Greetings from the Royal Jozini Big 6 Estate. At the time of writing this newsletter, it is another rare overcast day here in the Lubombo lowveld, we even received a spattering of rain last night to add little moisture to the drying bushveld. Winter has certainly arrived with her frosty fingers working effectively throughout the night and early morning. Temperatures have dropped to as low as 4 degrees at Funga Village, one would assume the cold wind blowing off the dam would drop that even further by the waterfront.
Looking at past pictures of the bushveld from as late as April, it is amazing how the bush has changed in a couple of months. The flush greens that peppered the reserve have now been replaced with a mosaic of pale to darker brown shades acting as a backdrop to the tawny Aloe Marlothii that are in full bloom during this time. The fauna of the area always actively looking for their next water source.
Despite the cold weather, I believe this is one of the best times of year. With those hot sweaty summer days a distant memory, the fresh evenings under a moonless sky present the perfect opportunity to sit around an acacia fire with friends and family. No rain for the past few months has also slowed down the flow of the mighty Pongola river and the visibility in the dam has cleaned up nicely making for some epic views from afar.
The downside to this dry weather is the threat of fire. We have burned most of the mountain side to protect mountain lodges from fire, breaks have been burned around all lodges located in medium to high risk areas and perimeter breaks have been completed where necessary.
Extensive block and mosaic burning will be done before the rainy season to regenerate the veld and help with bush encroachment.
There has been some solid forward momentum taking place on the estate which I will run through to keep you all abreast of current happenings.
Firstly, 4 weeks ago we were lucky enough to receive the arrival of another baby giraffe into the East Shore Reserve (picture below, excuse the quality!). Prior to this the 3 male giraffe that were on the Western shores in a rare display of male intellect picked up the female scent and were spending a lot of time near the internal fence trying to re-enter East shore reserve for obvious reasons. The estate team managed to open a funnel in the fence and herd them in, our total is now 6 in the east.
I have also on various occasions seen new born hippos charging into the water with their mother following close behind as we pass by in a boat.
Things have been slow on the fishing front due to the colder water although I hear people have been catching decent size fish in the river mouth on lure. At our last committee meeting, a proposal was tabled to create a live bait farm and so an old cattle reservoir has been converted for this purpose. We hope to stock it soon and have ample live bait for sale in time for the fishing competition. On that note, we still have some time before October – but if you are keen on fishing in the annual Tiger Fishing Spring Festival I would appreciate a heads up sooner rather than later so we can plan accommodation and moorings.
Road works continues at a steady pace. In the past few months link road has been gravelled, Prince Mzweleni Drive has seen some attention and we are busy fixing the road from Mountain Road gate heading south. We hope to see an end to blow outs on light boat trailers – you know who you are! East shore is also work in progress.
The western section of the reserve has also been cleaned up from a road perspective. Whilst we are not in a position to gravel the network on this side, a grader and slasher has combed through the reserve making that location far more accessible. We are also putting road signs up to assist in navigation. These will be simple stones with white lettering similar to East shore.
Another new development on the west shore is the creation of Gumbi’s Pan (Gumbi is an estate Induna and as you can see, we give a lot of thought to our names). For years now, a dam in Lavumisa has been leaking consistently with the water flowing across the MR8 National Road into our reserve. The waterlogged areas have caused havoc to our perimeter fences and their electrics. We have now channelled this flow of water by digging a trench over 3kms and flowed it into a pan nearby to the junction of Msumpe Road and Mhohlo Track. The rangers have already reported seeing game drinking there and I would like to build a hide in this area in the months to come.
Lodge construction on the estate has seen the completion of lodge 141, attached is brochure from their contractor (this is sent without prejudice). A 5 star tented camp is currently under construction on plot 362 and plans are imminent for the construction of a lodge at waterfront plot 53.
A boating yard will be erected shortly directly North of the Water Treatment Plant. For now, we plan to clear an area, gravel accordingly and provide a wash bay area. Those of you wishing to leave your boats for extended periods of time will be welcome and it will help clean up the slipway areas. There is no need to concern yourself about the security of your boat as a ranger camp is located 50m away and I will issue instructions to the rangers on duty to check this area daily.
On the PR front, we were lucky enough to be included in Kingsley Holgate’s most recent expedition named Izintaba Zobombo. The Izintaba Zobombo Expedition was a 90-day, three-country journey to track, research and document the Lubombo range of mountains from Crooks Corner in the north of the Kruger National Park to KZN’s historic Ghost Mountain in the south. Since our reserve constitutes about 17km of the Lubombo range, the expedition visited the area on their 2nd leg of the expedition. In addition Land Rover South Africa sponsored a big Land Rover Defender which had been branded with hundreds of messages and signatures of solidarity in support of rhino protection. During the expedition the Landy was used to conduct rhino conservation themed art competitions and 20-minute a side ‘man of the match’ soccer challenges to schools alongside rhino conservation areas. Royal Jozini Big 6 was part of the eagerly anticipated soccer match and art competition that took place in early June. Pictures attached.
From an administrative perspective, last month saw the end of the financial year and I am pleased to say that the estate managed to come in under budget.
Levy collections are picking up in consistency and a number of payment plans have been negotiated with those investors whose levy accounts are in arrears. Please stick to your agreed payment plan to avoid the matter being turned over to our legal team, Garlicke & Bousfield.
The LOA committee continues to apply as much pressure as they can to speed up the process towards resolution of the impasse with His Majesty. Whilst we have the comforting verbal assurance that lodgeowners will be recognised and their subleases protected, the final document officially declaring this is still to be drafted. In light of the sensitive history surrounding the RJB6 project in the eyes of the landlord and the traditional and other authorities, a good number of Swazi committee members and cabinet ministers need to be formally advised of the new stance of His Majesty, as is the Swazi custom for any important matter such as this. This process is completely out of the hands of the LOA, though we do have influential assistance in this regard.
It would be improper for the LOA to make any fuss at this stage and to risk ruffling feathers, and potentially losing the hard ground gained. Having said that, we are confident that the process has enough momentum for resolution and a revised lease to be prepared and to be ready for signature within a short space of time.
We also recognise that upon signature of the revised lease, a relaunch of the Royal Jozini Big 6 project will be necessary to change public perception and a new marketing plan is well under way to deal with this objective. Furthermore I have been tasked with upgrading the website and believe this will be active by the end of July. There will be downloadable pdf modules for maps, reports, fishing information etc. We hope to keep it simple, effective and easily navigable.
From my side, that is it for now – keep well and may your travels bring you here soon.