Kwandwe Private Game Reserve won a string of admirable awards at the 2017 Safari Awards held in London last month. The most commendable of these was its award for being the Best Ecologically Responsible property for which it came first in the South Africa category and second in the overall Africa category.
A vast 54,000-acre wilderness region, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve has a holistic approach to green and sustainable practices. Offering exceptional wildlife viewing, the reserve's diverse landscape and five biomes are home to wide variety of game including the Big Five and threatened species such as the black wildebeest, crowned eagle, black footed cat and the highly endangered blue crane, from which it gets its name - Kwandwe, means 'Place of the Blue Crane' in Xhosa.
With just 22 rooms split between two small safari lodges and two private safari villas, Kwandwe has one of the highest land-to-guest ratios in South Africa. This high-yield-low-impact policy has reduced environmental impact, resource consumption and waste generation. Kwandwe captures vast amounts of rain water for human consumption rather than having large-scale water treatment and water waste systems. Solar technology is used extensively throughout the reserve to reduce electricity consumption, and therefore carbon emissions, while its policy of supporting local businesses assures food miles are reduced, with some herbs and vegetables grown on the reserve.
A safari at Kwandwe is carbon neutral too. Portulacaria afra, known as Spekboom in Afrikaans, is a nutritious thicket favoured by many grazing herbivores and one of the top five carbon-storing vegetations on the planet. Found in abundance across the reserve, it is thought that as much as four tons of carbon may be stored per hectare.
Family safaris too have an adventurous eco-focus with new activities adapted around ages whilst the gastronomic offering, sourced locally to reduce food miles, offers an element of innovation and surprise whether served in lodge and out on the reserve. It is these subtleties that made a safari at Kwandwe stand apart.
Community development has also been at the forefront of Kwandwe's activities. Kwandwe differs greatly from other game reserves in South Africa by virtue of the large numbers of people that live within the reserve. Many of these work for Kwandwe, making it one of the largest employers in the area.
It launched a social development arm in 2002 with the aim of unlocking the vast potential of local individuals and communities and has since made a real difference to people in the Eastern Cape. The reserve has provided adult education and training for potential staff; launched a positive health programme for locals; funded the construction of Fort Brown primary school and co-funded the construction of a development centre for Rhodes University; donated land for the development of an agri-village and community centre and set up a pre-school and aftercare centre on the property for children of staff.
As well as being carbon neutral and thinking carefully about the environmental aspects of its safaris, Kwandwe is focused on improving the lives of the communities living within the reserve. The recent awards have been well received and just goes to show the hard work the staff at Kwandwe have put in.