Wildfire At Mabalingwe Nature Reserve

Dear Mabalingwe Shareholders, Friends, and Guests

As many of you will already be aware, a devastating wildfire, which started at around 14:00 on Saturday afternoon, 23 September 2023, on a neighbouring farm, has swept through Mabalingwe Nature Reserve. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Mabalingwe comprises approximately 8,800 hectares and has been an established holiday destination since the early 1990s.  Mabalingwe has 205 privately owned houses (also known as lodges), 105 timeshare chalets, a caravan park, and various commercial entities. With strong winds propelling the fire from the north, the fire rapidly widened to a front measuring several kilometers from end to end. More than one hundred (100) fire protection workers from the local team and staff were deployed and tried to contain the fire through Saturday night and found some success yet were not able to put the fire fully down.  On Sunday morning the winds picked up again and spread the fire further and caused havoc resulting in 56 private houses (lodges) being burnt to the ground, with a further eight houses partially damaged. A bush camp and one timeshare chalet were also destroyed.  Assessments regarding damage to infrastructure are still ongoing.

The impact on animals within the Reserve is also still being assessed. It is estimated that 6,000 hectares of grazing in the Reserve were consumed by the fire.

All guests and residents staying on the Reserve over the weekend were evacuated, starting on Sunday morning. While the fire was eventually brought under control on the Reserve late afternoon (25 September 2023), firefighters remained on scene, fighting, and managing the fire in the greater Bela-Bela area. The extremely dry environment and windy conditions, as well as the mountainous terrain, have made for extremely challenging conditions for those who have been fighting the fire.

Mr Matie Barnard, manager of the Mabalingwe Common Property Association (MCPA) reported that he is relieved to advise that no human fatalities have occurred. Tragically, a Mabalingwe Nature Reserve staff member was severely burned while assisting with firefighting efforts on Sunday. He was caught in the flames when the wind turned suddenly and was hospitalised for treatment. We are pleased to advise that he was released from the hospital this morning, Tuesday, 26 September 2023. No further injuries or loss of life of any of the fire protection workers as well as the visitors/residents was reported, which can be attributed to the coordinated process resulting in the timeous decision to evacuate the Reserve and the communication between the firefighting teams.

Barnard thanked the Mabalingwe neighbours for their unwavering support during the crisis and local businesses that provided support to the firefighting teams, which included more than 200 individuals at times.

With the immediate danger to life, limb, and property addressed, the focus has now moved to animal welfare where steps have been put in place to ensure a constant supply of water and feed.  A generous donation has been received from a veterinary specialist and helicopter team to complete an aerial survey to evaluate the situation.  Teams onsite have reported seeing a lot of animals moving around the Reserve. The primary concern for the short term is providing the animals with feed, having lost most available browsing, and grazing to the fire.

We would like to express our gratitude to every staff member, member of the community, local businesses, and the public for your actions amid this tragedy; and overwhelming support, assistance, prayers, and wishes during this time.

We are grateful and humbled to say that we have received numerous requests from individuals wanting to make financial contributions to a Mabalingwe Fire Disaster Support effort. We are also endlessly grateful to the phenomenal greater Bela-Bela community who have provided food and refreshments for the firefighting teams over the past two days.

The pressing need now is for donations to provide support to families that have lost their homes, any requirements for the fire team over-and-above food and refreshments, and for game feed for the wildlife.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank any shareholders and members of the public that are able to donate and assist, in advance. The official banking details for donations are as follows:

Bank:  ABSA

Account Name: Mabalingwe Common Property Association

Branch Code: 632005

Account Number: 40 6415 9982

Reference: Kindly only use the following reference – DONATION (for any donations towards the fire team support, or families that have lost houses)

Bank: FNB

Account Name: LUDUM Game Consortium (Pty) Ltd

Branch Code: 250855

Account Number: 627 827 349 85

Reference: Kindly only use the following reference – GAME FEED (for any donations towards feed for the wildlife)

For any physical game feed donations, the needs include:

•  Game blocks and game pellets

•  Lucerne, teff, oats, blue buffalo grass

•  Salt licks

*Upon arrival at the main gate, Security will direct donations to a drop-off area

In addition, a Back-Our-Bokkies campaign has been established via Ludum Game Consortium. Details and banking details for donations can be viewed via the following link: https://www.ludum.co.za/back-our-bokkies

All the information about what is needed, and the relevant banking details, can be accessed via the above link.

