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Overview
TTembe Elephant Park is a Big Five reserve set in a unique sand forest, savannah and swamp ecosystem in northern Maputaland. The Park is renowned for providing intimate, up close interactions with elephant, and is home to some of the largest big tuskers in Africa. Tembe Elephant Lodge nestles within the lush sand forest and represents a community conservation success story like no other. The Lodge offers a luxury tented experience that is an affordable take on high-end safari lodges, this makes it attractive for local tourists while still appealing to the international visitor – a factor which accounts for its consistently high occupancy rates. The warmth and friendliness of the Lodge staff are cited as a major factor in the high incidence of repeat visits (as a visit to the Lodge’s TripAdvisor page or the Lodge Guest Book will show). The Tembe tents, each located for maximum privacy and seclusion, invite guests in with comfy camping chairs on private stoeps, high quality linen and attractive use of natural materials throughout. Each has its own outdoor shower and "massage/spa" tent alongside which offers serenity and privacy. The public dining and reception areas are located under magnificent soaring thatch and are constructed using natural, sustainably sourced material. Everything has been done to minimise impact on the environment and blend in with the surrounding forest. Tembe Elephant Lodge is testimony to the care and pride the Tembe people (who own and manage the Lodge on their ancestral land in conjunction with their private partners) take in a project continues to uplift their community in many ways. • Tembe Elephant Park has grown to become the biggest private sector employer in the region and is the largest contributor to the local economy. • The Lodge currently employs 55 people, all from the KwaTembe region who are provided with professional training in hospitality or as guides. • Staff remuneration sees over R 4 million flow into what was formerly one of the most impoverished areas in South Africa, while community levies collected at the Park gate bring in R500 000 annually for community assistance and funding for community projects. • A voluntary conservation levy brings in an additional R250 000 for conservation structures. In addition, Tembe supports college bursaries valued at over R1 million for students from the community. • Community conservation education in the form of free game drives valued at over R250 000 annually, ensures that the Tembe people understand and treasure ‘their’ reserve and the role it plays in conservation in the region and value the contribution it makes to the community’s well-being – in stark contrast to the often strained relationships between proclaimed conservation areas and neighbouring communities. Tembe Elephant Park is a wonderful local product which excels in the accommodation (and sustainable tourism) category It is a successful example of how genuine community participation can benefit both conservation initiatives and economic upliftment in South Africa.
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