On behalf of Morning Sun Nature Reserve and our flagship Mashovhela Lodge, I wish to thank our guests and partners in the hospitality business for their loyalty, encouragement and support over the last year.
My thanks also go to my loyal management and staff who by their friendliness to guests, willingness to provide excellent service and continuing to develop their skills, have made vital contributions to making our guests feel welcome and happy - as reflected in the positive feedback received from guests.
Last, not least, our sincere thanks to our capable and recently-enlarged team of consultants who have guided us and are helping us to provide and market the quality of services which our guests and business partners are entitled to.
We often receive useful suggestions from our guests. These are gratefully accepted to improve our services on an ongoing basis.
The year 2011 that has just ended, was full of challenges and the most difficult year since opening our Reserve three years ago. Your support, understanding and encouragement in times of crisis have helped us to end 2011 on a positive note and holds promises of a bright future in 2012.
The global economic crisis had a profound effect on tourism in our region. We responded to these challenges by all out efforts to improve the value of services offered, adapting our product range to changes in guest preferences and offering our guests wider choices to meet their individual budget limits. We are also adapting the management style at Mashovhela Lodge to changing needs.
After years of effort by conservation-conscious regional stakeholders, the unique and quite outstanding biodiversity of the Soutpansberg and adjoining regions has at last been given its well-deserved official recognition.
Registration as the Vhembe Biosphere Region (VBR) by UNESCO took place a year ago, and official launching of the VBR by Government authorities took place in August 2011.
The VBR is the sixth such biosphere region in South Africa and in certain respects the most outstanding one of these. I shall explain this in more detail in a follow-up on this newsletter.
The VBR registration is expected to have a major impact on the development of ecotourism in the region. Mashovhela Lodge will participate in this as one of the focal points in these efforts, and our guests will benefit, as will our local Venda communities.
Briefly, the VBR covers a vast region bordered in the south by the foothills of the Blouberg and Soutpansberg Mountains, stretching from there northwards up to the Limpopo River, where the latter forms the southern border of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Moving East along the Limpopo River, the VBR includes the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site and the Pafuri and northern part of the Kruger National Park up to the border with Mozambique. It incorporates the whole of Venda.
Morning Sun Nature Reserve is situated within one of the core areas of the VBR and will enjoy improved environmental protection under the land use plans being developed for the VBR.
I am honoured to have been co-opted onto the Conservation Committee and the Development Committee of the VBR. I intend to share our knowledge and experience with my colleagues on these committees. In return, our Reserve will benefit from closer liaison with Government Departments to ensure harmonisation of our development plans with VBR objectives during the year ahead of us.
Game restocking, enlargement and development of Morning Sun Nature Reserve
In recent weeks, good progress was made with talks with our neighbouring landowners who are interested in having their land included in our Reserve and doing so likewise in harmony with VBR objectives.
The advantages of potentially tripling the size of the Reserve to about 8000 hectare at this stage would allow for:
- Accessibility to those parts of the Reserve which, at present, can only be reached on foot.
- Additional hiking trails, with the possibility of including overnight shelters, are planned in the New Year,
- Restocking of the Reserve with game. We are also investigating methods of rendering the large variety of bird- and wildlife already existing on the Reserve better visible to our guests.
Improvements to Mashovhela Lodge planned for 2012
A number of additions and improvements are planned for 2012:
Safari Tent Annex: The first prototype unit is semi-finished. It has been tested by some guests on a trial basis and received favourable comments.The remaining three units are now about to be built.
Compared with the chalets, of the close-by main complex, these romantic safari tent units, hidden in the bush, provide a different intimate bush experience and atmosphere without sacrificing comforts.
Shaded by trees and thatch roofs, they are protected against the heat of the sun in summer and chilly night air.
The main bedroom area provides optional twin or double bed furnishing. Lounge areas can optionally sleep up to 2 children or adults, when required.
Shower and wash basin with hot and cold water as well as a toilet are provided en-suite. Some units provide separate access to bathroom for occupants of the lounge section. Electric lighting is connected to our solar power supply.
When completed, signal enhancing aerials will provide improved mobile phone reception.
Additions to chalets of main complex:
Superior Chalets: Some of the chalets are being upgraded as "superior" units by enlarging the main bedroom, adding an outdoor open air shower, dressing/computer table and enclosable veranda-lounge area.