This tragedy has a far-reaching impact on many lives and has had a devastating effect on a significant tract of pristine, reserved South African bushveld and the wildlife and eco-systems contained within that environment. As the recovery and infrastructure repairs get underway, and the rangers begin making provisions for feed and water for the wildlife; we request your prayers for the protection of our people, safe-harbour and relief for the animals, and for the revival and re-establishment of the lands, infrastructure, and earth that make up the greater Mabalingwe Nature Reserve.

As always, we are grateful for the many blessings and kindnesses shown and shared during this devastating event and are incredibly appreciative of the support and care we continue to receive from you, our valued shareholders, friends, and guests.

We kindly request your patience and understanding, as all our operational and administrative systems and procedures have been impacted to some extent. Should you have any specific urgent and important queries, kindly direct same via our email channels and we will attend to same as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

The Mabalingwe Nature Reserve Board

Your Resort Stories: Hoffie Hofmeyr’s Story

We love it when our valued guests and shareholders share their holiday experiences with us. As a new section, as part of our blog, we will feature stories that our guests shared with us – some from yesteryear and others from more recently.

Here is a story, told as seen through the eyes of shareholder, Hoffie Hofmeyr:

In 1988, is daar oor naweke bemarking by Mabalingwe gedoen by wyse van ʼn braai by die groot swembad, ‘n aanbieding van die ontwikkelingsplanne waar die muurbalbaan is en ‘n rit per wildbesigtigingsvoertuig na die restaurant en paar woonplekke in Ingwekamp, wat reeds opgerig was, om ‘n idee te kry van hoe hulle destyds gelyk het. Slegs die fondasies van 57 tot 61 was gelê, maar die pragtige uitsig suid en op die waterdrinkplek in die gebied naby waar die Tloukamp nou is, was genoeg om ‘n paar weke te verkoop.

Met die eerste besoeke vanaf 1989, is die wêreld per voet verken. Destyds, was daar nog nie olifante nie. Eers is oor die berg geklim tot by die Kubudam en dan deur die poort gestap tot aan die bopunt van die Wesselsdam, waar daar ‘n goeie piekniek plek was. Later is by die Kubudam eenhede gebou met ‘n konferensiefasiliteit. Die eenhede is gedurende die week vir konferensies gebruik en oor naweke deur deeltiteleienaars.  By die piekniekplek is eers ‘n bergklimplek geskep, toe is ‘n boogskietarea ontwikkel en later ‘n klim-en-klouter-stellasie.

‘n Ander roete was langs die koppie deur waar Kwalatakamp nou is tot by Kameelperddrinkplek. In die omgewing waar die Kalahari Oasis later jare vir die Castrol-advertensies opgerig is, moes ons vir renosters uitgekyk word, want dit was een van hul geliefde uithangplekke. Dan was daar die pad oor die koppie waar die leeukamp vandag is, tot by die ou ingang wat nader aan Witland was as die huidige ingang. Daar was toe miskien nie leeus nie, maar wel pofadders.

Witland self was ‘n ou land en toentertyd sonder bome. Die verskillende boksoorte het daarvan gehou om daar te oornag en vroegoogend na sonsonder se kant, was ‘n mens verseker van ontmoetings.Trouens, dit was moontlik om daar uit te klim en saam met die Kameelperde te stap solank as wat ‘n dertig treë afstand of so gehandhaaf word. By die Tsesebbe-drink-plek was daar op ‘n stadium ‘n skuiling gewees, vanwaar die verskillende diere se manewales dopgehou kon word, soos Njalas wat spog of Koedoes wat ‘stoei’. In 1989, is by geleentheid twee luiperde voor die kantoor vrygelaat en is hulle soos blits teen die berg uit.

