Linking Coast to Karoo – an Ecotourism and Conservation Opportunity

Linking Coast to Karoo – an Ecotourism and Conservation Opportunity

At 20 100 hectares of wide-open African Karoo wilderness, the Magic Hill Private Game Reserve already occupies a significant slice of this breathtaking Eastern Cape region. With land rehabilitation and wildlife rewilding initiatives already underway, the reserve is setting a new example of conservation safaris in South Africa. Owned by Dr. Erik and Alexandra Kovacs in Slovakia, the reserve is managed by Declan Hofmeyr, a pioneering ecologist and experienced conservation expert.

International Partnerships for Local Change

A massive part of the vision at Magic Hills is that of rewilding indigenous species to the area. Whether fostered from zoo’s or rescued from unfavourable living environments, Magic Hills Private Game Reserve offers home and refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable wildlife. Apart from the rewilding initiatives that have been undertaken independently, Magic Hills welcomes partnership opportunities with local, regional and international animal welfare organisations and NGOs, in order to rally as much international support as possible.

Recognizing that Magic Hills is not an island, but part of a global community deeply invested in the preservation of nature, Declan and the reserve leadership welcome the help of third parties who share the passion. By creating a conservation safari in South Africa, the reserve sets out to effect a widespread impact on the region’s environment, as much as local and international tourism.

Speaking of the Aspinall Foundation, Declan points out the benefits of having the assistance, funding and endorsement of a legitimate, international organisation: “For my first three years in conservation I had the privilege to work with the legendary Karen Trendler at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre outside Pretoria. As a student I worked on a volunteer basis initially because the competition for funding is fierce and what money does become available must be prioritised for the animals in need. Being aligned with a recognised international NGO is critical to securing the needed assets, financial and otherwise.

Eyes on the Horizon – Expanding to Addo Elephant National Park

The Magic Hills Private Game Reserve is ideally located on a portion of land that occupies two unique biomes. The reserve enjoys views of rugged ravines, golden-grassy carpets of savannah land, and the distant rolling mountains of the Addo Elephant National Park. The latter, only 14km’s away as the crow flies, is separated from Magic Hills by 73 parcels of privately-owned land.

With plans to grow the Magic Hills Private Game Reserve into a world-class leader in conservation safaris in South Africa, the wheels have been set in motion to acquire the land that separates the reserve from the iconic Addo region. Expanding the Magic Hills territory south-east to join up with the Addo Elephant National Park will create an uninterrupted corridor of land between Karoo and coastline. This will allow herds of wild game, rhinos and elephants to roam from coast to karoo, following the Sundays River, as they did centuries ago.

The most exciting thing for me, is the fence removals”, states Declan. Speaking of the region’s game farming legacy, Declan points out that separated camps still remain on the Magic Hills Private Game Reserve, as well as the land beyond the reserve border. Transparent about his passion for rehabilitation of vegetation and restoring natural balance, he states, “We are now taking down the fences [on the reserve] that used to artificially keep animals apart to control who breeds with who. This will allow herds of antelope to once again form and let nature take its course. The removal of fences also allows for a greater area in which wildlife can move and in so doing reduce the localised impact on vegetation, especially during the ongoing drought.

An Eco-Tourism Destination – Conservation Safaris in South Africa

The Addo Expansion brings with it an incredible promise of a vast landscape restored to its original form. Parallel to the conservation benefits, local and international tourism to the area will inevitably create employment opportunities, welcoming tourists from across the world to experience one of the leading conservation safaris in South Africa.

Restoring the large herds of indigenous game to this expanse of land will be critical to creating a natural balance between predator, prey and the land and vegetation itself. By applying his years of experience in herd ecology, Declan is working closely with the officials in the area, as well as Magic Hills ownership, to achieve this balance.

About Declan Hofmeyr

Declan’s experience in conservation and wildlife rehabilitation goes back to 1993, when he began as a nature conservation student. He has filled numerous roles for Ezemvelo Conservation, Madikwe Game Reserve, Marakele Contractual National Park, the Massingir region, and Molopo Nature Reserve. Declan holds two degrees in Nature Conservation and has contributed to peer-reviewed publications on predator and disease management. He is passionate about the management of wildlife relocations, landscape conservation and confronting the growing threats to charismatic species such as lion, elephant and rhino.

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