History of Amakhala Game Reserve
The Amakhala Game Reserve began in 1999 as a joint
conservation venture. The lodges are owner managed by the descendants of the
original families who arrived here with the British settlers of 1820. The
lodges offer various styles of accommodation, which include a gracious colonial
homestead and classic bush lodges.
Amakhala Game Reserve is a unique conservation initiative that allows animals to be re-introduced to the area where they once roamed freely and so making a contribution to the conservation of our natural heritage. The land was used to ranch sheep and cattle up to the turn of the century. The challenge has been to re-establish the original flora and fauna species to the area and to return the land to nature.
Amakhala Safari Lodge has been awarded the voluntary label by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA). Based on adherence to specific criteria such as fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment, the FTTSA label is an independent endorsement of fair and responsible tourism practise in South Africa.
James and Grace Weeks arrived on African soil in 1820 after a gruelling 9-week sea voyage, during which their 2-year-old daughter died. They were one of a thousand brave and adventurous families that had left the struggling economy in Post Napoleonic Britain for a new life in the Cape Colony. Unbeknown to them, their grant of land was to serve as a buffer between the Cape Colony and the increasingly hostile Xhosa tribes. These were extremely difficult times for James, as he was a confectioner by trade. Once they were released from their grants, James began to trade, very successfully, further north.
Jabez, the son of their son, William, went on to fight in the Frontier Wars. He was wounded in the 8th Frontier War and lost his sight. Jabez purchased the farm Reed Valley in 1898, at the called Tygersfontein, which translated from the old Dutch, means Leopard Spring. Miraculously, he regained his sight shortly before he died.
Jabez’s son, Walter, farmed Reed Valley very successfully. He was the epitome of white colonialism, dressed in a white suite and pith helmet. He ran Merino sheep for their wool production. Walter was the commanding officer of the Alexandria Town Guard during the Boer War between the British and the Dutch. He was quite famous and later honoured for a story that goes something like this: Intelligence has been received that Jan Smuts, later to be the Prime Minister of South Africa, was travelling on horseback from the north, rounding up willing Afrikaners to join his commando. It was ‘Nagmaal’ in the village of Paterson. (Nagmaal was the Dutch Reformed Church’s monthly communion service. Surrounding Afrikaans farmers would come to town for a few days to catch up on news, trade and buy their monthly supplies.) Captain Walter Weeks waited for all the Afrikaners to enter the church before he and his men rushed from their hiding places and bolted the doors shut. They kept them there for 3 days until Jan Smuts’s Commando was no longer a threat and thereby, thwarted another confrontation.
Walters’ son, Jack, took over the farming on his return from World War I. he returned with a young bride, Eileen, who became very involved with caring for the local community. She established the health clinic in Paterson. Jack started the Reed Valley Jersey herd in 1925 and it was considered the 3rd oldest Jersey herd in South Africa. He also continued with Merino sheep and with the feather boom, farmed ostriches. The Addo Elephant Park was formed during this time to protect the last of the remaining elephants from the farmers, who were shooting them ruthlessly.
Jack’s youngest son John, inherited Reed Valley after serving in the Royal Navy during World War II. He continued with milk and wool production. He also planted one million pineapple plants and farmed these for a number of years. John and his wife Dianna were also very involved with the local community and set up Reed Valley School.
John’s sons Rod and Mike, presently own Reed Valley. Interestingly enough, Rod and Mike both served in the South African Defence Force in the South West African conflict with the Cuban backed Angolans, making them the fifth generation to fight in a major war. Rod has renovated the original homestead on Reed Valley and is now one of the Colonial styled lodges on Amakhala. In 2002, Mike stopped farming sheep and he and his wife, Justine, designed and built The Safari Lodge on Amakhala. Justine is a fourth generation South African, her paternal ancestors come from Ballymena in Northern Ireland. Her maternal great grandfather emigrated from Edinburgh in Scotland and married the daughter of a German immigrant in South Africa. Justine was responsible for raising the funds and organising the builders for the Isipho Centre for Vulnerable Children in Paterson.
We have welcomed the wave of political change that has opened new doors to international tourism, we have seized the opportunity by being founder members of Amakhala Game Reserve. Through this unique conservation initiative, we intend to return the land to its original state, as it was when James Weeks first arrived in 1820, and also that the people who have worked on Reed Valley, some generation, will grow and prosper. We are proud of our heritage and admire the bravery and the pioneering spirit of our ancestors, we trust that we have inherited their ability to adapt in the face of change and that our future, and that of our children, is in a South Africa that is admired and respected around the world.