Die koms van die seekoeie was iets besonder en ligte is bo by die boonste swembad onder die kroeg aangebring om die onderste gedeelte langs die pad te verlig, wanneer hulle saans uitgekom het om aan voer wat uitgesit is om te vreet. Dit was aan die begin nodig sodat hulle gevestig kon raak. Soms het hulle met mekaar geargumenteer en dan is een tydelik uit die trop verdryf. Daar is gewoonlik na die watergat, suid van Ingwe, gevlug. By een geleentheid het so ‘n seekoei ‘n vrou wat wederregtelik ‘n hondjie saamgebring en gaan stap het in die pad onder na die winkel se kant toe, aangeval en by ‘n ander geleentheid is een uit Ingwe verdryf deur die werkers en personeel wat op die destyds metaalasblikke se deksels geslaan het. Die gevolg was dat daar toe ‘n lae elektriese heining om die kamp aangebring is. Die oorblyfsels is vandag nog daar, maar die seekoeie het intussen hoër op beweeg en bly hoofsaaklik in die Gorcumdam.

Die winkel by die swembad het aan die begin, afgesien van kosvoorrade, ook klere en allerlei aandenkings aangehou. Later was daar ‘n afsonderlike winkel bo by die kantore waar ‘n verskeidenheid toerisme-items aangebied is. Met die ontwikkeling van die karavaankamp en die opening van die winkel daar, het die klem egter verskuif na noodsaaklikhede en die behoeftes van kampeerders.

Soos wat meer kampe ontwikkel en huise opgerig is, het die aard van die aktiwiteite wat aangebied was ook verander. Wildbesigtigingsritte, swem, muurbal, tafeltennis en tennis is aangevul met ‘n ‘Jacuzzi’, mini-golf, vlugbal, ‘n speletjieskamer en ‘n groot verskeidenheid van vermaak wat veral vir ouers met kinders verwelkomend moes wees.Tloukamp, wat die verantwoordelikheid vir konferensies by Kubukamp oorgeneem het en ook op troues en die huisvesting van trougaste afgestem was, het ook weer ‘n gedaanteverwisseling ondergaan. Die Khoisan wat op ‘n stadium besoekers met hul danse verwelkom het en ook in die kroeg opgetree het, het verdwyn terwyl die kamp waar hulle gebly agtergebly het. Wildbesigtigings was oorspronklik beperk tot die gebied vanaf die aanloopbaan tot by die oostelike grensdraad, maar soos grond bygekoop is kon die gedeelte wes van die aanloopbaan ook besoek word. Die koms van die olifante het stappery buite die kampe uitgeskakel, terwyl die verlies van die enigste krokodil wat in die waterpoel langs die tennisbane en hoofswembad gewoon het, dit moontlik gemaak om daar te ontspan sonder om een oog oop te hou.

Mabalingwe het oor die jare verskillende dinge aangebied, maar die natuur – die berg, die bosse, die bome, die damme en sonsondergange, maak dit steeds een van die top vakansieoorde om te besoek.

Hoffie Hofmeyr


Share your Mabalingwe experiences with us by sending your stories to yourresortstory@vrs.co.za to be featured on our blog!

Your Resort Stories: Friedel Wichmann’s Story

We love it when our valued guests and shareholders share their holiday experiences with us. As a new section, as part of our blog, we will feature stories that our guests shared with us – some from yesteryear and others from more recently.

Here is a story, told as seen through the eyes of shareholder, Friedel Wichmann:

My wife and I have had Timeshare at Mabalingwe for the past 32 years now.

We, as a family, love this place. Older folks enjoy nature, animals and birds. Younger people love horse riding, swimming, playing Mini-Golf and listening to music at Kalahari Oasis.

When we first came to Mabalingwe, Kalahari Oasis was only a stopover for a beer or cool drinks. The day the film was made for the oil advertisement, we drove through the area not knowing what was going on. As you can imagine, we were not very popular.

I still remember the site where the jersey cow raised the buffalo.

We had a narrow escape where the old elephant bull decided to storm our car at Buffel Waterhole.

Before they put the safety fence up at the Units, the warthogs came to your door looking for food. One wanted to enter our Unit, and I hit him on the bum with a newspaper, upon which he turned around and hit me with a tooth; luckily for me, it was not very deep. Friends phoned us and my wife told them “my husband is bleeding like a pig”.

In the olden days, the hippos used to walk between the Units and you had to be very careful when walking to your car at night.

The old bar called ‘Kanniedood’ was named after a Kanniedood tree – that was growing near the entrance. As you entered the bar, there was a leopard mounted between some rocks. Basie Wessels, the owner at that stage, would talk to the people in the bar. The barmen working there were Timothy and Japie. Unfortunately, Basie died in a plane crash on the farm and Timothy, I understand, in a motor vehicle accident. With the big fire at the restaurant, the Kanniedood bar and all its memories were destroyed.

