The South African tourism industry has received a welcome boost from an international group of companies investing an estimated R200m to develop and operate a new luxury lodge in the Nambiti Big 5 Private Game Reserve, outside Ladysmith (KZN).
Known as The Homestead, the new ‘conscious luxury’ lodge is currently under construction and scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2021.
The Homestead will be a low-impact lodge, sustainably built and set against the backdrop of the humbling natural beauty of 23,000 acres of the Nambiti Private Game Reserve. It will combine seemingly different parts of the wonders of South Africa to create an integrated experience that links together wildlife, history, traditions, wellness, community, food, culture and conservation.
The lodge will accommodate up to 24 guests at any given time in a combination of deluxe suites with private infinity pools and luxury units, all of which will combine privacy with breathtaking views across the reserve. The main lodge is designed to offer multi-sensory dining venues and experiences, conference facilities, a lavish spa, gym with a view and swimming pool that extends over the edge of the escarpment. The Homestead will offer an unparalleled opportunity to unwind and take in the beauty and wonder of the world around us all.
The project is financed by Really Epic Dog (RED), which is headquartered in the USA. While RED already has a strong presence in Africa through its involvement in the technology, sports and entertainment industries, this new venture will see the group expand into tourism and conservation for the first time.
Having purchased the land at the end of 2019, RED has pushed ahead with plans during the Covid-19 pandemic, working closely with acclaimed Durban-based architect Dean Jay and his team. The architectural firm has received recognition globally for their work on other leading game lodges such as Singita and Lion Sands – although by his own admission, this project is unlike anything that was done before. ‘The Homestead site evokes a unique spirit of place with the juxtaposition of the existing historical ruins, the lake and escarpment,’ Dean Jay said, ‘to create a powerfully understated lodge built from endemic ironstone that will harmonise with the landscape.’
‘As a group of companies, we have a longstanding and deep-held passion for South Africa,’ said Benjamin Smith, president of the Really Epic Dog Group. ‘So, although we have all had to deal with what has been an unprecedented time, we have not wavered in our commitment to The Homestead project. We not only believe South Africa will emerge from Covid-19 and continue to attract tourists from all over the world, but we want to instill that belief and hope in others by offering our guests a place to reset and reconnect with themselves, first and foremost through experiences that help them reach a sense of understanding and peace with the world, as well as inheriting our love of South Africa.’
The Homestead is being developed on a site that is rich with history, dating back to 1838. During the Boer War, a young British Captain controversially fell in love with a Boer girl and built a home on this site. They were eventually accepted by her Boer family and The Homestead became a place where rivalries and weapons were put to one side and people came together in the spirit of peace, love and understanding. This rich history and the ethos will be at the centre of the guest experience at The Homestead.
Nambiti Big 5 Private Game Reserve is set in KwaZulu-Natal on 9307 hectares (23 000 acres) near the town of Ladysmith, within easy reach of Johannesburg/Pretoria (3.5 hours’ drive) and Durban (2.5 hours’ drive). Nambiti is malaria-free and is only an hour away from the Drakensberg mountain range, a World Heritage Site. The area is rich in history, with old stone kraals scattered around the game reserve which date back to the iron age 500BC, left behind by the Khoisan. The reserve is close to the renowned KwaZulu-Natal battlefields, a major attraction of this region where history was made some 120 years ago during the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars when epic skirmishes rocked the British, weakened the Boers and broke the mighty Zulu nation.
The Nambiti Reserve receives more than 25 000 local and international guests every year and is considered one of the nation’s most ambitious conservation initiatives. The game-rich reserve boasts the attractions of the Big 5, the only one in the area to do so, but it is Nambiti’s unique biodiversity, which encompasses grasslands, riverine bush, savannah and thornveld, that delivers an unprecedented diversity of game. It is a birders’ paradise and there are 40 other game species besides the Big 5 and other species. The reserve opened in 2005 and from the outset, the goal was to restore the wilderness to its natural ecological state. Establishing the reserve took several years to be completed. After an intensive community outreach campaign, it started with an in-depth ecological research project and the sourcing of more than 40 species of game, along with erecting over 100 kilometres of conservation fencing. Careful management of veld condition and monitoring of animal populations has been a focal point, particularly in the supervision of the populations of lion, rhino and elephant.
Nambiti has close ties to the surrounding communities and having created close to 300 full time jobs, it is committed to up-skilling and promoting talent to leadership positions. Community representatives sit on the board and have a voice in how the reserve is managed and maintained.
Really Epic Dog is a group of companies primarily owned by Wayne Scholes and headquartered in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). It has companies leading the way in technology, sports and entertainment. From soccer schools such as the 7 Elite Academy, to software companies that include Red Touch Media, who work with the likes of Disney, NBC and immersive technology company Laduma, which has done deals with the likes of the NBA, NFL, Premier League soccer teams and major brands such as Microsoft, HSBC and Samsung.