Give yourself a dose of optimism in Limpopo

It’s been a rough period for optimists, so take a trip to Hoedspruit.It’s an instant cure for pessimism about South Africa.

As a fifth-generation descendant of farming folk, I’m full of agricultural genes and top- heavy with optimism. But, hell, the past few weeks have been a testing time, with Eskom in a death spiral; unemployment at new heights; gang warfare in the Cape; xenophobia; and the rand hitting new lows.

It was all a bit much, and for a few days I fell into a state of deep depression. But I’ve recovered. Here’s how I did it.

Firstly, I remembered that there are people worse off than we are, facing mass shootings, hurricane damage and rampant inflation, as in Argentina, where the stock market recently lost almost half its total US dollar value. I suddenly realised that things aren’t so bleak in South Africa.

But what really got me over my bout of despair was a visit to Limpopo. On the way in to spend a few days in the bushveld, we stopped at Eastgate Airport, near the Kruger National Park’s Orpen Gate. Coincidentally, we arrived just as passengers were disembarking.

Wide-eyed with anticipation as they took in their new environment, they poured out of the small arrivals building.

Mostly visitors from abroad, they were dressed in spanking new designer safari outfits and festooned with cameras and binoculars.

The excitement was palpable. Game- viewing vehicles filled the car park; safari drivers and guides welcomed their guests with warm smiles, handshakes and hugs.

Private game reserves
Standing quietly to the side, watching all of this, I couldn’t help but think, “So this is the South Africa that’s on the brink of economic disaster, is it?” It got me thinking.

We drove on, passing signs announcing Guernsey Road, Kapama, Thornybush and Timbavati, eventually reaching our destination, the Klaserie Game Reserve. Collectively, these properties today form the vast area of private land incorporated into what’s known as the Greater Kruger National Park Region.

It all began in 1948, when a KwaZulu-Natal sugar farmer, keen on hunting, purchased land near the present-day

Kruger National Park, and with his neighbour’s co-operation created the 65 000ha Sabi Sand Game Reserve. To the north, Timbavati was formed in 1956, with Klaserie, Balule, Umbabat and others all soon following with similar conservation models.

In this huge block of land, we have a unique conservation initiative that has inspired hundreds of successful wildlife protection and tourism businesses in South Africa.

Thousands of citizens today depend on these establishments for their livelihood. And I’m proud to say it was all started by a farmer.

Thinking about this remarkable achievement and having seen all those foreign tourists arriving at Eastgate Airport, my pessimistic demeanour was slowly, but surely, purged!

While in the area, we paid a visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre at Kapama.

Be sure never to pass this way without visiting this facility. It’s beautifully developed and managed by a family making their contribution to saving endangered species for future generations. The visit got my optimism barometer up a few more degrees.

A vibrant town and successful farms
On a blustery day unsuitable for game viewing, we took a drive to Hoedspruit. What was a sleepy little country dorp 20 years ago is today a thriving town, bursting at the seams with shops and restaurants.

Take the road west and you’ll see hundreds upon hundreds of hectares of new citrus orchards.

If you’re feeling a bit down right now, get down to the bushveld and Hoedspruit for a cure. I got back home bursting with optimism once again for this amazing country.

Peter Hughes is a business and management consultant with 30 years’ farming experience.