To be a centre of conservation excellence in the Eastern Cape Province and to be recognised as a premier high-end nature tourism destination, as well as to develop a blueprint for how to responsibly and intentionally rewild and restore previously devastated landscapes.
By embracing the concept of ‘Wilderness, Wellness, Wildlife’ the Magic Hills Private Game Reserve aims to develop a resilient, high-end tourism product on the back of area rehabilitation and restoration, repatriation of animals from international zoos, protected area expansion, community upliftment, sustained area integrity and recognition of the value of our human capital.
ANIMAL RESCUE & REHABILITATION
Together with world-renowned The Aspinall Foundation, iSanti Karoo will become a safe haven for previously mistreated animals that have been rescued from international zoos and other ex-situ environments. Where possible, indigenous game will be rewilded, and in situations where this is not suitable, animals will spend time at the Rescue Centre, currently under construction, on Magic Hills Game Reserve until such a time that they can be rehomed. Another focus will be rescuing and rezoning cheetahs that are currently roaming the land. While the Magic Hills Game Reserve is home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo), as well as cheetah and giraffe, it’s the rarer creatures that will attract more discerning guests. Birdlife is prolific, with more than 400 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 their binoculars.
Additionally, there are over 45 exotic and unusual species roaming the land, including the golden, arabian, scimitar and painted oryx. Those who wish to explore the grasslands by night may be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of elusive animals like the aardvark, lynx, porcupine, black-back jackal and bat-eared fox. Magic Hills is also home to the largest black rhino bull in the world; as one of the most critically endangered species in the world, a sighting of this guy is priceless. After more than 100 years, Magic Hills was the first reserve to bring elephants back to the Great Karoo.
While heavily overgrazed for many years, the Magic Hills Game Reserve has grown by over 672% and is now spread across 17000 hectares of rehabilitated undulating hills, breath-taking ravines, wide sandy riverbeds and open plains over which the Big 5, cheetah and giraffe (which together make up our Magic 7) already roam. Extensive veld rehabilitation is already underway, with 2020 being the year wherein active reintroduction of Karoo grasses and succulents to the most degraded areas will be a priority project. A key focus is also combatting extensive erosion and the reintroduction of the area’s first and naturally occurring wild animals. While the full extent of land under the management of the Game Reserve is not currently accessible to all the wildlife inhabiting the reserve, over time and once rehabilitation has been completed to a satisfactory level, more and more fences will be dropped to expand the great reserve to allow free access to the remaining xxxxx hectares, making the total rehabilitated area around xxxxxx hectares, accessible to all visitors and wildlife on the reserve. Plans are underway to remove invasive plants that have been brought to the farm in the past and have spread and displaced the original vegetation.
The vegetation of Magic Hills is representative of two Biomes, the Thicket Biome and the Nama Karoo Biome, which, with species from both biomes present, makes for a diverse variety of animal and plant life that guests can discover. Special among this plant life is the Spekboom (or Elephant Food Tree), which occurs naturally throughout the Magic Hills landscape, but is most abundant on the southern valleys and slopes. 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. This miracle tree is a climate change champion since it takes just 120 Spekboom trees to offset the carbon footprint of an average person for an entire year.
Working hand in hand with the Tourism Division and Executive Management, Magic Hills’ ecological goals, including veld rehabilitation and species diversification, are managed alongside tourism developments, community needs and income-generating strategies. These departments and strategies are aligned and goal driven with the objective to restore our piece of the Great Karoo back to what Jan Smuts saw when he sought refuge in the area during the Second Anglo-Boer War or when the Khoi people, South Africa’s first nation, followed the migrating herds of springbok, quagga and blue buck up from the coast during the summers.
A project still in motion but a project with infinite potential, Magic Hills Private Collection is certain to become the destination of choice in the Eastern Cape for discerning guests.
The history of the Great Karoo is infinite. It’s hard to believe that this desert-like expanse of nature was once an inland sea. But history has it that approximately 250 million years ago, that was the reality. Slowly, as the global climate changed shape, the water gradually evaporated, turning the sea into a swamp where amphibians and reptiles thrived. The area was also previously home to many different civilisations – from the bushmen and the nomadic Khoi people to the last of the Stone Age population and Jan Smuts and his allies. In fact, the house where Jan Smuts sought refuge during the Second Anglo-Boer War can be found on the property, and is currently undergoing restoration.
Rock art sites also continue to be uncovered throughout the land, and investigation is currently underway into the history and significance of the sites while respecting the rights of the national cultural estate and the Khoi people. Unfortunately, the San and Khoi cultures are slowly eroding with time. To help ensure the long-term sustainability of the culture, the team at Magic Hills are in the process of developing an alignment with the Ju/’hoansi Master Trackers of the Nyae Nyae community to provide insight and experiences like no other. Jansenville, the closest town to the private reserve, originated in 1854 when the Dutch Reformed Church formed a parish in the area, and takes its name from the last Dutch Governor of the Cape. This rural town is home to many disadvantaged local communities, which Magic Hills support through social responsibility initiatives.
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