodge, for example jobs within the actual lodge itself or projects out in the field. In this way they can earn a livelihood and they’re gaining invaluable experience along the way. Local business and labour have been used to clear and demolish unwanted structures, erect new fences, construct new roads and the building of the dams and lodges. Buildings which have remained in the park are now utilised as park offices and workshops.
The three parties involved work together in a mutually beneficial partnership in conservation.
As Madikwe Reserve is very conscious of its responsibility to local communities they run some other initiatives that you can get involved in like Pack for a Purpose and The Lion Sands Community Project to make an even bigger impact on local people’s lives.
All pictures courtesy of Madikwe Reserve
Another little piece of safari heaven awaits you at the Thakudu River Camp. It is truly awesome as you ‘camp out’ in luxury tent suites, hearing the sounds of the African bush!
What’s there to see?
They’ve got a diverse amount of game including Elephants, Black and White Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Wild Dog amongst others.
The Lodge is situated within the riverine canopy along the banks of the Marico River and consists of 12 tented suites, each with a private deck overlooking the river. The tents are spacious and stunningly decorated with everything you could need. Four of the “suites” are suitable for families, with an extra sleeper couch for the kids. The lodge is exclusive with a maximum capacity of 24 people which makes for the perfect and memorable bush experience. If you’re after a bit of peace from the excitement of the game drives, then the riverside location with trees, bird-and water life provide will certainly give you that.
They also offer cool activities like star gazing, birding, game drives and boma dining, which is something that every person should experience. There’s an open-plan lounge, dining area and also a pool and a bar area (clearly for the adults). If you can get your other half to take care of the kids, you can go to the spa and get totally relaxed.
They don’t allow kids under 6 to go on game drives, but they offer a special kids game drive in the morning after breakfast. They tailor everything to suit the young adventures.
Rates aren’t published on their website, so please enquire to get costs.
Once again, no worries here about malaria!
Why you should stay here?
If ever you’ve wanted to give back, then this is where you need to be.
The Lodge is an ecotourism partnership between North-West Parks, the Mlatedi Community and The Nature Workshop, the operator. The Lodge crosses right through the Madikwe Game Reserve and the community has a 45-year lease to operate the lodge. This management structure is unique in South Africa in that the community owns the development, which means substantial benefits are going straight back to where it’s needed most.
Buffalo Ridge is an amazing four star eco lodge situated in the malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve.
The lodge consists of 8 awesomely decorated suites each with a private viewing deck, offering quite a luxurious experience.
What’s there to see?
Well you’ll see the big five here including Black and White Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Buffalo and Leopard. You’ll also see Cheetah, Wild Dog, Hyenas, Hippos, Kudu, Giraffe, Eland and various antelope.
Activities include morning and afternoon game-drives in open game viewing vehicles, bush sundowners and stops on the Reserve to visit the various hides. Children under the age of 6 years aren’t allowed on game drives but there are shorter game drives in the mornings for the younger kids to enjoy.
You can expect to pay around $425 per adult per night in the peak season and kids between the ages of 3 and 12 are about $200 per night. These rates vary, so please check if you plan on travelling there.
Why you should stay here?
Buffalo Ridge is much like Thakudu, but it was the first wholly owned community based Safari Lodge to be developed in South Africa. The lodge is an eco-tourism partnership between North West Parks Board, the Balete Ba Lekgophung Community and the operator, The Nature Workshop. The community has a 45 year lease to run the lodge. As with Thakudu, the community owns the lodge and all that money goes back to them. Awesome!
All pictures courtesy of Buffalo Ridge
!Xaus means “heart” in the indigenous Nama language of the Kalahari. A group of visiting Bushmen, also called San, proposed the name. The name symbolises the healing of relationships, the restoration of dignity and the aspirations of the Khomani San and Mier communities, who after numerous years of deprivation are now owners of the lodge and the land on which it is situated. The ‘!’ is a click in the Nama language and the name, “!Xaus”, is pronounced “kaus”.
The large heart shaped salt pan in the northwest corner, the view of the lodge and the fact that the lodge is located in the “heart” or meeting point of the land restored to each of the Mier and Bushman communities, confirmed the name.
The name embraces the settlement agreement between the communities and SANParks, the national parks board, namely, “in the national interest, to finally settle the land claims of the community parties and to establish a positive, co-operative relationship between the community parties and SANParks.” The Khomani San and Mier communities reached an historic land settlement agreement with the South African government and SANParks during the course of May 2002. This agreement restored a large part of land (50, 000 hectares) that traditionally belonged to the two main indigenous communities in the area. The communities leased the land back to SANParks to ensure maximum financial gain is derived from the land in an ecologically responsible manner. SANParks is responsible for the environmental development of the park. The land settlement agreement provides the communities with an allocation of funds for the purpose of constructing a tourism facility to be jointly owned by the two communities.
What’s there to see?
!Xaus is a luxury lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and a haven in the arid desert area for eco-tourists and visitors to the Kalahari. The Kgalagadi conservation area is about 3.5 million hectares and is almost twice the size of the Kruger National Park. What you’ll find is awesome landscape scenery, excellent bird and wildlife and a deafening silence. The lodge consists of a welcoming reception area, lounge and dining area. Accommodation consists of 12 individual chalets, each with a private deck overlooking the saltpan and waterhole fed with fresh water to ensure fantastic game sightings from your deck. Now can you just imagine, sitting there on your deck in the mornings watching game roam free. Now that’s something.
!Xaus has a swimming pool for the kids and you to get wet in, as we can tell you this, it gets seriously hot there. But the nights get cold, so be prepared.
