Capitalise on global boom in eco-tourism

The opportunity to own a 50 percent share in a magnificent piece of African bush – linked to a highly successful luxury game lodge – and all in a sprawling, well-established, private Big Five game reserve, certainly doesn’t come about very often.

Especially when it’s located within the increasingly popular, malaria-free Eastern Cape region’s spectacular Kariega Game Reserve, family-owned since 1989, which operates as an eco-tourism, photographic safari destination, encompassing both the Kariega and Bushman’s Rivers.

Says Pam Golding Properties Eastern Cape farm specialist Gregg Rippon: “Notably, and as a silent partner, the investor also acquires 50 percent ownership of an exclusive 5 Star luxury tented lodge, Settler’s Drift, which is arguably renowned as the top game lodge in the region, and yields a sizeable annual income stream in perpetuity.

“The Eastern Cape is reaping the benefits of massive global growth in the wildlife recreation and eco-tourism industry, being seen as an affordable and easily accessible option for the international market, many of whom are drawn first of all to the Mother City of Cape Town and then travel up through the scenic Garden Route, with a world-class Big Five destination such as Kariega in easy reach. This area enjoys good rainfall and Kariega has a high carrying capacity and lush river foliage which translates into a unique bush experience offering a grand entrance by boat - or by road.

“Of further benefit to the industry in South Africa - due to the winters in the Northern hemisphere, coupled with the favourable exchange rate - the season has become longer, running from September until the end of March or just after the Easter weekend. The tourists come mainly from the UK, Ireland, Germany, USA, Switzerland and the Netherlands, while there is also a robust domestic tourism market.”

Rippon explains that for the sum of R60 million, the buyer acquires firstly a 50 percent share in the 3 200ha farm, Harvestvale, an exceptionally beautiful property comprising one of several large tranches within the 10 000ha Kariega Game Reserve. Harvestvale has 18.6km of Bushman’s River frontage, 11 of which are along the estuary and navigable right through to the Indian Ocean.  In addition to the land, the shareholding includes 50% ownership of the lodge, staff village and all other fixed assets on the property, including the general game on the property and any income derived from game sales.

Says Rippon: “Over and above this the owner has traversing rights over the entire Kariega Game Reserve, as well as 100 percent ownership of one of the sub-divisions of Harvestvale, situated along the Bushman’s River and consisting of some 660ha in extent, with two existing luxury safari tents built for private use and the right to build a private homestead.”

Kariega Game Reserve maintains and operates the game and property, including the 1 200sqm central lodge with its nine privately placed tents of 104sqm each, which means that the new acquisition is hassle-free. Notably there is no cost to the shareholder for the management and maintenance of the lodge, including all capital improvements to the lodge and the staff village, nor for the maintenance and improvement of the roads, fencing and other improvements;  the staffing, marketing, booking and other support infrastructure for the lodge and farm; or game management.

Adds Rippon: “While there is an extensive range of game on Kariega, you can even run your own game on the property if desired.”

The current owners of this shareholding opportunity have made considerable improvements to Harvestvale, adding significant value to the property.

They have built and retained ownership of the two luxury tented units outside of the overall operating arrangement, providing for renting out for a maximum of 45 days a year with the balance for private use.  Incorporating several hectares, the area on which a new homestead dwelling can be built is game fenced and landscaped.

The uniqueness and sheer beauty of this reserve cannot be overstated. From an eco-tourism aspect it is totally pristine, unlike some other reserves which comprise, in the main, rehabilitated farmland. The owners have done their utmost to retain it as such, with all electrical cables and water reticulation underground.

Visitors remark on the sheer unspoilt beauty - at night there is no light or noise pollution. What is also unique is having a river running right through the property and being able to travel through astonishingly beautiful and lush terrain 37km from the mouth all the way to the lodge.

The 5 Star Settler’s Drift lodge runs at high summer occupancy levels with the winter season at lower levels and provides sound rental returns.

Says Rippon: “Because of the easy access via the Cape and Garden Route, Kariega eliminates the need for tourists to travel all the way up to Kruger Park. Here they can also enjoy a far more personal and special game and bush experience – the lodge has only nine rooms and the Big Five are easily viewed in close proximity.

“As the new owner, imagine spending the bulk or all of your time here, in the heart of nature and enjoying all the best game viewing South Africa has to offer, with no management, infrastructure or running expenses attached to this shareholding in terms of ongoing reserve costs - a huge benefit considering there are some 180km of roads on Kariega. This is truly an idyllic lifestyle, with the added appeal of an ongoing and escalating income stream.”

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