Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Supplied & Shutterstock

Escaping into unspoilt landscapes and peaceful nature reserves rich in wildlife and beauty on weekends and holidays is one of the joys of living in South Africa. Now it’s possible to take it one step further and integrate that away-from-it-all feeling into everyday life by moving to an eco estate.

“Eco estates have become the current trend in developing real estate – particularly in areas rich in natural beauty,” says Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO, RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

The term eco estate can be confusing, as it also applies to suburban estates with a green building focus. In the context of this write up, the term refers to sustainable lifestyle estates that have made nature conservation a priority. Also termed wildlife estates, these low-impact developments set aside a major portion of their land as a nature reserve, either rehabilitating overused farmland back to its indigenous state or conserving pristine landscapes. Building is done at a low density, landscaping is kept to a minimum and gardens are usually not fenced, allowing wildlife to roam freely, and are limited to indigenous plants. Lifestyle elements vary between estates, but residents can expect nature hikes, mountain biking and bird-watching to be the main leisure activities, and, with conservation top of the list, most wildlife estates don’t allow domestic pets.

Intaba

Into the wild

“Technology is now making it much easier to live permanently on a wildlife estate and run your business from there rather than just visiting for weekends and holidays,” says Berry Everitt, group CEO, Chas Everitt International, “and this is especially boosting demand for estates in areas such as Hoedspruit, Mbombela/White River and the Waterberg.”

For example, Raptor’s View Wildlife Estate, outside Hoedspruit, comprises 1,000ha of bush with single-storey thatched houses built on up to 300 1ha stands. An extra attraction for families is the Southern Cross environmental school established here in 2002. This school serves many families relocating to the area, including those at nearby Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate, which offers 200 0,5ha stands on 400ha of bushveld with impala, kudu, warthogs and other game.

Raptor’s View

Close to the city

If leaving the city behind entirely isn’t possible, Zebra’s Nest Eco Estate, 15 minutes east of Pretoria, or Meyersdal Eco Estate, south of Joburg, have the best of both worlds. Zebra’s Nest has just seven 4,2ha stands, so residents live among zebra, nyala, klipspringer and more. Two dogs are allowed per household with strict rules on their management. Meyersdal has 343 stands of varying sizes adjoining a larger nature reserve and offers mountain bike trails, squash and tennis courts, as well as dams with catch and release fishing.

“Most purchasers who buy in these estates are looking to remove themselves from the busy city life and would like to go back to their roots. Family life is always a consideration and the ‘rural’ feel of the smaller schools holds great appeal,” says Retha Schutte, regional executive, Pam Golding Properties Pretoria.

Top executives are increasingly choosing a secure and more comfortable lifestyle over proximity to their workplace or the city, made easier due to remote working technology and flexible working hours. Eco estates are, of course, popular due to the environmental and true natural benefits, together with privacy and luxury.

George Baxter, specialist: Simbithi Eco Estate, Pam Golding Properties

Royalston

On the coast

If your nature idyll needs a beach to complete it, there are many choices. Breakwater Bay Eco Estate outside Mossel Bay adjoins Oubaai golf course, which has a host of facilities, a fynbos-clad clifftop and coastal valleys home to bushbuck, grysbok, steenbok and rooikat, with prime views of whales and dolphins in the ocean below. Kenton Eco Estate between Port Elizabeth and East London has 2km of private beach, coastal dunes and a forest.

“There’s a big demand for estates to develop around our environmental assets, such as our coastal forests. These resources present an attractive lifestyle element to potential buyers,” says Simon Peacock, broker/owner, RE/MAX Dolphin Coast.

The Balinese architecture-style Ekubo Coastal Estate on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast includes a coastal forest, wetlands, bush and grasslands with beach access, walking trails and a clubhouse.

These three estates are still under development, with strict architectural guidelines, and encompass sustainable and green building concepts as part of their long-term conservation plan.

“A big part of the attraction is that buyers are able to live on true wildlife estates – where the animals, birds and plants are the real ‘residents’, humans are the ‘visitors’ and large parts of the estate are respectfully left undeveloped and untouched – while still being within easy reach of good schools, shops and high-speed internet connections”

Berry Everitt, group CEO, Chas Everitt International

Raptor’s View

Characteristics of wildlife/eco estates:

  • The greater part of the land area is preserved as natural landscape.
  • Conservation of indigenous wildlife and vegetation.
  • Low housing density.
  • Includes indigenous plants and minimal landscaping.
  • No golf courses, agriculture or other commercial developments impacting the indigenous fauna and flora.
  • An environmental management plan is in place.

More Wildlife/Eco Estates

  • Lissataba Private Game Reserve, Hoedspruit
  • Brightside Eco & Aero Estate, Mpumalanga
  • Bergsig Eco Estate, Limpopo
  • Phezulu Game Estate, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Intaba Ridge Secure Eco Estate, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Royalston Coastal Wildlife Estate, Eastern Cape

Eco-sensitive estates:

Estates which include either golf courses or agriculture but also dedicate a significant area to nature conservation. Examples are:

  • Likweti Bushveld Farm Estate, Mpumalanga
  • Simbithi Eco Estate, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Zimbali Coastal Resort & Estate, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Pezula Private Estate, Western Cape
  • Wedderwill Country Estate, Western Cape

Raptor’s View