New trends are emerging focusing on committing to conservation of natural resources to safeguard ecotourism for future generations. A second trend emerging is an increased effort to reduce the environmental effects of travel. So how is the tourism industry marrying conservation and luxury travel.
Lepogo Lodges, situated in South Africa’s Limpopo Province and one of Africa’s few entirely non-for-profit safari lodges, has announced the successful reintroduction of cheetah and buffalo into the surrounding Lapalala Wilderness Reserve. Offering a unique safari experience, Lepogo Lodges combines high end luxury with an immersive understanding of the African wilderness – where the magnificent seven roam. With an unwavering dedication to community development, and preservation of the beautiful surroundings for its inhabitants, Lepogo incorporates environmentally friendly practices into every aspect of their operations. This includes the successful reintroduction of a herd of buffalo and a number of endangered cheetah into the reserve. With an inspiring commitment to the protection of these native animals, Lepogo is honoured to play a vital role in their preservation for future generations. The Lapalala Wilderness is now also on its third generation of lions, following another successful reintroduction programme, and wild dog pups, another very endangered species, have been born in the reserve too.
Surrounded by 50,000 hectares of wilderness, strict building regulations ensure that no more than three commercial lodges will be built in the reserve – providing wildlife with an abundance of untouched and undistributed land to roam, and guests with private and peaceful sightings. Lepogo’s commitment to preserving the pristine landscapes and protecting the abundant wildlife proves that luxury and sustainability can exist harmoniously – offering guests the epitome of responsible travel. A family run business and developed to create an exceptional conservation legacy, Lepogo is entirely energy self-efficient and one of the first luxury camps in Africa to fully offset every guest’s carbon footprint from the moment they leave their house to the time they return – in support of local community and conservation projects. Currently, Lepogo Lodges consists of one lodge, Noka Camp, sleeping up to 12 guests and featuring five stilted villas perched atop a 100ft cliff with stunning views of the Palala River below. Melote House, Lepogo’s second property and designed for exclusive use, sleeping up to 16 will open in December 2023.
Preserving the cheetah is at the very heart of Lepogo Lodges, with the name ‘Lepogo’ derived from the Sotho word for cheetah. Land’s fastest animal, cheetahs are considered a cherished emblem of Africa’s wildlife heritage but are facing numerous challenges in the wild are now highly endangered – largely due to human activity threatening their habitats. Since opening in 2019, Lepogo Lodges has supported multiple cheetah reintroductions, with ongoing and extensive research, and was delighted that this past year saw two cheetah cubs born in the reserve become fully independent – highlighting the success of the reintroduction programme. Guests of Lepogo are fortunate enough to not only witness cheetah in their natural habitat whilst on game drives and walking safaris but also to learn about the sponsorship of ongoing conservation projects first-hand from the lodge’s expert guides.
Kate Hughes, Operations Director of Lepogo Lodges comments, “We have always loved and been fascinated by the cheetah, with its natural grace, elegance and incredible speed. The fact that these beautiful animals are now so endangered struck a chord with us and before we even opened, we pledged to do whatever we could to help in their conservation and protection, which forms the ethos of our lodge. Through this work, we have been really fortunate to get to understand these creatures in the wild – as we witness them settle into their new habitat – and we are so proud to have had cheetah cubs which were born in the reserve, go fully independent this past year. We are honored to continue to be able to support this incredible animal through our work with the Lapalala Wilderness – and hope to be able to make a real difference in the growth of the population.”
This spring, Lepogo Lodges also sponsored the reintroduction of a herd of 50 buffalo and four bulls into the reserve – another key move in the conservation of pre-existing wildlife. Buffalos play a very important role in regenerating the land by providing the soil with more nutrients and protecting the longevity of the reserve – where grazing resources vary considerably across the vast landscape. The grazing habits of the buffalo, an animal that is constantly on the move, ensure that the nutrients are equally distributed and as bulk grazers, the animals open up the grass areas for other species too.
This is a fantastic example of how through focusing on sustainable improvements to environmental tourism and focusing on conservation of natural resources, resorts are able to set themselves apart and thrive.