You can choose from a number of different types of game drives or even set out at day-break with guides and Bushman trackers to have a walk through the dunes. You’ll be shown how to identify animal spoor, birds, trees and plants, and you’ll get to know all their medicinal uses. The length of the walk, and the distance you cover, all depends on the fitness and interest of you.
If you want to get to the heart of the culture of the San people you can take a walk to the cultural village to visit the bushman crafters at work. You can join in the fun as the young Bushmen show you their traditional games; how cool would that be for the kids? You can also buy traditional crafts hanging from the branches of the tree under where the crafters sit at work. This money obviously goes straight back to the community too.
Why you should stay here?
The epic settlement agreement allows the communities to receive funds for the specific purpose of constructing a tourism facility referred to as a Co-operation Lodge, to be jointly owned by the communities. Transfrontier Parks Destinations, a black-empowered Lodge Management Company, manages !Xaus Lodge commercially on behalf of the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities.
The Community representative organisations receive a monthly rental from the operation of the lodge based on its turnover. Pretty much all the lodge employees are drawn from the local communities where unemployment is rife.
After the first ten years of operation, a ‡Khomani San and Mier Community Trust will be established so that they receive a 10% equity stake in the lodge management company. Any asset acquired through donor or grant funding is owned by the lodge and therefore its communities. !Xaus Lodge assists in leveraging donor funding for off-site community health, agricultural, educational and job creation projects.
You can expect to pay about $300 per adult per night during high season, kids under 3 stay free, kids between the ages of 3 and 11, you’ll pay about $100 per night and kids between the ages of 12 and 16 you’ll pay around $165. It’s important to enquire if you want to travel there as rates changes all the time. There are lots of things included in the price.
So, here’s another amazing lodge, where communities directly benefit from guests visiting their lodge.
All pictures courtesy of !Xaus Lodge
Now this is just another lodge that will certainly please the family! Lidiko Lodge is a four star rated lodge and is situated in the town of St Lucia within the greater St Lucia Wetlandpark, a renowned UNESCO world heritage site.
Lidiko feels privilege to be situated within the boundaries of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this drives them to create even more responsible tourism. St Lucia is in the heart of Natal’s Zululand and the lodge aims to involve the local Zulu community as much as possible in the lodge’s daily working. Lidiko is fully committed to achieve economic, social, environmental, sustainable and responsible tourism.
What’s there to see?
The main building of the lodge is one of the first buildings that were built in St Lucia and it’s got an awesome thatch roof that just adds an old world Zululand character to the lodge. The main building has the reception area, guest lounge, small library for guests as well as the dining deck with views of the bird and monkey visitors in the garden. The main building leads to the tropical pool area and rooms. The lodge has 16 garden rooms of which 12 are standard double/twin rooms, a family unit sleeps four and 2 family rooms which can each accommodate three people. A cottage is available with room for 6 persons. So you and the family can definitely fit in here.
The kids will love going out on a boat and seeing the game up close and personal as well as looking out for marlins, sailfish, dolphins, whales.
Being in Zululand, you can really immerse yourself in the culture and visit a cultural village, buy a basket from the local crafts market, have your hair braided the Zulu way or visit a Sangoma, which is a traditional healer.
You can go for walks in the dune forest or down the Estuary. Look out for red duiker, bushbuck and mongoose. It will be a walk to remember, that’s for sure.
You can even track the giant leatherback and loggerhead turtles on a moonlit beach, do a spot of bird watching, find and identify chameleons, dragonfly species and butterflies. There is so much to discover here, the kids will be in their element.
You can do your own game drives, or go on an organised game drive.
Prices aren’t published on their website, so enquire at the time that you want to book to get costs.
This is certainly one adventurous place.
Why you should stayhere?
Lidiko follows some very strict environmental approaches like the fact that only indigenous trees are planted; bio-degradable washing powders are used, all geysers are set to 50 degrees Celsius; guests are actually asked to switch off air conditioners, lights and televisions when they leave their rooms; waste is separated for recycling into organic, glass, paper and plastic; food and garden waste is composted on site and worked into the gardens and wood bark is used instead of paving.
But it’s not just the lodge, be prepared for a few lessons yourself as they talk about the importance of world heritage sites; they tell you how to support local economic development; they strongly encourage you to learn about Zululand, learn key words and phrases in the local language and to be mindful about religious and social customs. They also tell you about how to protect the environment, like buying indigenous wood and animal products are not encouraged. They also ask you to support local initiatives by buying local products, arts, crafts, and eat locally produced food as well as support local tour operators.
How do they give back to the local community?
The Lodge is serious about local economic benefits and it tries in every way possible to involve communities and making sure that they benefit from tourism. The lodge’s maintenance, plumbing and electrical work is done by the original Zulu electrician, plumber and carpenter. About 80% of the lodge’s furniture and fittings are locally produced.
The lodge opened its doors in 2005 and since its opening all employees are local people. They started out with not an ounce of hospitality knowledge and had in-house training to build their skills. Both lodge supervisors started as cleaners and have worked their way up the ladder. The workforce consists of an 80% majority Zulu representation and 7 staff members are local Zulu women and one local disabled Zulu man.
To help further, Lidiko Lodge has an in house Art Gallery that show cases the local arts and crafts. They sell products manufactured by the women of Ingwavuma, a deep rural village on the eastern border of Swaziland, in Zululand. Historically Ingwavuma was a recruiting centre for the mines, which resulted in broken families, single mothers and an unusually high HIV infection rate. Today 350 women make beautiful embroidery art from home and Lidiko is one of their outlets.
This is truly a place of amazing beauty and lots of adventure.
How can you resist any of these lodges that are not only stunning, but they also give back to communities in a big way! So put South Africa on your bucket list and visit these seriously cool places.
All images courtesy of Lidiko Lodge