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The vision behind Kuzuko Lodge in the Eastern Cape was to create a ‘Big Five’ safari game lodge combining conservation, job creation and social transformation in a malaria-free area in South Africa. The area of the small Karoo was chosen for its unique vegetation and beauty, as well as being an area of over 70% unemployment and endemic poverty.
The task was three-fold: build a unique lodge, create jobs and allow the chosen area to revert to its original habitat. Thus Kuzuko was born. Kuzuko Lodge is the first private game reserve to be incorporated into the Greater Addo Elephant Park, the third largest national park in South Africa, giving it traversing rights over 1 million acres.
Twenty-two farms, comprising an area of about 40000 acres, were bought and around 70km of fencing erected, by a team of 70 men over a period of 10 months. Wildlife was then re-introduced in partnership with the South Africa National Parks. Elephants, black rhinos and buffaloes were re-introduced into the small Karoo at Kuzuko.
Building a luxury lodge in the wilderness was no easy task. Building it on a hill, with stunning views, made it even harder. Water, electricity and telecommunications had to be trunked in from over [12km].
The building of the lodge, chalets and staff housing by over 100 workers took 20-months and required a substantial investment. All the work was done by local contractors or from nearby towns using local material where possible. The establishment of the reserve has now created 30 permanent jobs, with another 50 employed, at the lodge. Kuzuko has been one of the largest investments of its kind in the district and we expect it to stimulate further economic activity.
Kuzuko believes in treating all its employees with dignity and respect. We have set new standards in staff housing, wages, working conditions, insurance and share ownership through a Workers Trust. We are committed to the training, up skilling and personal development of our staff. Added to this, Kuzuko has partnered with Umzi Wethu, a pioneering programme set up by the Wilderness foundation, whereby young adults from broken backgrounds are selected for an eighteen-month course for ecotourism jobs.
“Umzi Wethu is a holistic approach to conservation and job creation, enabling social, economic and spiritual transformation for young South Africans who are currently experiencing endemic poverty, orphanhood and high vulnerability, often as a consequence of the HIV AIDS pandemic affecting Southern Africa.
This was through the Andrew Muir, Wilderness Foundation
Kuzuko has employed some of these young people and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow is confidence and experience as they develop their careers in the hospitality industry.
As a reserve Kuzuko is in its infancy. A five-year environmental study has provided us with the benchmark for a sustainable regrowth of the area to its natural habitat. Working in conjunction with South African National Parks, a programme was embarked upon to re-stock the area, with game that was indigenous to the area. Due to the negative impact that years of goat farming has had on the vegetation, the current stocking levels are low and on par with a sustainable utilization approach.
Game had to be introduced in phases – antelopes, elephants and buffaloes were introduced when the vegetation had begun to recover. Predators were only introduced in 2007 when there was sufficient game to sustain their numbers. Kuzuko is committed to the conservation of disease-free elephants, black rhino, mountain zebra. In 2005, after an absence of 150 years, elephants and black rhinos were released on to Kuzuko.
Kuzuko also has a historic value in the form of Koisan cave paintings. These bushman paintings have been dated at around 400 years. The area of the paintings falls outside the main reserve, but is part of the 1500 acres Educational Trail, an area stocked with non-dangerous game, where guests can take guided walks. School children from the neighbouring towns will also be invited to experience part of this educational trail. Many have never seen game in the wild. For conservation to be successful, Kuzuko believes that the local children need to learn to love and protect their heritage.
The Kuzuko Foundation is currently being formed as a charity to continue with the work of conservation, education and healthcare. It will fund projects such as the leopard sanctuary, educational visits for school children, healthcare and educational activities for the local communities. The foundation will provide guests who have had a wonderful experience at Kuzuko, to engage with us to support further conservation and social transformation activities.
Herewith the link to Kuzuko foundation, should you require more info with regards to projects – https://kuzukofoundation.org/home
Kuzuko in local Xhosa means ‘place of glory’. Kuzuko Lodge is a place where one can truly relax, away from the trappings of civilization and unwind in a unique setting with incredible views.
Not only a safari with game, but also a safari of the soul.
To sum it up in one word: Serenity.