There is nowhere quite like the Drakensberg for star gazing. One of the main reasons for this is because there are two thirds more stars in the Southern hemisphere than in the Northern hemisphere. Another reason is that there is very little man made lighting in the more remote Drakensberg regions and certainly less lighting than in the major cities. Not only is the lack of artificial light beneficial for star gazing but the quiet atmosphere and natural environment make the Drakensberg perfect for stargazing too!
Mlendeni Sitole will tell you his stories of the night skies. He has built a star gazing hammock camp for you to relax and observe the heavens and listen to the night sounds. He makes you feel like you have never seen the night sky before when you go stargazing at Antbear Lodge. The Milky Way arcs over you like a giant swathe of smoke – reminiscent of the African tale of its origins where a strong-willed girl who became so angry when her mother would not give her any of a delicious roasted root that she grabbed the roasting roots from the fire and threw the roots and ashes into the sky, where the red and white roots now glow as red and white stars, and the ashes are the Milky Way.
This is a star gazing experience that is different. Sure we will point out some of the major constellations of the southern skies but its the traditional Zulu stories of myths and legends that really engage. About how the sky became so high and how the moon and the sun got into the sky.
Mlendeni has been assisted by Antbear Lodge as part of its community development entrepreneurial program to get his business started. Your support is very much appreciated.
* Age limits apply
If you wish to celebrate a special occasion or simply feel like a romantic, private dinner alone with your loved one, we have an intimate dining room available in our wine cellar. Whilst dining here, the only other person who may enter the room is your waiter.
We also offer another private dining experience where we setup a table on the deck of your luxury cave or veranda of your chalet and you dine by candlelight under the stars. If it is peace and quiet you’re after then this is the answer.
* Age limits apply
Responsible tourism is the ethos of Antbear Lodge and is the basis of just about everything we do. We have realized our dream of a self sufficient lifestyle which has resulted in the development of our loved Antbear Lodge. It all started some 20 years ago where we left our corporate lifestyle in Germany and started our attempt of living differently. The first step resulted in the construction of a straw bale building, an alternative building method that uses local resources with low impact on the world. Even the thatch for the roof was cut on the farm and the main costs of this construction type are labour keeping our money in the local economy. Since then we have built from sun dried bricks, rammed earth, cob and locally sourced stone from the farm. Slowly our vision at Antbear Lodge has developed into our concept of responsible tourism that includes fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.
We have our own chickens for eggs, our own cows for milk and an organic vegetable garden. We bake our own bread and even make our own yogurt and cheese. We are strong believers in permaculture, have developed an earth worm farm and compost with a minimum waste policy and what we do produce as waste we try our utmost to recycle. Polystyrene is our last issue for which we have not found a recycle solution yet. We are also a haven for rescued animals and have taken on abused donkeys, horses, pigs and more.
We make an effort in conservation too and take our responsibility as stewards looking after this farm seriously. We try to remove alien invader species like wattle, hawthorn and american bramble. We keep poaching to a minimum and that is mostly due to our relationship with our community. Our latest project in partnership with a neighbour farm is establishing a vulture restaurant together with a vulture hide. The hope is that the vulture hide will be taken on by tourists wanting to photograph vultures and the funding can be put back into new vulture conservation efforts.
Along the way we have had our failures too. We started a program supporting a local school which worked well in the beginning but after too much money became available for the school so to did the abuse of that money begin. Infact lessons took a secondary role while the kids would sing for tourists at every opportunity and the teachers cashed in. We redeveloped the program by creating an NGO and letting the NGO manage the money working with a different school and no longer interrupt schooling with tourism. In short there have been lots of lessons.
Skills development is important and we have put in huge effort here. Antbear Drakensberg Lodge employs people from the local area. Most have little previous work experience or formal training. We provide continues training and skills development with workshops and practical training. Not only hospitality training and what is required to run our lodge but skills like wood working, refrigeration, electricity, plumbing, alternative building, up-cycling, permaculture and so much more. Its inspiring to see how these skills are slowly being introduced in the local community and our very alternative way of seeing things is becoming the new normal. We also operate a volunteer program where we take on people for shortish periods in an exchange of labour for accommodation and meals. We mostly teach woodworking and alternative construction but we have also done natural horsemanship.
Our latest program is to attempt to uplift the local economy by developing entrepreneurial opportunities for people from our local communities. We are using our already established customer base as a market source The fist of these programs is up an running with a local villager who has built a star gazing hammock camp where he tell his folklore tales that came from is grandmother. Its loved by tourists and is a real authentic experience. We paid for the development costs and Mlendeni contributed his own labour to build it. The idea is that Mlendeni is responsible for running his own business. Already we can see that some business mentorship interventions are are needed and are now starting to work on that. This has resulted in the partnership with an NGO called Indalo Inclusive who support developing smmes that have a green and inclusive basis. I am sure this is a long term program as we are working with general education levels that are pathetically minimal.
Sustainability is a journey and it does not have an end. We can all do more and we should all do more and if you asked me to write about this in a years time I will talk about new projects and new ideas of where we can practically make a difference.