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VVisitors in search of Nelson Mandela’s life story are welcome to spend time at his former private residence at the Shambala Private Game Reserve in Limpopo, north of Johannesburg. Here, Mandela spent many hours resting and entertaining important guests including presidents, political figures and celebrities including the likes of Oprah.
The province of Limpopo is known as “South Africa’s Eden”, an area known for amazing beauty with endless views, deep mountain valleys, clear streams, rolling bushveld hills and rich indigenous plant and animal life. This area is a unique wilderness area of South Africa, where the heat is powerful and aching muscles are soothed by the mineral baths of the numerous hot spring resorts found in the area.
TThe Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation was constructed by Madiba’s lifelong friend, Douw Steyn in 2001, after the president retired from political life in 1999. He bought almost 10 000 hectares of land in the Limpopo province, fenced it, made a vast dam and filled the reserve with the Big Five and other animals to create a self-sufficient ecosystem.
Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation
OOne section of the lodge was created just for guests and houses five en suite bedrooms. It runs alongside Mandela’s spacious apartment, which was kept a sacred space for him only. There are beautiful pieces of art and mosaics by local artists in the veranda area, which were handpicked by Madiba and Graça. This provides you with a hint that the lodge is still very much as the couple left it - understated, elegant, comfortable, homely and peaceful. Hippos roam the gardens while elephants often pass by the lodge to say hello.
TThe natural materials of wood, stone, leather, silk, wool and thatch are a background to the magnificent portraits of Xhosa women by the artist Laura Fraser, which add colour and genuineness to the social spaces. In the hallway, a collection of Mandela’s paperbacks sits on a modest bookcase and guests can page through the guestbook, which has been signed by Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, among others.
The Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation is neither a museum nor a hotel - it is a home, and staying on the property and reflecting on Mandela’s legacy is a moving experience. One can’t help but be inspired by his life of hardship and struggle; and this is a glorious opportunity to walk in the footsteps of this giant figure.