Protecting an internationally-recognised biodiversity hotspot

The Karoo is an area of great biodiversity. It stretches from the Orange River in the East to the Atlantic Ocean in the West, a region of extremes and stark differences. The Swartberg Mountain Range splits the expanse between the Little Karoo in the south-west and the Great Karoo in the north-east. Magic Hills Private Game Reserve is located in the latter.

A leisurely 3-hour scenic drive from Port Elizabeth International Airport, or a 30-minute Cessna flight directly to the reserve’s private landing strip, will get you to this incomparable location.

This semi-desert region is renowned for its harsh yet beautiful conditions – arid land alive with the most persistent of vegetation, vast cloudless skies, expansive vistas as far as the eye can see, and exceptional bird- and wildlife.

While Magic Hills is home to the big five, it’s the rarer creatures that will attract more discerning guests. Birdlife is prolific, with 407 different species known in the area, including the endangered and seldom seen black eagle. There are also 10 endemic bird species that occur in the Karoo and nowhere else in the world, like the Karoo Korhaan, Sclater’s Lark, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and Karoo Eremomela, who are guaranteed to entice keen twitchers to reach for the binoculars.

And then, there’s the flora. Contributing to the cleaner-than-clean air is the incredible spekboom. One of many medicinal plants on the land, spekboom is a succulent that literally acts as a sponge for carbon dioxide, able to absorb four to ten tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per hectare – ten times more effective than the Amazon rainforest. A good enough reason to breathe deeply and sleep soundly.

The Karoo biome is an internationally-recognised biodiversity hotspot, and is the world’s only arid hotspot, according to UNESCO. What this means is that the land is rich in fauna and flora, many endemic to these parts, and definitely something worth protecting, which is why it is Magic Hills’ aim to rehabilitate this area.

Over a long period of time, the original character of the reserve was changed from wilderness to agricultural land (especially sheep and cattle breeding), and related to this was a purposeful change of vegetation to pasture, and, unfortunately, a lack of interest in land that could not be used for grazing. Through human activity and spontaneously, new plant species have been introduced that did not originally occur here, and these changed the original character of the landscape, or were even harmful to other species of plants or animals. Our goal is to bring back the flora of Magic Hills as close as possible to its original state, by removing alien and unwanted vegetation.

Another big project is reducing soil erosion. Due to climate change and human activity, soil erosion occurs both in unforested mountainous terrain and in watercourses. We want to mitigate the negative impact on the subsequent poor water management by afforesting slopes and restoring natural dams.    

As part of our thicket restoration programme, for every guest who visits us at least two indigenous trees are planted. One of these trees will always be the miraculous Spekboom species while, depending on where the trees are planted in our restoration landscape, the other may also be a Spekboom or perhaps a Spike Thorn tree or even an indigenous succulent such as the Paper-Rose Cactus, ensuring each of our guests contributes to the restoration of Magic Hills. These are just a few of our very many planned conservation projects for Magic Hills Private Game Reserve over the next few years. We welcome investors to support us on our conservation journey, or to become a part of our crowd-funding efforts here.

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