The northern region of KwaZulu-Natal, from St Lucia through to Kozi Bay and in particular the Hluhluwe area and surrounds, offers significant potential for wildlife tourism, report Ian Bannerman and Corinne Lategan, regional consultants for Pam Golding Lodges & Guesthouses – a member of Pam Golding Hospitality.
"Tourism statistics from the Department of Trade and Industry reveal that wildlife is an important attraction for international tourists to South Africa and this is borne out by the enquiries we receive from overseas buyers wishing to acquire game lodges – mainly from Europe and the United States," says Bannerman.
The northern KZN area has major, untapped potential to capitalise on this growing trend. Already private wildlife housing estates are zealously targeting the overseas market, marketing R5-R25 million homes to overseas buyers who seek to acquire their own truly African lifestyle residence.
Comments Lategan: “Most people are aware of the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, but in this area we also have a very special slice of Africa - the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland), which offers eco-tourists some of the most diverse wildlife and outdoor experiences imaginable."

Besides Lake St Lucia - a unique, 38 000 ha expanse of lake, islands and estuary - the park incorporates an astonishing variety of habitats ranging from the Ubombo mountains to grasslands, forests, wetlands, mangroves and vegetated dunes, with magnificent beaches and coral reefs and incorporates Kosi Bay, Lake Sibaya, Sodwana Bay, Mkhuze Game Reserve, False Bay, Fanies Island, Charters Creek, Lake St Lucia, Cape Vidal, Kosi Bay and Maphelane. Together these make up a 220 000 ha wilderness of unrivalled beauty.
There are also other conservation areas, which extend along the N2 route all the way from Hluhluwe as far as the Swaziland border. These include the Phinda Munyawana Conservancy, Zululand Rhino Reserve, uMkhuze and Pongola. Further north is the Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Game Reserve.
Says Lategan: "Apart from the proliferation of highly rated game reserves, both private and state owned, this largely unspoilt region offers numerous other attractions including fishing and some of the best snorkelling in the world. From one central point such as Hluhluwe, visitors can explore a host of different tourist attractions appealing to a broad range of people - all easily accessible on day trips. As a result of this accessibility a private game lodge doesn't necessarily need to be on a sizeable estate – there are some successful game reserves of around 30ha which also have high appeal for the domestic market and which, due to their central location afford easy access to numerous other tourism attractions. In addition there is an air strip at Mkhuze, which is quite central to the entire area, and which is used by a number of establishments to fly their guests directly into the area.
"It's positive to note that currently the Hluhluwe hotel has recently been upgraded, and we are also seeing foreign-owned lodges becoming involved in community initiatives and projects which help inject not only capital into the local economy but also will foster a sustainable tourism market. Hluhluwe's climate and appeal is such that this area has the potential to receive overseas visitors right throughout the year and enjoy a good occupancy," she says.
Prices of hospitality establishments vary considerably. Pam Golding Lodges & Guesthouses in KZN currently has a broad range of options available, from privately owned B&Bs with five or six chalets priced in the R5/R6 million price range, to self-catering guest lodges in the region of R30/R40 million for 10-15 suites, and ranging up to establishments in the R100 million price range.
PGLAG is currently marketing a prime located site comprising 17.8ha of land strategically positioned on the N2 freeway, just outside Hluhluwe, which is marketed at R20 million. In close proximity to the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland, Cape Vidal and Sodwana, this site has been identified by local development agency UMDA as having huge potential as a catalyst to spearhead an economic drive to boost the tourism, cargo, industrial and agribusiness initiatives of the area. This in turn will create sustainable economic development for the surrounding communities.
Says Lategan: "To date Total South Africa has purchased an adjacent 2.2ha site and erected a filling station which is well patronised, being the only petrol site on the N2 freeway after Umhlali's Mvoti Shell Ultra, some 190km away. In fact, due to the increase in trade and tourists along this route the filling station has surpassed all expectations in terms of output. The remaining land has been zoned for a hotel site with conference centre."
Bannerman adds that the forthcoming 2010 Soccer World Cup has made an impact on sellers who see this as a strong drawcard – particularly regarding those who have contracts in place with large tour operators for the event. Commenting on the north coast area nearer Durban, in the region of the new King Shaka International Airport at La Mercury, he says this will also have a positive impact on the market with enquiries currently being received for B&B's.
Issued by Gaye de Villiers

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