About Madi a Thavha
The lodge covers an area of about 320 hectares and is located in Limpopo province on the southern slopes of the Soutpansberg mountain range. The lodge is situated 8 kilometres West of Louis Trichardt /Makhado on the R 522 road to Vivo. Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge is nearby Louis Trichardt where you can buy all essential necessities. Louis Trichardt provides schools, churches, hospitals, general stores, and other facilities. Soutpansberg literally means Salt Pan Mountains, and is derived from the great natural salt pans that are located at the foot of the mountains, close to the small village of Vivo.
The name of the farm has changed from ‘Samenkomst’ to ‘Nellies Gardens’ to the current name ‘Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge’. Water is widely available in the mountain range in which the lodge is located. For this reason the lodge is called Madi a Thavha, which means ‘water from the mountain’ in the local Venda language.
Initially the farm area was covered with bush and grazing land, used by different tribes for their cattle. From 1950, white settlers started to develop the land and since then, the farm has been owned by 7 different farmers. They mostly used the land for agricultural purposes. Macadamia trees have been planted in the valley, but the previous farmer chopped all macadamia trees and developed 7 ha of the land for cash crops with a drip irrigation system. He started to plant cash crops such as tomatoes, butternuts, green beans and cabbage. We bought the farm in 2004 and started to develop the place as a fair trade tourism destination involving local Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people and their rich cultural background.
The agricultural land is situated in a valley basin which was formed due to the geological activities over thousands of years. The valley basin is 800 m above sea level and the landscape rises up to 1300 m above sea level. The valley is open at the south eastern corner, this is also the entrance to the lodge, and forms the connection between the basin and the surrounding mountains.
The lodge is located in a ‘water rich’ area of the province. The average annual rainfall is higher on the southern slopes of the mountain range, because this is the rain side of the Soutpansberg Mountains. The rainfall is mostly accompanied by heavy thunderstorms. Temperatures range between 15 – 25 degrees in winter and between 20 – 35 degrees in summer. The main wind direction is from the northwest, but because of the enclosed basin, the wind tends to swirl around, mostly during the evenings. Mist occurs in winter time and before, during and after rainfall in summer time.
The water sources at the lodge consist of fountains and bore holes. These sources are sustainable because of the high water level inside the Soutpansberg Mountains. Pipes bring the water from the fountains down to the lodge. The fountain water is sufficient for both domestic use and garden irrigation.
Flora and fauna
Indigenous bush characterises the landscape. Although the Soutpansberg has gone through numerous periods of drought, many of the mountain vegetation are able to store water and survive on the mist. Additionally there is an invasion of alien plants; the lodge is involved in a programme of the Department of Forestry to remove the alien plants and trees.
Many velvet monkey’s and baboons live around the lodge. In the past there used to be small game, but this was hunted down by the previous farmers. Nevertheless, some small game is coming back. There are leopards high in the mountains, but they are very shy and never show themselves. On the Madi a Thavha birding lists are more then 100 bird species.
We started building and renovating in the beginning of 2005. We developed the plans for all buildings ourselves, step by step, making use of ideas from many people who supported us. During the entire building process we worked with local contractors and builders. Learning by doing and learning from each other was our motto. The builders were teaching us to make use of traditional building techniques and we were teaching the builders about planning, measuring, and design. The contractors worked with own labour and we had a team available for all kinds of jobs such as breaking down old structures, cleaning bricks, bringing building materials from one place to the other, and digging holes and foundations.
We recycled nearly all materials like bricks, window frames, doors, pipes, beams and even rubble that we used for new foundations. By doing this we created jobs and did not produce a large amount of waste. During the building process we created jobs for about 20 people for a period of one and a half year. In addition to job creation, skills development was an important aspect in the process. A Dutch retired Technical College teacher came to teach people on the job in: carpentry, plumbing, and painting skills for a period of 3 months.
The building approach was very basic, making use of natural materials and traditional techniques, for example the cement floors with oxide, the tops for kitchens and bathrooms, and the pipes for the water supply.
Integrated approach: Tourism and Development
Offering hospitality services and cultural and nature experiences to our guests is the main focus of Madi a Thavha. Besides this we have a design and sewing studio at the lodge and we support arts and craft projects in the area.
In the mean time we build on establishing sustainable relationships with our employees, their families, and the local communities around us. This integrated approach is strengthening our tourism concept and benefits the communities around us. The way we run our business is in line with the principles of responsible tourism. A tourism management strategy focusing on responsible planning, management, product development, and marketing in order to achieve positive social, cultural, and environmental impacts. We feel that this approach is extremely important when running a tourism business in an area that is stricken by poverty, unemployment, and HIV/Aids.
Madi a Thavha has been accredited by the following organisations:
- The Tourism Grading Council South Africa graded us as a 4 Star Lodge
- The AA Quality Assured accommodation programme has indicated us as “Highly Recommended” Guest house with Self catering facilities
- Madi a Thavha is included in the Portfolio Collection
- We are included in the Lonely Planet as ‘our pick’ accommodation
- Madi a Thavha is a Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa accredited accommodation
The farm was very polluted when we started our business. Cleaning the farm made the employees of Madi a Thavha Mountain lodge aware of the need to live in a clean and neat environment. In 2007 we started with a waste recycling system. We separate our compost, paper and card board, glass, tins, and residual waste. Everywhere at the farm and in the guest houses we have containers available that employees and guests can use to separate their waste.
Making our employees familiar with the benefits of living in a clean environment and the principles of a recycling system will encourage them to implement this kind of system in their own environment. We also encourage our guests to contribute to the recycling system. Different bins are available in the guest houses to separate your waste.
We use energy-saving lights and we ask our guests to switch off the lamps, heaters and fans in the guest rooms and guest houses when they go out or to the farm house for dinner.