CC Africa: Kwandwe (wildwatch.com)
For those with an interest in seeing the ‘big five’ nothing can beat a few days at one of the CC Africa lodges. We stayed at two – Madikwe and Kwandwe – both very different but with the same underlying CC Africa quality – in terms of accommodation, service, food and the exceptionally knowledgable game drivers. What’s more you can enjoy all of the luxury of these 5 * game lodges while helping local communities and playing your part for animal conservation. You need stamina for a stint at a safari lodge. Early morning wake-up calls at 5am every morning begin to take their toll – especially as there is so much to enjoy during the daytime that you rarely go back to bed to catch up. A typical regieme involves early morning drives which begin at 5.30am and last until around 9.30. By the time you have eaten a hearty breakfast there is just enough time to lounge around your own private plunge pool before its time for lunch. By 4pm you are meeting up again for the evening drive – an incredible experience as the sun is setting in the bush (enhanced considerably by the regular stop for sundowners – nothing better than sipping a G&T while gazing out at the African bush). As part of the drive is in the dark to see the nocturnal life of the bush you don’t return home until around 9pm. There is rarely time to dress for dinner (or inclination) and unbelievably, with all that fresh air, you will probably feel hungry enough to stay awake to eat it. We didn’t get to bed much before 11pm and of course that knock on the door at 5am came around pretty fast. Seasoned safari goers warned us to take a break form the morning drive after the first day or so but it was such an amazing experience – and different on every drive – that we stuck with the programme and did seven days of morning and evening drives. I wouldn’t have missed one of them despite the tireness. Unbelievably no matter how tired you feel dragging yourself out of bed at 5am within a few minutes in the range rover you are wide awake and watching Africa’s wildlife waking up to another day. CC Africa is more than just a company. It’s credentials include some impressive community projects and it has an ethos of ethical integrity that seeps through to every member of staff. It has quickly set the standard for ranger training, putting recruits through rigerous exercises to ensure that they fully appreciate the importance of animal conservation and the safety of their guests. Unlike other reserves you will never find a game driver at CC Africa willing to chase an animal or get them to perform for you – they will impart their considerable knowledge of the entire habitat and show you the most amazing ‘tricks’ of the bush. Our ranger at Madikwe, Natasha, encouraged us to try sour plums from a nearby tree before we even set out on our first drive – she had us washing our hands with a strange leaf that became soapy if you rubbbed it in your palms – she even found an alternative for toilet roll in the softest fern – very handy for those long early morning game drives!. While the Big Five are what everyone wants to see its inevitable that on a large reserve there are going to be some quiet times – our ranger spent those times teaching us about the landscape, the innumerable birds and their distinctive calls. And of course the real treat of seeing lions sleeping in the grass, plains of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, a herd of water buffallo quiietly moving through the morning mist, a troup of elephants and their young feeding together in a clearing. The animal viewing was exceptional but the many hours in between learning about the reintroduction of these animals back into their natural habitat was part of the experience. Madikwe is set in the North East of South Africa – near the Botswana border. Its hot and dry and the third largest game reserve in the country. You can travel by car or by light aircraft from Jo’Berg as we did. A short one hour flight over some stunning scenary was unmissable. The airstrip is only 10 minutes from the lodge by land rover but from the moment you step off the plane you know you are in the bush. The dry heat hits you immediately and the red scorched earth and inumerable termite mounds scatter the landscape. Even the short drive to the lodge is exciting with distant spottings of Impala and Zebra. The adventure begins. The Lodge had only opened a few weeks when we stayed there so we had the luxury of having one of the camps all to ourselves. The traditional African-styled huts were Madikwe had only just opened a few weeks when we arrived. The camp is divided into two lodges – North and South????? Check
We stayed at the ? Lodge.
GM: Andrew Mortimer : comes from Zulunatal and spent time in Durban and Jozy – he was a former paramedic until he left it behind to join Pinder 9 years ago. He trained as a ranger – rigerous and loved it – he decided to stay and is now married with an an 18 month old boy (check).
Ranger: Tim – 20 months – prior worked in enlglan – norfolk – his mum lived there – he worked in a business relocating us airforce personnel – decided to go back to the bush. Did rigerous training with cc africa – including living out in the bush and trecking for long periods – final trial is to kill an impala and bring it back to the camp – a couple of trainees met with lions or cheetahs on the way back and ended up having to desert their kill and go back to kill another one. Once training is complete then go through an evaluation where staff and management sit in the range rover and behave badly to see how you cope.
Tracker: Bungani – came from village on the hill in the reserve – trees
“ Children are really welcome at cc africa – they are about learning for the future and we like to invest in them”
We also believe in sustaining communities – the reservation created 150 jobs to start with now its closer to 170. There were only 35 people employed when it was farm land and they also never employed women which kwandwe does – so for the first time there are double income families – an important step in getting people out of the poverty trap. Where as before people worked as labourers on farms they now have proper career paths and jobs which are portable – we have chefs, butlers, receptionist – all from the local community. The chef at uplands (the house on the reserve) was a farm labourer now he is running his own kitchen and earning five times more than he used to. All jobs at all levels are open to local people – we provide training and we have targets for how many we would like to see in those top jobs. Once they achieve the position they are paid the same salary as everyone else. We employ lots of family units – there are 100 people living on kwandwe that are extended family who are currently not employed. We had set up a number of initiatives to help provide some income for them but we hope that over time we will employ more and more. We have a market garden which the older, retired family memebrs work on – they sell the produce to the lodges (put in some colour about the wonderful pumpkins, courgettes etc. in the market garden.). We bought some sewing machines and did some training with some of the women who were keen to make things to sell on. They do some wonderful beadwork here and we have a trading store at the reception area for locally produced craft – it provides another form of income for them. We want to expand these areas in the future. Kwandwe has a pre-school centre for children of employees and provides education and meals. Also has health education programmes – particularly on HIV awareness – nutrition etc – provides E – PAP for all staff – fortified cereal – very high in nutrients. The staff village has elecricity, water, toilets. Provide english lessons – often the barrier to getting on in positions.
