Friday, September 28, 2012

HillsNek's Fresh New Look!

HillsNek Safaris re-opens with a fresh new look! HillsNek has undergone a stunning refurbishment, creating an inspiring and fresh “new” look. Designed and decorated by Brent and Chantelle Cook, HillsNek Safaris is 100% owner run. Tucked away in a secluded corner of the Amakhala Game Reserve, HillsNek is a hidden gem in the heart of the Eastern Cape. Constructed from canvas, thatch and wood, the lodge is framed by breath-taking cliffs which lend a soulful and tranquil atmosphere to the camp. Whilst the lodge’s public areas and safari tents have undergone a revamp, the integrity of the tented camp has remained essentially the same. A fresher, African safari look has been introduced, with a wide range of natural colours from off-whites through to dark chocolates, with accents of bright African colours such as lime and burnt orange. Decorative items such as large custom-made knitted chandeliers, wildlife photography, textured scatter cushions and other unique and eclectic hand-made pieces adorn the lodge. The main lodge has retained its open design that permanently invites the outside in with a simple sophistication. Roll-up canvas blinds provide the perfect welcoming flow from one area to the next. HillsNek has always drawn inspiration from the surrounding landscape, and leans on raw and organic materials to evoke the natural aspect. Each luxurious tented suite features romantic outdoor showers, deep baths and raised wooden decks to enhance the spectacular views of the plains. The surroundings of the African bush are constantly echoed in the interiors, with exciting colours, patterns and textures. Romantic summer dinners can be enjoyed under star spangled skies on the raised decks. An easy one hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth; and road transfers are also available. Come and let HillsNek enchant you. For all reservation enquiries please contact HillsNek Safaris by telephone on 082 324 3484 or by email on or visit the website on

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Julia & the Rhino

Julia and the Rhino {a story of hope for a species} The shocking problem of Rhino poaching in the world needs to be publicized far and wide, from old to young. Will the slaughter be stopped in the short term? Well that depends on what we as humans do to stop the carnage, and how well governments work together to stamp out demand. But what is for certain is that if we do nothing about the situation, we will never know if we could have made a difference. With information on the internet and social media being so accessible to all ages, the plight of the Rhino is making headlines in the minds of the young and old. None more so than for 11 year old Julia Murray from Hong Kong. Julia, faced with an imminent birthday party, decided that the perfect opportunity presented itself to do her bit for the Rhinos. Julia arranged a birthday party with a difference. All the other 11 year old friends invited helped in painting pictures furthering the plight of the Rhino. When done, each picture would then be ‘auctioned” online through social media channels like Facebook to raise funds for Julia’s Rhino fund. In preparation for the party and realizing the beneficiary of any funds raised needed to be identified, Julia’s mother contacted a Facebook friend, who has been involved in fund raising for Rhinos in South Africa, about the right beneficiary as there are so many organizations that could benefit. The recommendation was made that the funds be channelled to Chipembere Rhino Foundation on the basis that specific items be identified for which money should be used. Chipembere Rhino Foundation indicated that tracking collars were the most pressing need and that it cost approximately R10 000 to dart and collar a Rhino. The party was held, T-shirts made and the pictures painted. In an amazing feat, Julia raised R30 000.00 to help the Rhinos! A massive achievement for anyone let alone an 11 year old girl living in Hong Kong which is right in the midst of the countries which are considered end users of Rhino horn. Due to the fact that Julia’s brother is at school in the Eastern Cape, the family had planned to come to South Africa in the July holidays to visit him. What an ideal opportunity to make something really special happen. Could Julia put her own collars on the Rhinos? Brent Cook and Dr William Fowlds of Chipembere Rhino Foundation were approached to see if this could become a reality. After some careful planning and discussion, it was agreed that Julia could collar her Rhinos. What an experience awaited. So, on a cool winters morning in the Eastern Cape, Julia accompanied by her mother and brother, rose early to be at the reserve where the Rhinos identified for the collars where located. Dr William Fowlds did the briefing to them along with the international vet students attending one of the famous Vets Safaris he was running on the reserve. The briefing delivered, the chopper was fired up to go find and dart the Rhinos. Julia took up her position as co-pilot next to the pilot and Dr Fowlds in the back seat ready to dart. Flying a chopper when trying to dart an animal is no easy task. There is no such thing as “straight and level”. It is adrenalin pumping stuff and there needs to be an understanding between pilot and vet. Dr Fowlds has done this many times before and in no time the first Rhino was darted and the immobilizing drugs started to take effect. Once down the Rhino was joined by the ground crew, to help reduce the Rhino’s stress levels a blind fold was secured and earplugs were put in the ears. Step forward Julia... Julia approached the immobilized Rhino, and the poignant moment of her touching the horn before anything else, is captured on camera. While the vet students, under the guidance of Dr Fowlds, did the various other procedures on the Rhino, Julia, assisted by Brent Cook from Chipembere Rhino Foundation, carefully fitted a tracking collar to the hind leg of the Rhino. Huge moment! Julia, holding offcuts of the collar as mementos, was then able to spend time around the Rhino chatting to Dr Fowlds and Brent about this amazing animal and its unique characteristics. These are times when a young individual’s life can be influenced forever and the Rhino’s gain a friend for life. The same process was followed for a second Rhino and with time running out, Julia looked on at her successfully collared Rhinos. "Being up close to these huge animals was a humbling experience. Spending time with these amazing people, who do so much to care for animals, really inspires me to continue raising awareness and money for rhinos. I hope we can make a difference so that my children too, can experience these wonderful, almost prehistoric beasts. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who helped make this an unforgettable experience for me. " - Julia Murray Julia has made a small, but real difference in the global fight to keep Rhinos from extinction (caused by the unfounded belief that the horn has medicinal value). She is a great inspiration for young and old and you never know, maybe a conservationist in the making. Julia will go back to Hong Kong wiser and better equipped to tell her circle of friends about her Rhinos, and our struggle to protect this magnificent animal. With many thanks to Peter Allanson, William Fowlds, Bloss Murray and Stuart Barr for their involvement in this wonderful story. Thank you Julia! CHIPEMBERE RHINO FOUNDATION BRENT COOK 082 779 9575 WWW.CHIPEMBERE.ORG

