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Game reserve property investors

Game reserve property investors

Keen on buying wildlife property? Here’s the lowdown on upcoming Mjejane Lifestyle developments and frequently asked questions by interested investors.

Q&A with Willie Joubert, Safrican Leisure Group – Mjejane Lifestyle

Q: When did you first discover this area?

A: In 2004 my father Hennie and I bought a portion of the Farm Symington at an auction that was advertised in the Landbouweekblad . Like Mjejane, it overlooks the Crocodile River and the Kruger National Park (KNP). The intention was to use this as a place to relax and get away from our hectic business and city lives. We then heard about a 4 000 hectare prime bushveld farm called Lodwichs Lust 163JU, just three kilometres away, also bordering on the KNP, with 11 kilometres of Crocodile River frontage. Our natural instinct as property and ecotourism developers kicked in and we made an offer to the owners – a Malaysian company. It wasn’t accepted, and we subsequently found out that it was part of a Land Claim by the Mjejane Community. We then approached the community and jointly fought with them for the restitution of the farm on the basis of their Tourism Development proposal for the property. The Land Claim Commission accepted the business plan for the Tourism Development and, together with our company (Safrican), purchased the property, which was then transferred to the community.

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Looking towards the Nkomazi Mountains, Kingsland, currently known as erfs 3 and 5, will be developed next.

Q: What was the essence of the development proposal?

A: It was to bring Lodwichs Lust under conservation using a business model that we had successfully implemented over many years. It included a range of potential income-earning facilities including full-title ownership, fractional ownership, timeshare and a commercial lodge, with the development done in phases and limited to specific low-density development nodes, thus preserving around 4 000 hectares of this extremely ecosensitive and pristine bush. Our vision was to create a buffer zone around this southern area of the KNP to protect the sensitive Crocodile River biosphere and, most importantly, create a development that would benefit the Mjejane community on a sustainable basis.

Q: Tell us more about Safrican’s other developments.

A: We successfully developed Mabula Game Reserve near Warmbaths, Westlake Country and Safari Estates on the banks of Hartebeespoort Dam, Mount Savannah Game Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind near Krugersdorp and Seasons Eco Golf Estate, between Hartebeespoort Dam and Brits. I am also a 30% partner in the prestigious Black Rhino Game Reserve, the first private game reserve to be incorporated into Pilanesberg National Park. Black Rhino comprises 25 full-title stands and a commercial lodge that’s owned and managed by me.

Q: What’s next?

A: Besides developing erven 2, 3 and 5 at Mjejane, Safrican has identified, and will continue to look at, other tourism-development projects in which it can partner with communities.

Q&A with Peter Anderson, CEO of Anderson Wildlife Properties (AWP)

Q: Is it possible to buy commercial game lodges and luxury private game lodges in big-five reserves?

A: Yes, we work with commercial lodges as well as luxury private lodges with a wide range of guest capacities and traversing areas. We specialise in land and lodges typically in big-five protected areas in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, Manyeleti, Timbavati Game Reserve, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, Umbabat Nature Reserve and Balule Private Game Reserve, all of which are located to the west of the Kruger National Park (where fences were removed in 1994), known as the Greater Kruger Park. We also cover concessions in National Parks throughout southern Africa and these are essentially leasehold concessions. It is interesting to note that prices in the traditional ‘open system with Kruger’ wildlife areas have continued to increase in value through the global financial crisis.

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Bedrooms lead directly out to the bush at Mjejane Lifestyle.

Q: Is it possible to buy undeveloped land within big-five game reserves?

A: Yes, we have some undeveloped 50 hectare sites within the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve as well as land in the Greater Kruger. The Lapalala project, which is being launched soon, will have a limited number of 1 500 hectare sites within a 36 000 hectare big-five reserve.

Q: How are traversing agreements structured and what do these access rights cost?

A: Most wildlife land-traversing agreements are structured in two ways. The first is whereby a traversing value is worked out annually over a portion of land with agreed renewal terms. What is becoming the norm now, though, are reciprocal traversing rights, based on a formula that caters for the size of an area and the density of vehicles. If a portion of land has a higher vehicle density than a neighbour, the land-and-density formula will determine the traversing allowance at any time.

Q: What are concessions?

A: Concessions are set up in national and provincial parks throughout southern Africa to enable these parks to generate income by providing a private enterprise with a tourism site or concession that they develop and run as a business and in so doing provide the Park Authority with income that can be utilised in conserving the parks.

Q: What does freehold title mean?

A: This is the ultimate land-ownership title in South Africa, whereby the owner holds the title deed to the property. The titleholder of the land is registered in the Deeds Office of SA and officially recognised as the property owner.

Q: What is a syndicate?

A: A syndicate is a group of owners/members that owns a lodge or shared ownership, and it can have anywhere between four and 13 members. By owning a share in a syndicate, one is entitled to make use of the lodge over certain periods of the year with guests. The benefit is that all costs of maintaining and running the lodge are shared equally and shareholders are not burdened with costs when not making use of the share. Examples of these are to be found in the Sabi Sands, Welgevonden and Madikwe, where shares are made up typically of five-week blocks that are split up though the year.

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Magical late-evening light after gentle summer rains – one of the benefits of investing in wildlife property.

Q: What are shareblocks?

A: The way a shareblock-scheme works is that a holding company owns a certain area of land within a big-five game reserve that contains existing private lodges. By purchasing shares in this holding company, one receives the right of use of a specific lodge and the right to traverse the land owned by the company. It is possible to own these shares outright, in which case the lodge is exclusively for the use of the shareholder. Alternatively, it is possible to own a portion of a share, in which case one would have a partner in the lodge.

Q: What do foreigners need to know when purchasing property in SA game reserves?

A: It is important for foreign purchasers of wildlife properties particularly in South Africa to have their share-ownership certificates (land is usually owned by a company – hence the shares) stamped as ‘nonresident’ in order that the proceeds of a sale of such land at a later date can be repatriated to the country of origin or source of funds.

Q: Who is investing in this sector?

A: Many are philanthropic investors who are passionate about conservation and tourism. They invest significant resources into projects and properties with visions of uplifting and empowering local communities, establishing and engaging in rural tourism, and protecting biodiversity. Our clients are a mixture of South African and overseas investors, and quite a number of them set up their own initiatives to support various communities and wildlife projects. Trisha Wilson, founder of one of the most successful global interior-design concerns and based in Dallas, has set up an entire schooling academy in Vaalwater, while other clients have set up schools, welfare projects and environmental education projects adjacent to the conservation areas.

‘Our clients are a mixture of South African and overseas investors, and quite a number if them set up their own initiatives to support various communities and wildlife projects’
– Peter Anderson, CEO of Anderson Wildlife Properties (AWP)

Find out more about investing in game reserve property.

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