Charl Senekal – a very successful sugar cane farmer in SA – made the decision to purchase the land known as Mkuze Estates in 1998.  The Estate was bought primarily for sugar cane production as there was already 1000ha of established cane, but included in this Estate was a parcel of land known as the Hlambanyathi Game Reserve.  It was a relatively small patch of land (less than half the current size), not game-fenced, and suffering heavily under poaching mostly due to easy access and lack of security.  Game was almost wiped out, and apart from the more common species like impala and warthog, there were an estimated 7 zebra and 1 wildebeest left upon the Senekal’s arrival in 1998.

By basing their philosophy on economic, social and environmental responsibilities towards an area, as well as a little blood, sweat and tears, the area under conservation has grown to more than 80km2, whilst the sugar cane production has simultaneously expanded threefold. As a direct result of their development projects, an estimated 300 000 people now have access to household water from the farm (the only operation of its kind in South Africa), and the entire company boasts around 1000 members of staff.

The original Hlambanyathi was sufficiently fenced, road networks reopened and expanded, enlarged with the addition of farms, and species that were historically present were reintroduced in a  build-up phase.  The reserve now has more than 80 species of mammals, with populations of giraffe, buffalo, rhino, elephant, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, nyala, hippo, cheetah and wild dog all brought back to roam free in the area.  Zululand’s incredible variety of bird species returned soon after and more than 400 species have been spotted here over the years.  The reserve is managed under strict conservation principles, and acts as a source for establishment of new founder populations of mammals elsewhere.  After the expansion of the reserve it was decided to change the name to Zimanga and what we believe is happening here – a miracle and something unbelievable.