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ride for Rhino

Feel up to a real Challenge and help raise funds for African Conservation? Get involved with Challenge4aCause and support rhino anti poaching.

We’d like to invite you to support a once in a lifetime mountain biking challenge that aims at changing the lives of many threatened and endangered African animals, where 20 cyclists will brave 4 days of 50km per day through the Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana.

Challenge4aCause is a fund raising initiative that supports the conservation of Africa’s endangered animal species. All funds raised in the Mashatu Challenge will go to the Wildlife ACT Fund and the Chipembere Rhino Foundation.

Cycle Mashatu Challenge4aCause Dates:
22 – 26 Aug 2011
4 days, 5 nights
50 km per day
20 cyclists

Details of the events can be found on the Challenge4aCause Facebook page.

All funds raised will be split between 2 organisations:

Chipembere Rhino Foundation
Is a privately run, non-profit organisation committed to protecting and conserving Africa’s rhino. The Foundation was established in November 2010 after the Amakhala Game Reserve lost 2 rhinos in one week to poaching. Both were breeding bulls and thus it was a devastating blow. Funds raised by the challenge will go towards anti-poaching efforts and rhino conservation initiatives in the Eastern Cape and beyond.

Wildlife ACT Fund
The Wildlife ACT Fund is a non profit company and requires funds for the development of new anti-poaching technologies, the implementation of long-term monitoring programs for threatened and endangered species, as well as community outreach initiatives.

How Can You Help?

Join the fight to save the Rhino and other animals from extinction and stand a chance to win a dream island holiday.
Support Challenge4aCause as we cycle through the Mashatu Reserve in Botswana to raise funds for the plight of endangered animals in South Africa and stand a chance to win:

1st Prize:
5 night stay for two at Belle Mare Plage Mauritius (dinner bed & breakfast) incl all flights and transfers ex JHB.

2nd Prize:
2 night stay at Hlosi Lodge on Amakhala Game Reserve for a family of 4 (all meals, teas and game drives included).

3rd Prize:
2 night stay at Robberg Beach Lodge Plettenberg Bay for a family of four (bed & breakfast).

4th Prize:
A Canon digital camera

The prize draw takes place on the 2nd September 2011 and by buying a ticket for R100,not only are you entering the draw but you are making a donation to a very worthy cause! Buy 5 tickets (1 book) and you automatically get the 6th ticket for free!

