In the month where we and the rest of the world celebrates World Habitat Day, it's fitting that Babanango Game Reserve has completed its most important project to date - the erection of a boundary fence around the reserve!
Work on the fence began on 10 June 2019 to construct some 76km of electrified game fenceline that's 2,4m tall. Stronger than a traditional fence, support posts are put in every 50m and are buried 1,2m deep into the rocky Babanango ground. Five electrical strands are included, each with more than 6000 volts running through them.
The team responsible for this mammoth effort peaked at 65 people and they can be exceptionally proud of the achievement. Critically important for the success of Babanango Game Reserve, the fence provides a proper enclosure for the wildlife currently on the reserve and those yet to be reintroduced, protecting both iconic species and the communities that surround us.
More than 1800 3,6m and 600 3m creosote poles have been used in the construction, along with 6000 3m Y-standards and 600 rolls of wire. Some 2,7km of vertical holes were dug to accommodate the poles and Y-standards - all at a cost to date of R7,6-million!
Now comes the equally important job of maintaining the fence, with fence monitors being employed on foot and on horseback to patrol the boundary, as well as helicopter surveillance and fence sensors which alert breakdowns or damage to the fence. A full-time maintenance crew will be on hand to respond to any issues.
Electrification of the fence is still under way, and sometimes the challenge of maintaining it is bigger than the task of putting it up! Everything from wild animals, erosion, flash floods, poachers, lightning, wood-boring insects and fire are a constant threat.
This month has also seen more game introduced onto the reserve, including an additional 10 giraffe, 80 wildebeest, 80 impala, 10 zebra and 10 nyala, amongst others!
The process of releasing animals onto Babanango is never predictable and has its own challenges to ensure all of them survive the process of being captured and relocated. It's really a case of expecting the unexpected as released animals can be disorientated and run in the wrong direction, towards those releasing them or the fence, for example. Of course, they can also be very grumpy from the relocation process and decide to take out their frustrations on the nearest human or man-made object!
So the next time you visit us here at Babanango, spare a thought for the steadfast dedication of the amazing team of people who are working so hard to build this incredible game reserve in the making!
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BABANANGO'S RESERVE MANAGEMENT TEAM
For Babanango Game Reserve Deputy Reserve Manager Ryan Andraos and his right-hand men Thembani Ndlovu and Nozi Ntshangase, each day they spend on the reserve is uniquely challenging.
"It takes a lot to build a reserve this big," says Ryan of the 22,000ha Babanango - a place that's become his life's work.
"Every day is the same, but different," smiles Ryan. "I have a 7am meeting with Nozi, then deal with emails, before going out for the day for field work, which usually means supporting the fencing teams, fixing roads, meeting with other staff, site inspections and the like. I call this MBWA - management by walking around," he laughs. "I also check on maintenance issues, the removal of invasive alien plant species, game capture and game introduction," adds Ryan, who is married to hospitality manager, Nadia du Preez.
For Nozi, following his morning meeting with Ryan he heads off to give the rest of the team their duties for the day. "As we are busy building the reserve, we start off with the priorities like the fenceline and its maintenance, the roads, ensuring the lodges are properly supplied with water and that all of our infrastructure is working well and 100% operational," says Nozi, who is engaged to Gcinile Shandu, who also works on the reserve, with whom he has two lovely daughters.
"My daily challenge is to make sure that the team performs at its best all the time to assist Ryan and Reserve Manager Musa Mbatha," adds Nozi.
For Thembani, the day starts earlier, making sure all the drivers are on hand to bring staff to work! "At 7am I meet all the team leaders, operators and drivers and make sure everyone gets to their place of work as early as possible to begin the day," says Thembani. "I then prioritise the site or department that requires the most attention (it could be the fenceline, roads, building, workshop or the gathering of firewood or general maintenance) and work with my assistant to make sure we get to everything," he adds.
Thembani is in constant contact with Ryan and Musa throughout his day and spends afternoons catching up on emails and checking that everything is running to plan.
"The day ends by bringing everyone back to the workshop, packing the tools, reporting back to Ryan and Musa, then sending everyone home and making sure all the vehicles are locked away safely," he says.
"It's a challenge with so many constructors and staff on site," explains Thembani. "I have to adapt to their needs constantly, and as the lodge maintenance team is still very new, I support them as much as I can," he adds.
"Musa and Ryan are my "inkosi" (the Zulu word for "chief") so I take their instructions on a daily basis and make sure I do everything I can to fulfil their instructions and support them. I am blessed in that they support me back even more and value my opinions in every discussion and on every issue," says Thembani.
DID YOU KNOW?
Babanango Outdoor Education (BOE) is a veritable institution when it comes to hosting school groups from across South Africa and is moving to a brand-new location - Matatane Camp on Babanango Game Reserve!
Having built its reputation through the hosting of school and university research groups over the past decade, BOE has become synonymous with igniting a passion for nature in scholars of all ages. Previously based at Babanango Valley Lodge, it will now be based at the custom-designed Matatane Camp in the north of the reserve.
Completely fenced off from the main reserve to allow for hiking and exploring on foot as well as BOE's range of amazing activities and interactive, educational experiences, Matatane Camp incorporates a range of accommodation options and provides the perfect home for both BOE and private groups looking to connect with the African bush in a "back to basics" and completely immersive, authentic way.
Watch this space, as they say!
NEW LODGE GETS READY FOR ITS BIG UNVEILING!
It's almost time to reveal our latest accommodation offering - the gorgeous Zulu Rock Lodge - to the waiting world. With its breath-taking views and luxurious yet understated contemporary décor, the lodge is the perfect place to escape the urban jungle and immerse yourself into the beautiful African wilderness that is Babanango Game Reserve.
With two game drives each day as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner included in the daily rate, Zulu Rock Lodge is ideal for both couples on a romantic breakaway or families in search of some much-needed "we" time.
A special opening rate valid between the 15th November - 15th December 2020 will cost R2 160.00 per person per night sharing accommodation, plus an additional R180.00 Conservation Fee per person.
This includes three meals, accommodation and two game drives daily. Get in touch with Reservations today to find out more details and to make a reservation.