Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is now under new ownership, the US-based Chouest family of Edison Chouest Offshore. But Kwandwe’s long-time director has been quick to offer assurance that the reserve, known for its eco-tourism and social development focus, with initiatives such as the Angus Gillis Foundation, will maintain its commitment to conservation.
“The focus of the reserve will be to maintain Kwandwe as a premier eco-tourist destination in the Eastern Cape and South Africa, Angus Sholto-Douglas, Kwandwe’s resident director, said on Friday.
Thereby assuring its role in biodiversity conservation, its role in rural community upliftment and its contribution to the local economy.” According to Sholto-Douglas the Chouest Family has committed itself to the Angus Gillis Foundation, which he says will continue to play a significant part in the Kwandwe business and in the lives of the 12 communities it works in”.
Sholto-Douglas said, however, that the reserve is suffering the effects of the global economic slump. “The eco-tourism business in the Eastern Cape is in a very tough cycle,” said Sholto-Douglas. “The costs to manage, maintain and secure properties and animals are extremely high. Tourist numbers to the Eastern Cape game reserves are still nowhere close to the numbers seen in 2007 and 2008.” Until this climate improves, it is highly unlikely that future tourism development will take place. “Our future plans now revolve around improving our existing product, driving our marketing efforts into potential new markets and making sure that our product is the best that it possibly can be,” said Sholto-Douglas.
The meaning of Kwandwe in isiXhosa is “Place of the Blue Crane” – South Africa’s national bird. The reserve is home to a kingdom of animals including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo, elephant and cheetah. It is also sanctuary for endangered species including the Knysna woodpecker, Cape grysbok, black wildebeest, crowned eagle and black-footed cat.
Kwandwe is a 22 000ha game reserve which opened its doors to guests 11 years ago following the purchase of nine farms in the district. The previous owners were US born Erika Stewart and Carl DeSantis. Sholto-Douglas said Kwandwe had been sold because Carl DeSantis was consolidating his international investments.