East London - Game farming might be a thriving industry worth billions of rands but it is not a “quick money-making” business, according to Nonkqubela Mayathula.
Mayathula, in her early 40s, owns a luxurious 5-star Miarestate Hotel and Spa and a 740 hectare of game farm in Haga Haga along the “untamed and unspoiled” Wild Coast, about 76 kilometres from East London.
In the industry which is dominated by male owners with few black people, Mayathula says entering the game farming was a choice for her, driven by a sense “of coming back to the Eastern Cape to unlock the potential of the wildlife economy”.
“I entered the game industry with a purpose. It took me a couple of years planning on how to break into the industry,” said the mother of five children, who previously worked in the mining industry.
“Game farming needs patience and of course financial muscle and sadly it is not an industry for quick money making. Out of my own pocket, I invested a huge amount of money buying the land from foreign owners. After that I had to invest in infrastructure making sure that the vegetation is environmentally friendly for wildlife,” said Mayathula.
She said wild animals are sensitive to environment. “When you are buying animals, make sure that they have suitable vegetation. Get proper advice on a sustainable environment for animals. When animals get into a new piece of land, they must adapt to it, find grazing patterns and place where they can get water including areas they can run to when they are in distress. In that process, some may not make it,” said Mayathula.
Now Mayathula is currently employing about 30 people at the hotel and the farm, with the most staff dominated by locals from the area.
She said she is happy with the traffic of domestic as well as international tourists from as far afield as Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom.
After about ten years in the game farming industry with Mayathula “walking alone” in the business, the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) came on board through its Game Industry Transformation Programme.
With this programme, ECPTA recently donated to Mayathula some animals in the form of Kudu, Bontebok and Hartebeest.
Mayathula believes that her business is on a “financially and environmentally sustainable” path. She said her wildlife ventures are able to support each other. “When entering into a game farming industry, it’s is important to have an interrelated business like restaurant and accommodation so they can support each other,” Mayathula said.
On offer at Mayathula’s Miarestate include mountain biking, nature drives, private beach, family or couple picnics and sea fishing. Animals at the farm include Cape Mountain Zebra, Nyala, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Warthog, Impala and Bushbuck.