Mkambati is a magnificent 7 500ha with 12km of coastline situated along the “Wild Coast” in the Eastern Cape between Port Edward and Port St Johns and is one of the world’s 34 most important biodiversity ‘hotspots’. To put this into perspective, South Africa is home to three of these hotspots – the Cape Floristic region, the Succulent Karoo and the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany region where Mkambati is situated. Amazingly the nature reserve has no less than 21 waterfalls, the most impressive being Mkambati Falls, one of only 24 in the world that cascades directly into the sea.
For many who have spent holidays hiking its unspoilt shores, there is no doubt that Mkambati ranks as one of the most beautiful coastal reserves anywhere in Africa. Pristine rivers with crystal-clear water, tumbling waterfalls, deep gorges, rolling grasslands, pockets of dense forest and secluded beaches are just a few of the reasons why it is a privilege to be able to join a ground-breaking community and conservation project called Mkambati Matters, which is fast on track to becoming one of the cornerstones of conservation on the Wild Coast.
Enter Colin Bell, managing director of Mkambati Matters, who is somewhat of a legend in our books. ‘Colin simply has the Midas touch,’ says Helen Untiedt, Curator & Co-founder of Perfect Hideaways. ‘Our guests just can’t get enough of Lekkerwater, Natural Selection’s first South African concession in De Hoop Reserve along the pristine De Hoop coastline, which was subsequently chosen as one of Time’s Greatest Places of 2019. Natural Selections currently manages and owns prime and prestigious lodges in Botswana and Namibia, with nearly all with extensive local community partnerships’.
His love of the Wild Coast goes back many years but what gives it the edge over the many wildlife locations he has worked in since the late 70s? ‘Mkambati’s rolling grasslands give visitors the sense of being in the Serengeti – but with the Indian Ocean as the backdrop. There are few places on earth where one can watch a big herd of eland, blesbok or Burchell’s zebra with dolphins and whales providing the backdrop – or stroll along a beach where the only other footprints are from an eland or an otter.’ And if anyone’s opinion on this is to be believed, it’s Bell’s. In addition, the adjacent Pondoland Marine Protected Area offshore (the largest in SA and home to 800 species) is the site of one of the largest animal predation events on earth, or what’s known locally as the annual ‘sardine run’ or The Greatest Shoal on Earth, which happens in June and July.
Bell’s passion for wildlife conservation stretches back to 1977 when he took up his first job as a safari guide in Botswana. He went on to co-found Wilderness Safaris, Great Plains and most recently Natural Selection Safaris all pioneering safari companies. Today he is a partner in Natural Selection and the Managing Director of Mkambati Matters, where his invaluable experience in working with rural communities and conservation in the wildest places in Africa enabled him to win the tender to develop the new GweGwe Lodge which results in a lease that ensures significant financial value to both the community and government, with the private investor taking all the risks – and conservation being the winner’.
He has been a key player in this ground-breaking lease that obliges Mkambati Matters (Pty) Ltd to build a 110 bedded lodge that is made up of a combination of two, four, six, eight and ten bedded suites and villas. Each villa will have an additional bedroom for housekeeping or beach lodge service staff when the villa is rented out.
In turn, Bell says, ‘the community is set to benefit from the creation of hundreds of new jobs, their lease fees (9% of turnover), the creation of community owned business and many other financial and upliftment benefits. These tourism beds and the secondary, community owned businesses that will supply the lodge with produce and services will become the prime economic driver for the people in the region and will help invigorate the profile of tourism along this sector of the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast.’
The new GweGwe lodge, designed by Durban-based eco-architect Lisa Rorich, with interiors by Kate Moffat of Hint Interiors, will also be one of the greenest ever to be developed in South Africa. It will be totally off-grid and powered by the latest solar and wind technologies. Phase 1 of GweGwe Lodge is due to open its doors in December 2023 with the villas following down the line.
It’s a dream location for a sensitively designed eco-lodge, not least because the benign sub-tropical climate of the Wild Coast means that this area is malaria-free and that one seldom has to dress warmly. It also has a safe swimming lagoon and unspoilt beach. The fact that this is not a Big Five reserve has its benefits: land activities are diverse: hiking, mountain-biking, fishing, game viewing, exploring rock-pools, inter-tidal zones and waterfalls or kayaking up rivers to the call of fish eagles, while busy kingfishers and curious otters keep you company. Boating out to sea is a must for experienced scuba divers and snorkellers or seasonal whale watching.
The reserve has been sub-divided into two: the public southern zone and the private northern zone of around 5 000ha, where this project is located. Access to the north is restricted to guests at the lodge or beach villas. Access to GweGwe will be by aircraft directly to the 1100m runway within Mkambati Reserve from Durban, Margate and even Johannesburg, by helicopter from Margate (20-minute scenic flight) or Durban (just over an hour away) by road or even by boat from Port Edward (1h15mins). GweGwe’s 1 100m airfield is well out of sight (and earshot) of the lodge and takes 12-seat Cessna Caravans and Pilatus PC12s, and some Beechcraft King Air planes.
It is in this context that we present to you a ground-breaking opportunity to invest in a villa and join this beautiful biodiversity hotspot. By doing so, these rolling grasslands, waterfalls and pristine beaches will be protected against repeated attempts to mine this magnificent coastline, while giving villa investors the opportunity to contribute via a tried-and-tested business model to the livelihood of the community, who were displaced in the 1920s, and to participate in conserving its wild hills, grasslands, waterfalls and beaches for generations to come.
Note: All images of the beach villas are the architect’s conceptual renders
Note: There are 10 villa plots available to investors from R4.95m (excl VAT)
Please see further detailed information in the property brochure here: Online Brochure
For more information on the Mkambati Nature Reserve, please see here
or more information on Perfect Hideaways Invest, please see here
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