Monday, October 3, 2011

A Little Piece of Paradise

Livin’ the good life on the savana
by Neal McKenna ©
     The hornbills outside your kitchen door are calling and you hear the sound of hooves as a herd of buck run by, on the way to the neighbourhood waterhole. This is what everyday life is all about in the 15,000 hectare Blue Canyon Game Conservancy. It’s also the life a few lucky South Africans have chosen for themselves. Living in Leadwood Big Game Estate or neighbouring Raptors Lodge Wildlife Escape may seem like a dream but it’s one that’s come true for people who are ready to give the pressured and stressful lifestyle of the city – any city.
        Blue Canyon is a private game reserve and a safari lodge destination but it is also the location of two absolutely unique home developments. Raptors offers a touch of civilisation in the wild. It has a small townsite which includes an exclusive school as well as an excellent restaurant called Ollie’s. There are no dangerous animals roaming free in this section – all of that is saved for the Leadwood development.
Leadwood is the place where you can make the real Africa your home. All manner of wildlife including predators roam at large, so people who choose to live here cannot have pets and certainly kids can’t play in the bush. Homes are well spaced apart and are never visible even to the nearest neighbour. Access roads are true game park roads and again, homes are not visible from the road. It’s truly a place primed for lifestyle options – you can live there year-round or you can opt to build a vacation home. But chances are likely those holiday digs would become your main address in very short order.
     One Blue Canyon resident is Sven Nothard, a businessman who decided it was time to move to ‘paradise.’ “I was tired of city life and always had a love of the bush life,” he says. “With technology today, you can work anywhere. I still choose to work out of an office in Hoedspruit because I like the sense of ‘going’ to work. When I drive to or from the office, the only traffic jam I hit may be elephants crossing the road or giraffe grazing… There are no alarms going off; no police sirens – just the sound of the river at the bottom of my property rushing by. The tranquility and sheer natural beauty of the area gives me a sense of peace.”

     In Leadwood, I visited two homes already built and they are absolutely posh. Of course, that goes with the territory; these are rather exclusive residential estates – price per vacant stand starts at R1,000,000. After that, there is the cost of building your house and strict eco-parameters must be adhered to – such as roofing with thatch only.
     But the people who already live here are very enthusiastic about their lives in the bush. These home owners are young, have children and still have jobs but most of them telecommute to work.
     If you have kids, you may be wondering about their future if you took up residency on one of these big game estates, but don’t give it another thought. The Southern Cross School, the first nature-based school in South Africa, is situated adjacent to both residential Estates. 

     Your children won’t just be getting a superb education but will grow up with a strong commitment to the local environment as well as to the community. And it’s only a few minutes’ drive away from home – through the bush. Although, on the way, you might stop to admire a rhino’s new calf, or watch a dung beetle carefully carrying its load across the road – either one would make being late for school well worth it!
     But even if you’re not in the market to build a home in Blue Canyon, it’s still an ideal spot for a long weekend get-away. It’s a leisurely 5-hour drive from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit taking you through spectacular countryside and picturesque little places like Dullstrom. And when you get there, the Khaya Ndlovu Manor House is really quite the fabulous treat.
     Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Drakensberg Mountains, you can enjoy a drink on the pool deck overlooking a waterhole where a variety of wildlife visit throughout the day. This safari lodge is an island of luxury and indulgence in the middle of the bush – but the real Africa lurks just beyond the perimeter.
     During one night there, I heard a big cat attack a bock of some sort. There was lots of shirking and growling then silence. After a while, there was another scuffle involving the cat and several hyenas. The next morning, before breakfast, I had a look for myself and there were all kinds of tracks to prove some sort of nefarious activity had occurred in the dark.

     So whether you want to get away from the big city permanently or just for a short respite, the Blue Canyon conservancy has something for you. It’s friendly community were families of ilks are welcome And you have to admit, it’s a helluva unique bragging point to be able to say your house has giraffes and ele’s in the garden.

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