The Resort has since grown to a 5-star holiday destination, from the time I first came to Mabalingwe. It is near Pretoria and Johannesburg, and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing holiday.

Friedel Wichmann


Share your Mabalingwe experiences with us by sending your stories to yourresortstory@vrs.co.za to be featured on our blog!

Your Resort Stories: Johann J van Emmenis’ Story

We love it when our valued guests and shareholders share their holiday experiences with us. As a new section, as part of our blog, we will feature stories that our guests shared with us – some from yesteryear and others from more recently.

Here is a story, told as seen through the eyes of shareholder, Johann J van Emmenis:

My Roadmap:

It started on Saturday, 24th of February 1990. My wife and I went to Warmbad (Bela-Bela) for the day to visit friends that booked a weekend there. Coming off the Highway towards Bela-Bela, at the “T” junction, some energetic people were handing out fliers. “Come for a tour to Mabalingwe, and we will give you a T-shirt and Lunch (Pap, etc.)” Thinking this is a good idea for a FREE lunch; we (my wife, our friends and I) headed to Mabalingwe. There we were introduced to this new concept of a holiday called “Timeshare.”

We fell in love with what we saw – BUSH – and I love it! We worked out how to split the costs three ways, and the rest is history. At the time, I was the only member of this three-way alliance that had little debt, and the other 2 partners agreed that this should be in my name. Costing us R6600.00 for the unit, and an initial levy of just R240.00

The 12th of October 1990, saw the first week of holiday at Mabalingwe. Driving my Toyota Corolla into the Parking area of Unit 20. Wow, what an experience!

Since that day, we visited Mabalingwe every year – Week 41… 

In recent years, we also obtained some Vacation Club Points, and now we frequent this 2nd home at least twice a year, spending +- 3 weeks on average here.

Why you may ask? What is making this such an attraction for me?

I stay less than 170Km from the gate; it is in the bush. My dad grew up on a farm in the Waterberg; we visited it regularly (December when my dad’s whole family would go to “Die Plaas”). Being in the bush has such a calming effect, and I found myself sometimes just sitting on the hill looking over the valley. Wind, birds, the odd tractor, or steam train in the distance, that is “what is in my blood”.

What we have found in the first years, you get there on a Friday, and by Wednesday, you are so relaxed, just to see the upcoming Friday around the corner. We have done this many times; rather stay for 2 weeks, than go home on the first Friday.

Oom Basie did it for me, with the income generated from the farm, ploughing it back into the farm. I remember the one time when a truck with antelope arrived, and it was for the farm, the people that love the bush. It could have been so much different if he didn’t love the bush.

Then there is the Staff, from way back until now, making you feel like family and not just another guest from some far corner of the country. Having a passion for their work, always greeting…. then there are some more special ones, making bets when you will be back, with a “Nee Oom jy mag nie antwoord nie” at the meet-and-greet, making you feel like a special person in their lives.

Yes, in every organisation, company, household, there are challenges some days; with ups and downs, but working through it, sticking to your beliefs – Mabalingwe is still number 1 on my list of “MUST be” places!

Yours truly,

Johann J van Emmenis


Share your Mabalingwe experiences with us by sending your stories to yourresortstory@vrs.co.za to be featured on our blog!

A Mabalingwe tale about elephants: a game ranger’s story.

The great and majestic giants of the bushveld with their mighty size, columnar legs and great strength have long been the topic of mythical folklore on the African continent. The myths and tales, passed down by generations, about these gentle giants stretch far and wide; weaved into African traditions, beliefs and modern-day symbolism. The origin of some of these myths has become ambiguous over the years and cannot be credited to a single tribe. Nonetheless, these stories add to this magic aura around the largest living mammals walking the earth today – the great African elephant.

As legend has it, these powerful beasts with their ‘wisdom sticks’ or tusks can tell the exact time and place of their death. It’s exactly for this reason certain African tribes believe old tuskers are often seen without their herd, preferring to find a hiding place to die, thus maintaining their dignity, as they wish to die alone and in peace. It reminds one of the novel by Dalene Matthee, ‘Kringe in die bos’, a story about Oupoot – the legendary elephant bull that breaks away from its herd and forms a powerful bond with Saul Barnard, the woodcutter. Saul aims to protect the elephant and the surrounding woods of Knysna, and by doing this he finds his truth.