Game driver: Natasha
Trainees: Mark and ?
Two lodges – only openned a few weeks – only guests – plunge pool – private – african style – privacy guaranteed –
Carl de Santis (check spelling) – an amercian who owns a pharmaceutical company, Rexakk – Sundown – set up the Gillis Foundation (named after his grandfather) which owns Kwandwe. He asked CC Africa to come in and run the tourism aspect for him – the lodges, marketing, game drives etc. The idea came about when a local farmer Anguis Shelton Douglas (check) met Carl de Santis in Botswana – over a few drinks Angus told him of his ambitions to build a game reserve near Port Elizabeth – malaria free – and to put back some of the indigenous animals who were lost to the area. Carl de Santis had the money to fulfill the dream and remains closely involved in kwandwe. Angus is also still heavily involved and runs Gilles Game Farms on kwandwe which is reponsible for the conservation aspects of the reserve. The project has been an overwhelming success – Kwandwe is open 3 years and in December had 96% occupance – which is an incredible acheivement. Part of the success is undoubtedly due to the fact that it is malaria free and at the end of the popular garden route – but a significant factor has to be the involvement of CC Africa which has rapidely gained a considerable reputaion for quality, conservation and ethical management. It now runs 28 game lodges in Africa and is just starting work in India (check). Kwandwe lodge is for adults only – for safety reasons. Ecca Lodge has ability to take children – 3 extras allowed at any one time. The area is inhabited by Xhosa – the same nationality as Nelson Mandella and most of the ANC. Very historic area with Grahamstown near by – british forces ruled the town and one particularly brutal general sent a letter by ship – which took many months to say that he was going to push back the Xhosa – by the time he was told not to do so he had already killed many people. The area has seen 100 years of frontier wars – in 1836 Heatherton House was build – has now been restored to its original design and is used as a reception area for the lodge. It was fortified to offer protection to local farm owners. In 1819 the Xhosa put together an army in the hills around kwandwe to attach the british garrison at grahamstown (it was the biggest garrisson oustide of britain at the time) – history tells us that the Xhosa would have won if it wasn’t for the intervention of a group of coloured traders who were hunters. – there were 50 of them – sharp shooters – they knew who the chiefs and leaders were and were able to pick them off one by one. They had no interest in the Xhosa taking over Grahamstown – they did very well out of selling their wares to the british forces and wanted stability. The Xhosa are very political people and very peaceful – they are represented in may aspects of SA political life – most notably the ANC – they have also incorporated other people in their tribes – most notably the sand people – hence the ‘clicks’ in the language – there are 12 clicks in Xhosa. CC Africa are helping to rebuild a local school at Fort Brown – on the periphery of Kwandwe – the local town council has identified this area for development and build a community centre -= although largely unused the plan is to incorporate the building in to the new school development. CC Africa/ Africa Foundation engages in a needs analysis with local community leaders before working on any local development plan. “Its really imporant that the community identifies priorities and buys into any plan – we identify and work with the local tribal chief and his advisors. The population of kwandwe is 400 There is currently a school (primary) catering for around 60 local children – 50% are from kwandwe employees. In the interim CC Africa provide the transport for the children to go to school and provide meals, equipment, teacher training and supplies. Its not ideal as the school is on land owned by a local farmer – as the town council is often slow paying the rent he closes it to hold it to ransom for the back monies. There is also a significant problem with teacher supply – its quite a long journey from Port Elizabeth and teachers tend to only stay for short periods – the new school will offer accommodation for the teacher and that was they won’t have to travel the long distance and hopefully it will encourage them to stay. Once the children get older they only option after 12 years old is to go to Grahamstown – CC Africa will bus them there or some choose to stay with extended family. The new school is set to start mid-year and will be finished before the end of 2005. The land it is being build on was former CC Africa. The development plan for the community also includes a day centre for tourism. This hinges on a proposal to link the land between fort brown and the provincial parks which could sustain and ecotourism project involving 3 areas – the day centre for tourism, a restaurant, horseriding & game drives. Funding comes from different routes CC Africa locally – Andrew has access to local community development budget – to provide anything from watertanks to kit for the local football team. CC Africa – centrally – will work with local agents to detemine community development programmes – these can be funded direct or though the Africa Foundation. CC Africa is a commercial enterprise and its very important that it proves that ecotourism can work commercially. There are also private investors involved – the Getti Foundation, Capricorn holidays??? Africa Foundation – was part of CC africa and they was split off to try to be self sustaining – it’s a charitable trust fund. CC Africa funds its operating costs and many of the projects