From humble beginnings to a 22-room oasis: The inspirational story behind Thaba Legae Guest Lodge

Millicent Shai and husband Israel made Thaba Legae Guest Lodge a success. Picture: FACEBBOOK/Thaba Legae Guest Lodge

Millicent Shai and husband Israel made Thaba Legae Guest Lodge a success. Picture: FACEBBOOK/Thaba Legae Guest Lodge

Published Oct 4, 2023


With its strategic location, merely an hour’s drive from Gauteng, Thaba Legae Guest Lodge calls out to both the savvy business traveller looking for a peaceful escape and those craving a good time.

However, it is the unique story of its owner that sets this oasis apart, as her commitment to running the comrades mirrors her relentless dedication to curating an exceptional experience for her guests.

Millicent Shai, the heart and soul behind Thaba Legae Guest Lodge, unpacked its humble beginnings to the vibrant haven it has become today.

Her story exudes grace, humility and an overflowing sense of gratitude for where their hospitality venture now stands.

Shai and her husband Israel share an insatiable love for travel and their adventures unveiled not just the beauty of the world but also the desires and unmet cravings of fellow travellers.

Their wanderlust-filled escapades opened their eyes to the treasures that South Africa held, revealing the incredible experiences people yearned for but were yet to discover.

“When we came back home from a journey in Namibia we started looking at Rustenberg in a new way,” she says. “We were more appreciative of our environment.”

This is the moment when the two travellers decided to chase their own adventure, on a quest to create a 4-star haven from scratch, nestled amidst breathtaking scenery. Initially, Rustenburg wasn’t on their radar but fate had a different plan in store for them.

Not long after, they stumbled upon the plot within the majestic Magaliesburg Mountains, once home to cattle and far from modern comforts like electricity and water.

In 2009, the dynamic duo swung open the doors for business, offering just a handful of spots for guests to rest their heads. To their amazement, on that very first night, they were fully booked with seven guests from Botswana.

As the years flew by, their business blossomed. By 2010, they had expanded, adding three more rooms and even a conference room.

Then, in 2012, they went bigger by introducing a spacious hall. And the story goes on, with them adding and expanding their dream.

The hall is often used for special occasion such as weddings. Picture: FACEBBOOK/Thaba Legae Guest Lodge

“In 2019 we had a lot of overflow. We’d get people who are looking for accommodation and they are 25 people and they want to stay in one place.”

That’s when it hit them – their 13 rooms were no longer sufficient to meet the growing demand. They had ambitious plans to expand in 2020 but the unforeseen challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

But they didn’t let setbacks get them down. With a positive outlook, they continued to build and expanded with 10 more rooms. By December 2021, their business was on the upswing once again, slowly but surely.

“Now we have 22 rooms and we are planning on expanding more,” Shai exclaimed with enthusiasm.

Picture: FACEBBOOK/Thaba Legae Guest Lodge

Additionally, they incorporated solar panels. This process is clean, produces no greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the reliance on fossil fuels, making it environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Shai added: “The green tourism incentive programme was God sent.”

Additionally, Shai left us with an inspiring message: “Most of us come from poverty-stricken backgrounds, and we wanted to improve the quality of life.”

Her passion stemmed from her desire to spare her children the hardships of her own upbringing.

“I wanted to break the cycle of poverty and make a real difference,” she emphasised. Her vision involved not only creating job opportunities for others but also enabling each individual to carry forward the cycle of improvement, ultimately paving the way for the next person to access education and a better life.

“You come into the hospitality sector not knowing anything. And the thing is, you cannot sit on your loral. You have to go out there and seek information. You have to ask,” Shai admitted.