Business & Finance

Celebrating Lalibela’s Economic Impact

Bucking the trend of gloomy economic forecasts for South Africa, Lalibela Game Reserves’s positive impact on the Eastern Cape tourism economy over the past year provides ample cause for celebration.

This article explores the impressive achievements that have contributed to this positive state of affairs as the Private Game Reserve celebrates its 1st anniversary of new ownership on 22 July.

Heralding a New Era in Private Sector Conservation

The sale of Lalibela and the subsequent purchase of an additional 4,000 hectares of adjacent land, is seen as a major vote of confidence for the Eastern Cape game lodge industry as a whole. The reserve now stretches over 10,444 hectares (approximately 25,700 acres), with the Big-5 area being some 7,500 hectares combined with the adjacent breeding area of 2,900 hectares. In addition to the fiscal boost that this investment has had on the province, the erection of over 39km of new game fencing has contributed to local employment.

Environmental Rehabilitation. Adding to local employment, approximately R400,000 a month has been spent on the removal of alien vegetation like black wattle and prickly pear. So far, about 280 hectares of wattle forest has been cleared and transformed into savannah grassland. In addition, approximately 225 hectares of alien invasive prickly pear has been removed. This represents a significant commitment to preserving South Africa’s natural heritage, and of course to the enhancement of overall guest experiences for visitors.

Game Repopulation. In keeping with Lalibela’s conservation vision to keep the indigenous flora and fauna in equilibrium, Lalibela has embarked on a major game repopulation drive. Significant game numbers have already been purchased, primarily from within the province, and have been placed in the Big-5 area as well as the breeding areas. Species include buffalo, zebra, black wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, impala, eland and waterbuck. These will augment the already impressive density of game at Lalibela as well as form the nuclei of core breeding herds.

Game Monitoring. Contraception of certain species like elephant and lion has been carried out. This is in keeping with the game carrying capacity of the reserve, which formed part of a report by a team of game management experts commissioned to analyse the ideal ratio of herbivores to predators that the reserve can sustain, based on the five biomes found here.

Anti-Poaching. Where previously, Rangers performed anti-poaching duties, Lalibela now has a dedicated anti-poaching team that operates 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. They are equipped with the latest telemetry and night vision equipment and are able to protect the reserves growing list of endangered species.

Lodge Upgrades. Soft refurbishments have taken place at Tree Tops and Mark’s Camp and a major refurb is almost complete at Lentaba Lodge. In addition, two new rooms are being added to Lentaba, which increases the total room count to 10 – 5 classic rooms and 5 luxury rooms.

Technology Upgrades. Lalibela has significantly upgraded the WiFi service bandwidth so that guests’ devices automatically connect as soon as they arrive at their lodge.

New Private Villa. Hillside Private Villa, a historic 100-year old farmhouse positioned on an elevated site with sweeping views over the expansive valley below and its own water hole, is in the process of being renovated. This exclusive use home-style villa offers 5 double or twin bedrooms to accommodate a maximum of 10 guests and is due to launch in September 2017.

Ranger Training. Funding has been made available for all Lalibela’s game rangers to further their qualifications. In addition to attaining their next level up in Field Guiding, some of the Rangers have completed electives, with 3 rangers having achieved excellent results on a recent tracking and track interpretation exam.

New Staff Housing. Lalibela’s commitment to staff welfare includes an investment of R4m to upgrade the standard of staff accommodation. The staff are about to move into their new modern abode, where each unit has hot and cold running water, electricity, a lounge, kitchen, and indoor toilet. The units have been positioned to provide a sense of community with a paved courtyard where staff can socialise with family and friends. In addition, new management housing has been built, while various old buildings such as farm houses, old staff housing and unsightly sheds have been destroyed and removed from sight.

New Water Supply. Lalibela has two huge freshwater dams on the newly bought property (which forms part of the breeding area). This clear, drinking quality water is pumped up to a new 150,000-litre holding reservoir and from there, it is gravity fed to the lodges and staff housing.

Water Recycling. The new sewerage and waste water treatment plant, built to convert grey water from all the lodges and staff housing into clear drinking water, is also used to fill numerous water holes on the reserve.

Overall, Lalibela’s positive impact on the economy of the Eastern Cape in just one year of operating under new ownership and management is laudable. On behalf of the travel trade, we salute you!

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