Family Units: One of the two existing family double units will have its veranda glass-enclosed as a lounge area with sliding glass double doors to the garden area. The existing loft area will have its roof rebuilt and will be partitioned off against the veranda and will receive a large window area facing the bush and en-suite ablution facilities to accommodate 2 - 3 children or adults. If successful, the remaining family double unit will be similarly modified.
Bridal Suite: One chalet will be enlarged as a bridal suite, also usable as a superior business suite.
Business-friendliness, conferences, workshops:
Most chalets will be equipped with aerials for improved mobile phone reception for calls and internet usage. This will also enable guests to call the reception, management, room service or housekeeping staff from their rooms. This feature will be welcomed by business travellers.
Wherever possible, dressing/computer tables will be installed in chalets for improved business-friendliness and comfort.
Improvements and enlargements to our conference facilities are being planned in order to satisfy public demand.
Removable awnings and weather protection on the restaurant veranda area are under consideration to provide outdoor lounge facilities and/or seating for functions.
Hammock Camp - Sleeping under the stars
The only partly-completed prototype portion of our previously announced hammock-camp project was recently tested by an adventurously-minded honeymoon couple as the grand finale to their three week cross-country tour of southern Africa. They considered their experience as an outstanding success.
Improvements at Lokovhela Mountain Lodge planned for 2012
Our recently-acquired Lokovhela Mountain Lodge lies in the mist belt of the Soutpansberg, being at 1400 m altitude, 400 m higher than Mashovhela Lodge and on average 5 ºC cooler.
This Lodge is situated above our big waterfall, 4 km, as the crow flies, from Mashovhela Lodge, from where a hiking trail to Lokovhela Mountain Lodge is being planned, and, in due course, also a 4x4 track
Lokovhela Mountain Lodge suffered some storm damage and is temporarily closed for repair, renovation and expansion work.
Lokovhela Mountain Lodge has at present 4 spacious rondavels, each able to accommodate up to 4 persons, with bathrooms/toilets en-suite, a large communal dining room/lounge area and a big swimming pool.
Once the existing rondavels and the kitchen have been re-roofed and upgraded, it is intended to build an additional 4 similar rondavels.
Mashovhela Lodge's restaurant will provide catering for Lokovhela Mountain Lodge; however it is intended to provide self-catering facilities for guests who prefer this option.
An ecologically-friendly golf course (exclusively locally-indigenous grasses, trees and shrubs) is under consideration for construction on land which, at present, is ecologically-degraded, inter alia overgrown with exotic invaders such as black wattles and eucalyptus. Those invaders are at present being eradicated. The access road to the Lodge has recently been reconstructed.
Planned new activities for 2012
Hammock camp and Night Sky Safaris
2012 will soon see the opening of our 2 hammock camps, each accommodating up to 10 participants, both adjoining our romantic little waterfall with its barbeque/bush dinner/bush breakfast area.
A night in the hammock camp can optionally be combined with a bush dinner and/or bush breakfast and also, subject to availability of our astronomy presenter, with an astronomy on-screen presentation and/or telescope stargazing show. These shows may optionally be booked independently from sleeping in the hammock camp.
The above activities are available to outside visitors as well as to guests of close- by Mashovhela Lodge, who, if they wish, can return at any time to spend the remainder of the night in their lodge accommodation.
Horse riding, donkey riding
Claire, a new member of our management staff, is a keen and qualified equestrian. We are at present studying with her the practicalities of moving her horses (and possibly some mules and/or donkeys for children) to Morning Sun Nature Reserve, in order to offer riding opportunities to our guests. Our readers are invited to inform us if they are interested in order for us to assess the potential demand for such activities and at which levels of skill.
Regional guided tours
These programs are being reviewed, improved and updated on an ongoing basis, bearing in mind any feedback received from our guests. If changes are made, these will be reported on in Newsletters and our website.
My daughter Ingrid is still bearing the brunt of assisting me with what
reported on above. Ingrid, and the entire Hahn family join me, also on behalf of all my staff, in hoping that you had a joyous Festive Season and wishing you a Happy, healthy and prosperous year 2012.
I hope that you found the contents of this Newsletter interesting and look forward to your ongoing support during the year ahead of us. Please remember that any suggestions you may wish to make will be gratefully received.
Dr. Hans H. Hahn, CEO Morning Sun Group