Cel­e­brat­ing the Eco­nomic Im­pact of Lal­i­bela

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Des Langk­ilde.

Buck­ing the trend of gloomy eco­nomic fore­casts for South Africa, Lal­i­bela’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 10,444h (ap­prox­i­mately 25,700 acres), with the Big-5 area be­ing some 7,500h com­bined with the ad­ja­cent breed­ing area of 2,900h. 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 280h of wat­tle for­est has been cleared and trans­formed into sa­van­nah grass­land. In ad­di­tion, ap­prox­i­mately 225h 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!

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.lal­i­bela.net

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