Mashatu, ‘Land of Giants’ takes its name from the locally-sacrosanct Mashatu tree and the giants that roam its terrain. As one of the largest private game reserve in southern Africa, Mashatu is, at 25 000 hectares, a fitting setting for the world’s largest land mammal - the elephant. It is a huge wilderness area in eastern Botswana at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers.

Mashatu Game Reserve is where herds of elephant, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra have roamed the dramatic landscape for thousands of years. Ancient elephant paths provide the perfect single track to cycle which interlace a mosaic of savannah, forest, rocky outcrops and wooded floodplains.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It all started in the Eastern Cape

Whether you are Bill Gates, Lady Gaga or Julius Malema, chances are that your forefathers came from the Eastern Cape – according to research by Curtis Marean, a professor at the Arizona State University, in the US.
Curtis has just received funding of R10-million from the world’s leading funding organisation, the National Science Foundation, to prove his theory that the Pinnacle Point golf estate did not produce only 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, but the world’s entire population.
Evidence from Curtis’s massive inter-disciplinary research of the past 11 years was used to convince the notoriously prudent foundation to fund his work, which he does in co-operation with researchers at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Frank Silberbauer sharing information at a burial site in the Sand River.
A Nelson Mandela botanist, Professor Richard Cowling, one of the principal investigators on the team, said the evidence included the remains of shellfish and scales of edible bulbs piled in prehistoric “kitchen refuse sites”.
Among the finds were bone fish hooks, stone tools and an alikreukel [periwinkle] shell decoration thought to have been used to brighten a cave.
Marean’s hypothesis is that, between 120000 and 190000 years ago, Earth was hit by a brutal ice age.
With many parts of the planet already too dry or too cold to support life, the global population of early Stone Age hominids was reduced from 10000 to only 600 breeding individuals – a figure revealed by the latest population genetics research.
These last survivors of our forebears survived because they lived on the Aghulhas plain, a coastal area stretching from the Southern Cape into Eastern Cape and up to Port Elizabeth.
Today, this plain is covered by coastal waters, but during that era, with much more water bound up in ice, the sea level was much lower and the plain was exposed.
The theory is that three factors allowed this small band to sneak through the grim evolutionary bottleneck of that period while the rest of their kind, across the planet, died.
The first factor was the warming effect of the Agulhas ocean current, which flowed along the edge of the Aghulhas plain.
Secondly, there was a great diversity and density of edible shellfish such as mussels, alikreukel and limpets, as well as fish and other marine organisms that our forefathers could eat.
“The third factor was the amazing edible bulbs, an excellent source of quality carbohydrates, in the surrounding fynbos. We now know the fynbos biome is the richest in the world in terms of range and density of bulbs, tubers and corms,” said Cowling.
The early Stone Age hominids had to get smart quickly to learn how to access this food by fishing and digging with sticks.
Their daily battle to survive and the innovation it encouraged honed their evolution and they became the first modern humans.
They were excavating silcrete rock and heating it to make fine cutting tools – the first example of mining and engineering – and they were apparently co-ordinating their foraging trips to the coast from their inland communities with the help of a lunar calendar.
The direct descendants of these original modern humans were the San of Southern Africa, but they also colonised the rest of the world, Cowling explained.
“So everybody alive today comes from this coast. That’s the theory – and all the evidence so far supports it.”

Article by Guy Rodgers, August 10, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chipembere Rhino Foundation welcomes Freshly Ground

