Q & A: Charl Pretorius (Maredi), Kwalata Game Ranch, Dinokeng

Gauteng Tourism Authority poses some questions to Charl Pretorius, owner of Kwalata Game Ranch, one of the most successful game lodges in the Dinokeng Game Reserve (DGR).

Q: Your property, Kwalata, has been very successful and attracts a lot of corporate business. What is the secret of your success?

A: Good staff – all local & home grown,great service and home cooking! For 20 years Kwalata has been focusing on selling an experience and not a ‘tourism’ offering! Our team of facilitators, all accredited with the Field Guides Association of South Africa, present to all types of guests, from kiddies to corporate teams and participants in nature programmes.  We keep on investing in developing our team.  We are an owner-managed operation; there’s no financial power house behind us to foot the bills.  It’s been tough, but the challenge has bought us joy.

Q: Kwalata was recently awarded Fair Trade in Tourism SA (FTTSA) certification. Why is it important for Dinokeng to develop as a responsible tourism destination?

A: The FTTSA grading gave Kwalata recognition for what we have been doing over the past 20 years. For me, FTTSA covers the shortfall in hospitality grading systems in this country, and provides measurability. If labour legislation, which is FTTSA audited, is applied in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, it will ensure equal playing fields and a happy community which leads to sustainability.

The DGR objectives represent a fresh approach towards wilderness and nature tourism, by making the community our first priority.  The community must become the guardian of our conservation initiative and if we succeed in this, we will become a new model that can be implemented throughout Africa.  The question that must always be asked first is “how does the community benefit?” as opposed to the colonial position that wildlife must be protected for generations to come, or for the privileged few who can afford to enjoy it.

Q: You have gone the extra mile in developing tourism in your area with cultural tours, as well as instituting social responsibility programmes and securing sponsorship for them. How has this benefitted Kwalata and Dinokeng at large?

A: We have been doing this for 20 years and there was never any hidden strategy behind our efforts. It has, however, lead to the development of a responsible brand for Kwalata, which has stood as an example to other operations in Dinokeng. The more the merrier, for the community is the biggest winner.

Kwalata is now focusing on putting more structure to the Kwalata Community Development Initiative to facilitate greater investment. For example, we had a group from Sweden two weeks ago for a game drive. We then suggested a lunch in Mandela Village where they visited some Kwalata social responsibility initiatives.  Not only did they book more visits, they pledged R10 000 to three day care centres for educational equipment.

These initiatives are how we develop Dinokeng as a responsible tourism destination! Further, when all levels of the community benefit from tourism, the biggest winner will be the environment and nature.   We need to sell this message: “If you visit this destination your contribution helps building a greener Gauteng.”