By Sam van Coller
Set in the heart of the Waterberg mountains, Lindani is a 3000ha Reserve offering a selection of game, accommodation options and outdoor activities.
In May 1998, Lindani received its first guests at the Stone House which had recently been rebuilt from the ruins of a 1937 farm house. After their visit, the guests phoned to say they had now found a reason not to emigrate to New Zealand! True to their promise, they are still regular guests. This was the start of Lindani, and this month sees us celebrating 25 years.
Over the years, we have come to believe Lindani is a Good News South African story, in which so many South Africans have, in their different ways, combined to convert what was once a neglected but very beautiful part of our magnificent country, into a place of joy and peace – a place where Grandma and Grandpa can gather their scattered chickens for a special time together, where Mom and Dad can spend quality time with their young children exploring the natural wonders of the mountain bushveld, where pensioners and singles can relax in complete safety, and where outdoor adventurers can ride, hike, run, rock-climb, fish to their heart’s content.
We have been greatly blessed over the last 25 years by the support that you, our guests – well over ninety percent from South Africa – have given us. Many of you have visited Lindani more than twenty times, a few even more than fifty! We want to thank you for your support and endorsement of our ethos, our commitment to privacy, home from home comfort and the freedom for you to explore our beautiful property. Your support has made the Lindani story possible. The original properties were derelict, eroded by overgrazing, and with watercourses choked by extensive blue-gum and poplar plantations. There was no infrastructure other than a few boreholes and abandoned farmhouses. The contribution to the local economy was minimal. Today we have ten accommodation units, eight of which, in line with our commitment to minimizing the human footprint, are restored farmhouses and farm sheds, as well as a tented camp and campsite. All the early construction was done by two wonderful informal sector builders. When they retired, local contractors were used to the benefit of the local economy.
To date, all guest and staff accommodation is on solar energy, free from Eskom, and the water infrastructure grid is secure and safe for all the lodges. The extensive watercourses and wetlands are almost completely free of invasive species – a few trees still remain. Much of the bare soil is now covered with grass. In line with our goal to make Lindani accessible to South Africans, it has probably sold in excess of 100 000 bed-nights in the 25 years. The annual mountain biking, gravel riding and trail running events have brought many more visitors. This has all benefitted the local community significantly.
Probably the most important part of the Good News story has been the contribution of the staff. Thanks to the two managers we had in the early years, virtually all staff were recruited from seven families who had lived in the Melk Rivier area for generations. All had suffered at the hands of the local primary school which, like most such rural schools in South Africa, offered totally inadequate education. From the start, they demonstrated a willingness to learn new skills and take responsibility. This they married with a dignity and personal charm which soon endeared them to many of our regular guests who have come to know them personally. Service and commitment to Lindani by the staff has been critical. Some have sadly passed on, some have retired, and others of the original staff are still with us. All have been a joy to work with. The average length of service of current staff is 14 years, and eleven of the 23 staff are second generation – some born on the farm, others were living as children on the first property that was bought. They have played a critical role in building Lindani. With some assistance from Lindani, most staff now have their own home in Vaalwater, Modimolle , or the nearby former homeland. Space does not permit to mention all our past and present staff by name, however, they have all, in their own way, made a critical contribution.
Most importantly of all, those of us who have been involved in the development and running of Lindani want to thank our Lord for giving us the opportunity to be involved in, what has been, an enormously rewarding venture. We are most grateful!