From the Magic Hills Private Collection flagship property, Sky Villa, the views of the reserve are breathtaking, from the Camdeboo in the North, to the edge of the Addo Elephant National Park’s mountain range in the South. The land occupied by Magic Hills Private Game Reserve and Addo Elephant National Park are separated by a mere 14km as the crow flies, 73 parcels of privately-owned land, and an expanse of 13 880 hectares in total.
The proximity of the Addo opens up the opportunity for Magic Hills to join with the renowned national park to form a reserve that could cover up to 50 000 hectares in total. As a result, the new expanse could be one of the largest private game reserves in South Africa.
The Addo Expansion – What the Experts Say
In gathering the support of surrounding organizations, the leadership at Magic Hills Private Game Reserve has spent a great deal of time conferring with local experts such as Grant Fowlds, of the local Rhino Project, and African Conservation Trust organizations. When asked what his initial reaction to the Addo expansion plan was, Grant was optimistic, saying, “The world needs green spaces and biodiversity for nature-based resources. If, and when, we run out of land, there will be no return. Man and science can fix things but without habitat we are doomed.”
Speaking further of the impact on the expansion on conservation, Grant notes that the Magic Hills-Addo region is natural terrain for both the endangered black rhino, and elephants, both needing large areas to roam and reproduce. The new, full-sized reserve would be an ideal refuge for the protection of elephants and rhino. Other opportunities to rewild previously-captive cheetah populations, and foster packs of endangered wild dogs would also be favoured on a reserve such as this, granted that herds of prey are well-established.
Grant notes that one of the greatest challenges to the expansion would be the impact that COVID-19 has had on international tourism and conservation as a whole, saying, “We now have a SA sector that is learning to travel within South Africa, which is a 3- and 4-star market.”
On the flip side, even local travel could amount to 5 million travellers per year, which inspires some hope that a project such as the Addo expansion would have a positive effect on the employment rates in the direct vicinity of the reserve. Grant elaborates: “More people would be employed, as the income source will go from extensive farming to intensive tourism and hosting – three people employed for every guest; sometimes higher in more luxurious properties. If the area accommodated 200 guests, that would be at least 600 people employed.”
While an expansion of this nature will take immense funds, effort and regional support, the Magic Hills Private Game Reserve is determined to develop the corridor to the Addo Elephant National Park, giving travellers a chance to see a wilderness as authentic as the day it was discovered 300 years ago, and to offer elephants and other wild game to opportunity to roam from coast to karoo, as they once did.
About Grant Fowlds
Grant Fowlds hails from a background of stock and agricultural farming, beginning his career in conservation in 1999, when he signed as Founder of Amakhala Game Reserve, and became the director of Eliweni Wildlife. Grant has since led a diverse career in conservation, humanitarian efforts and international tourism, including a marketing partnership with renowned traveller Kingsley Holgate. Grant is currently active in an ambassadorial role with Project Rhino, and has released his first Biography, called Saving the Last Rhino.