Phalaborwa, Limpopo - Responsible tourism in South Africa has been given a boost with the opening of Limpopo's newest safari destination - Abelana Game Reserve.
This 15,000ha Big Five reserve is owned by the Mashishimale community and leased by MTH Lodge Holdings in a ground-breaking sustainable conservation and eco-tourism partnership.
Conveniently located between the lowveld towns of Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit, adjacent to the Greater Kruger's Balule Nature Reserve and neighbouring Selati Private Game Reserve, Abelana Game Reserve offers breathtaking landscapes dotted by impressive granite outcrops in the south and a beautiful 10km stretch of the semi-perennial Selati River in the northern section of the reserve.
The reserve's southern reaches are home to Abelana Safari Camp - an intimate, eight-bed tented camp that offers an immersive, authentic safari experience in a style redolent of the classical African explorers. With just four en-suite Meru-style safari tents tucked into the lee of a towering rock "koppie", its stunning 100m2 viewing deck constructed on top of the koppie that rises above the camp has to be seen to be believed, affording breathtaking views of the reserve and the northern reaches of the Drakensberg Escarpment.
Abelana Safari Camp is also the home base of Abelana Horse Safaris, which runs dedicated horse safaris throughout the year.
The area surrounding Abelana Safari Camp is perfect for exploring on foot and on horseback, and renowned South African trails guide and experienced guide trainer John Fouche leads guests on morning walking safaris and afternoon game drives. Tamlyn Whitebread heads up Abelana Horse Safaris and is a qualified guide and expert equestrienne. She is also well known for her role in pioneering the way forward for women in South Africa's safari industry.
In the north of the reserve, located on the banks of the Selati River, lies Abelana River Lodge. Recently opened and already developing a reputation for incredible cuisine and its spectacular location, this impressive 40-bed luxury lodge combines sleek, contemporary African design with organic décor, focussing on a more traditional approach to the safari experience with morning and afternoon game drives and bush walks offered to guests.
Underpinning the safari experience on offer at Abelana Game Reserve is an ethos of sharing that gave rise to its name - the word "abelana" means to share amongst each other in the local Northern Sotho vernacular. The spirit of sharing, and caring for every part of the tourism value chain, is very much part of Abelana Game Reserve's DNA.
"As caretakers of this reserve, and working in partnership with the Mashishimale community, it's important that we nurture a culture of sharing the benefits of what we are doing here," says Abelana CEO Ian Beauchamp. "This means that we are directly benefitting our community, both through substantial annual lease fees and a tourism levy of R100 per guest, per night, and through job creation and procurement practices that encourage entrepreneurship and joint venture opportunities," adds Ian.
Ian says that job creation is one of the main objectives for Abelana. The reserve currently employs a team of 80 people, 52 of whom are from the Mashishimale community. Most of these employees came into their jobs with no previous experience and are undergoing training and skills development that will provide them with the skills they need for lifelong careers in the tourism and hospitality sector.
Abelana is also outsourcing its laundry and staff transport to local community based companies, and all waste is being removed from the reserve and recycled by a local community recycling business. Abelana bottles its own water, reducing the reliance on single-use plastics, and is in the process of developing community vegetable farms that will ultimately supply the lodge with fresh produce.
"We've also earmarked the establishment of an environmental educational centre where local school children will learn about the history of their land and the career opportunities that exist on their doorstep," says Ian.
For bookings please contact reservations by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 061 952 4302 or for more information visit www.abelanagamereserve.com