The heavens had blessed the parched Eastern Cape landscape with much needed rain for the better part of a week. Pans were once again full, grasses green and many tracks made impassable with the deluge of water that covered some areas of the Amakhala Game Reserve. The prospect of potentially challenging weather conditions to come was what overshadowed the team at Chipembere Rhino Foundation, with the imminent arrival of their new patron and South Africa’s best loved band, Freshlyground.
Well as they say “timing is everything” and the long anticipated day dawned clear and crisp, with the pristine and refreshed air that takes up residence after the rains have washed away all evidence of heat and dust. We could not have asked for better!
The late afternoon arrival of Freshlyground for the official “ meet and greet” was kindly hosted by Amakhala’s neighbour, the Sidbury Cricket Club – South Africa’s oldest club founded in 1899. Though it is without doubt the oldest cricket facility, the welcome itself was held at the newly built club house. A sincere thanks must go to Dr.William Fowlds and Stacy Dewey for making this location available to us. The event was absolutely faultless and the club rose to the occasion!
Freshlyground was not alone, popular lifestyle show, Top Billing, had agreed to join us and sent along a film crew and presenter to document Freshlyground’s stay at Amakhala Game Reserve, to follow their experience and new association with the Chipembere Rhino Foundation.
Freshlyground was greeted by Amakhala’s legendary “Leeuwenbosch Choir” under the guidance of ‘Ouboet’. The Xhosa harmonies and traditional dancing was enough to get the band motivated and ‘in the mood’ to dance with the chorus.
Once things had settled after the rousing performance, and our visitors had tucked into refreshments and platters of food, an informative slide show of Amakhala’s rhino population was presented along with insightful statistics on how Africa’s rhino have been affected throughtout history by poaching.
The presentation was succinctly summarised by Brent Cook, co-founder of Chipembere Rhino Foundation, outlining the extent of the escalating poaching crisis, how it has affected Amakhala directly and the threat Africa’s remaining Rhino are facing. A question and answer session followed, allowing Freshlyground the opportunity to gain a good understanding of their role as rhino ambassadors and establishing official communication between them as patrons and the foundation.
The next three memorable days were spent out in the bush observing rhino in their natural habitat, visiting the site of the terrible poaching incident on Amakhala and discussing the modus operandi of the poachers. The stunning weather conditions held up, and as much time as possible was spent enjoying the safari experience. Freshlyground conducted interviews with Top Billing in various locations on the reserve on their involvement with Chipembere Rhino Foundation, their music and plans for the future.
All of us at Chipembere Rhino Foundation wish to convey a huge heartfelt thank-you to Freshlyground. First and foremost for taking the time to care about the plight of Africa’s Rhinos, and secondly for being such fantastic down-to-earth folk!!! We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of you, and we and are truly honoured to have Freshlyground as our patron. We look forward to a long and productive association with Freshlyground in this campaign of raising rhino awareness.
None of the above would have been possible without the co-ordinated efforts and creative networking skills of Helen Turnbull, who recognised a synergy that successfully linked the two organisations together. Thank you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


At the exclusive 2nd Annual Adventure Province (Eastern Cape) Tourism & Conservation Awards, championed by the Eastern Cape Parks & Conservation Agency (ECPTA), on 24th March 2011, Amakhala was announced the winner in the Best Private Game Reserve category.

"These awards recognise industry contributions through 34 awards across five categories which are accommodation, tourism services, cultural heritage, biodiversity, and adventure / tourism experience.

By recognising the best in the tourism & conservation sector, the aim is to spur the industry on to new heights, by constantly seeking new ways to exceed visitor expectations and create a stellar visitor experience every time. In its second year, with the theme “Celebrating Diversity and Excellence”.

The “2nd Annual Adventure Province Tourism & Conservation Awards” concept is based on similar tourism excellence awards events that take place all over the world, most notably the Indaba Welcome Awards, the First Choice Responsible Awards in London, the Tshwane Tourism Awards, the Welcome Awards, and the Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards.

The Eastern Cape Parks &Tourism Awards currently participates in two National Tourism Awards - the Welcome Awards (Service Excellence Tourism Awards) and the Eteya Tourism Awards (the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the year Awards).

The “2nd Annual Adventure Province Tourism & Conservation Awards” are envisaged to be one of the most coveted, and prestigious awards events in the Eastern Cape."

All at Amakhala are thrilled with this prestigious award and invite you to visit THE BEST PRIVATE GAME RESERVE IN THE EASTERN CAPE!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Devastating News...

It is with great sadness that I write this blog. A little over a month ago we darted one of our white rhino male bulls for ear notching, DNA/Blood sample collection and and micro-chipping - all anti-poaching efforts. This same rhino was slaughtered this week at the hand of poachers. Him and our breeding bull. They were both darted and their horns hacked off.
We are devastated to say the least. The police investigation is currently under way and we can only hope that some form of justice will be served. This is a huge loss to the Amakhala Game Reserve.