WHAT IS A WILDLIFE ESTATE? The meaning of Housing Estate changes from place to place. In Hoedspruit a Wildlife Estate means owning either a 5,000m² or 10 000m² (half a Hectare or 1 Hectare) stand on which you can build a thatched house or lodge as it’s referred to, with predetermined architectural guidelines. Each house is surrounded by bushveld and most houses do not have gardens (although, indigenous plants are permitted). There are no fences or walls around the properties allowing game to move freely between the properties. It’s not uncommon for animals such as Nyala, Porcupine or Warthog to make themselves resident around your home.
One of the biggest perks to living on a wildlife estate is that you have usage of the farm and facilities. This includes facilities such as hiking trails, cycling trails, picnic spots, game drive areas through to restaurant, gym, horse stables and sports facilities. In most estates this portion of the property common is for the pleasure of home owners. What makes a wildlife estate special, is that it gives owners the freedom to enjoy the bush beyond just the one hectare of ownership.
As with all development and Estates, a monthly contribution is levied to cover the running of the reserve. This includes fencing, security, roads, water holes, pumps and game is often managed by a warden or outsourced to a suitable organization and the only responsibility of the home owner is towards the levies. The costs are divided by the home owners and are in most cases less than one would expect to pay in a residential area.
Each wildlife estate differs and the differences are characterised by things such as type of vegetation, the type or roads, architectural designs, shared facilities, activities, animal and bird types.
THE ROLE WILDLIFE ESTATES PLAY Several positive spin offs have been created by wildlife estates. The first would be the growth of Hoedspruit as a town. Twelve years ago Hoedspruit was a tiny town with little to offer tourists and farmers alike. Now the town boasts a number of shops catering to residents, holiday makers, farmers and the hospitality industry. Restaurants, pubs, curio shops and tourism activities have loomed making Hoedspruit a destination for locals and internationals. This has created employment and made the town a destination on its own. A nature based school, Southern Cross Schools has been established and is the first of it’s kind to incorporate environmental education into it’s curriculum and has students not only from Hoedspruit but caters for students from across the globe in the boarding school.
With the growth of wildlife estates, there has been a move away from traditional farming such as cattle and agriculture, towards properties that will in future be protected as conservation areas. This has meant game numbers in the area have increased and wildlife estates allow safe areas for these animals to live. Examples have been African Wild Dog successfully breeding on Moditlo, protection of Hippo on Blyde Wildlife Estate and Rhino protection within the Blue Canyon Conservancy. While some of the wildlife estates are stand alone and have been fenced in, others have become part of a larger conservation area, allowing for greater movement of game and an overriding conservation principle and constitution. The benefits are not only for fauna alone but also benefit the flora. Leadwood trees for example live for hundreds of years and in the past have been too easily harvested off farming land despite legal protection by law.
On a qualitative side there are benefits to property owners who enjoy the pleasure of living and being in nature not only as a witness but as a part of nature, being an actor in the play and not just sitting in the audience. People who have moved from the cities to live on a wildlife estate have experienced a new way to live in which traffic jams and the fear of crime does not exist. Children are free to ride their bikes and walk to friends without fear. Being close to nature and the ability to explore it has enhanced the appreciation of many people, young and old.
THE INVESTMENT POTENTIAL Property has always been used as a cornerstone for investment. A long term view should always be taken when considering the investment potential of any property, but it certainly helps when wildlife living offers tangible lifestyle benefits from day one. Wildlife Estates like secure villages and golf course developments have shown an above investment return. There are a number of factors which add to an estates potential to appreciate in value. These include security features, estate maintenance and management, as well as aspects that increase the property’s future asking price such as large stands, master designed architecture (yes even in the bush) and of course location, location, location. Similar to coastal and golf course estates, properties with superior views within a wildlife estate command a premium over those homes without. Thus stand selection for a prospective build is one of the most important decisions a purchaser can make. Views in a wildlife estate mean different things for different people; some like large trees, others enjoy rivers and dams, some mountains, others open plains and some people are happy with just plain bush.
Wildlife estates given their exclusivity are exceptionally well serviced. They have strict access control, constant guard patrols, and surveillance systems, anti poaching, game and environmental management, infrastructure maintenance such as roads, fencing and water. The maintenance of a property will also influence its potential value. Some wildlife estates have the advantage of an estate manager while others are managed by the home owners, who know the area and have local knowledge of service providers.
Living on a wildlife estate comes with responsibility. With multiple owners owning a wildlife estate there needs to be rules which will protect the lifestyle of all and ensure property and property values are protected. The rules are also often there to protect the environment. One such rule that can be quite controversial is the “no pets” rule. There are multiple reasons why this makes sense on a wildlife estate yet understandably this can be a sad reality for someone who wants to bring a long standing family pet
PITFALLS OF LIVING ON A WILDLIFE ESTATE
Architectural guidelines and building regulations are common place within up market developments and in the wildlife estates these generally take on the form of the roof type (being thatch), the size and location of a lodge and the colours and height of a building. With little exception the rules are common sense and provide clarity to property owners as to what they are and aren’t allowed to do. A purchaser considering purchasing a property should familiarize themselves with the estate rules upon purchasing. Other examples of common rules are to not feed the animals, no swimming with crocodiles and hippos, no motorbikes or quad bikes, noise restrictions, fire prevention, and commercialization of private property.
CONCLUSION On the surface of it, living on a wildlife estate has many of the characteristics of other property investments. However there is also something about it that makes it very different. Unlike an investment return, there is a quality of life that cannot be measured. There is the protection of the environment that is often spoken about but not always implemented. There is the enjoyment of utilizing the whole property, at the cost of owning a portion. And finally a purchaser does not have the hassle and cost of managing the whole game farm.
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