This brings us to the next myth, with its origin in Kenya and the Kamba tribe. The Kamba people believe elephants were once humans who changed into elephants as a result of magical ointment that was rubbed on their teeth. They believe that it’s for this reason elephants are so intelligent, but also why humans have such an unusual connection with them.

Mabalingwe, too, has a legendary tale about elephants. Here is that story, told is as seen through the eyes of Game Ranger, Carl Swartz:

I have had my fair share of sightings of elephants on Mabalingwe Nature Reserve, and each time the experience is dreamlike. It’s so unreal how you can recall the specific mood, bushveld-smell in the air, that hair-raising moment where one becomes one with nature – it just leaves you in awe.

With each new elephant sighting on the Game Rangers’ radar, there is always that ‘eureka’ moment, the adrenaline rush and funnily enough, an exact course in how the events unfold. This time it played out exactly like before…

It always starts with a call from another Ranger:

Carl Swartz: “Yes, tjomma, howzit going?”

Game Ranger 2: “Lekker, lekker friend. Listen here, I have the elephants in front of me.”

Carl Swartz: “Okay, cool man, can you tell me where they are?”

Game Ranger 2: “Ja, dude! Do you remember that place I almost poked my eye out with the two-way radio’s atenna, well it’s about 500 metres past that, close to a rock that looks like elephant excrement?”

Carl Swartz: “Yeah, yeah.” I would usually reply, realising that no one else would be able to find this mentioned location based on those directions.

And off I go “racing” at 25 km/h to get to this precise location. At this moment the excitement in the vehicle is buzzing, whilst I am sweating bullets – thinking of the possibility of being too late and the elephants disappearing into the bush again. 


I finally arrived at the location, but no elephants in sight. This is where the doubts creep in – am I too late; did we scare them off; am I at the right location?

I call one of the other rangers: ring…ring…ring…

Guest: “Is it true that elephants are scared of mice? And do they really get drunk on Maroelas?” I hear from the back of the vehicle.

Carl Swartz: “Huh?” startled I react, before answering the guest (If you would like to know the answers to these questions, please book a Game Drive with Carl Swartz.)

Game Ranger 2: “Hello, Carl, you there?” meanwhile, on the line.

Carl Swartz: “Hello. Yes, can you hear me?”

Game Ranger 2: “Yes, ‘yster’ – do not move. Where are you now?”

Carl Swartz: “Next to that rock you mentioned.”

Game Ranger 2: “Okay, cool! Drive towards the dam where you fell in that one evening, turn right, then left and you will see them!”

+/- 10 minutes later

Carl Swartz: “Ladies and gentlemen, please remember to keep noise levels down; in front of you, you will see a herd of elephants.”


A few minutes later…

The elephants started taking an interest in us. The herd heading closer to the vehicle. Not aggressive, just curious. Several of the elephants greet us by shaking their heads and lifting their trunks. The lady behind me suddenly grabs my shoulder tightly, squeezes it and in a panicked state whispers:

“Let’s go, let’s go.”

Carl Swartz: “Ladies and gents, please do not be afraid. These elephants smell fear and that will make them nervous.” I calmly explained.

At this point, a nervous energy has erupted, with guests asking question after question, and the elephants moving closer and closer. It is at this exact moment when the matriarch stops and out comes a little calf. The chaos all of the sudden turns to “ooh’s and “aah’s”. She has come forward to show off the newest addition to the herd. She cautiously guards him, as the calf steps forward, wild trumpet, lots of scuffling and pushing – as if he’s the alpha male. As suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared into the bush. Thereafter, it was a moment of complete silence – a simple act reminding us about the human characteristic these majestic creatures possess, but also a reminder of their gentle nature.


In closing, let us be reminded of the elephant tusks in South Africa’s coat of arms that represent wisdom, strength and eternity. Let us be wise and safeguard elephants and African folklore, surrounding these incredible beings, for years to come. Let us show the strength to protect elephants for future generations. And let us work together to ensure that elephants are alive and thriving for the rest of eternity. Let the legend live on…