The history of Antbear Lodge
It has been fourteen years since the start of the Antbear Drakensberg lodge as you see it today. But it did not start out quite like this. In the early beginnings Antbear was merely a ruin on a piece of land that had little agricultural value. But Andrew and Conny saw its potential and were able to visualize their dream coming to fruition on this piece of land.
Andrew’s father Bruce began our story when he talked enthusiastically about a dilapidated ruin he had found overlooking the Bushman’s River Valley and commanding a dramatic view over the Drakensberg Mountains. The ruin was an old house that had not been lived in for over 30 years. The old thatch roof was rotten and in places the old mud walls had collapsed. And an Antbear had moved in under the rotten floor boards!
He took Andrew and Conny to see it and it was love at first sight. Conny and Andrew saw much more than just an old ruined house. They saw gardens and trees; they saw a farmhouse that they could renovate and recognized the potential of this location with regard to its central position near to Giants Castle. On clear days, they noticed that one had a view of the entire panorama of the Central and Northern Drakensberg including Giants Castle, Monks Cowl, Champagne Castle, Cathedral Peak and the Sentinel.
They decided to purchase the 11 hectare property and then returned to Germany to figure out how to raise the funds needed to build the Lodge – they were now on a mission to move to South Africa. The couple put their heads down to save every cent they could. Sixteen months later they packed their container and moved South Africa.
Bruce had in the meantime been busy fixing up on the farm and had also made a great deal of the unique furniture you see on the Estate today. Possibly due to all the hammering, the Antbear moved out! But its name lives on.
By now there was a kitchen, a few bedrooms and one bath room. The dilapidated annex had a roof and a small patch of lawn had been won back from the weeds.
Slowly but surely the ruin took shape and was being transformed into what you see today.
Andrew was then offered a well paid contract in Germany. With a heavy heart and empty pockets he headed back to Germany again. But it was a blessing as without that money, the completion of Antbear would not have been possible. Conny stayed at Antbear and threw herself into managing the farm, communicating with only rudimentary English and Zulu skills.
In November 2000, Conny and Andrew welcomed their first guests. They took 18 months to finish their own house which was their first attempt at alternative building. This structure is made of straw bales and mud with a thin skim of plaster. There was now a guest house and their own house.
In 2004, the couple purchased a further 218 hectares so that they could expand and develop. At present, we have 15 rooms and our latest project is the completion of a bigger purpose built lodge
About the Antbear Drakensberg Lodge
The Antbear Drakensberg lodge is a thatched accommodation venue built high on a natural platform overlooking the Bushmans River and Giants Castle. This lodge is a bit off the beaten track and is more of an insider tip than just another bed and breakfast. We cater for small intimate groups and have a function room available for small workshops or meetings and small weddings. It’s a laid back, lovingly cared for kind of place where you feel a sense of happiness and peace. Honeymoon stays turn into anniversary commemorations just as guests become friends. Even foreign tourists return for a second and third taste.
The Antbear Drakensberg Lodge has always strived to be a progressive and socially responsible enterprise. In keeping with our small business ethic of 'thinking globally and acting locally', we choose to focus our social responsibility efforts on our immediate community and environment.
Most of our employees have been recruited locally, and mainly live on our farm or neighbouring farms. Our relationships are based on respect and mutual trust, and we enjoy a very positive and informal working relationship. All employees are employed full time and we try to pay the best salaries we can afford which are in all cases above the going rates. We have sent staff on numerous training courses including cooking, hospitality, computer related, farrier, weaving, spinning, wood work, welding, building, plumbing, electrical, machinery maintenance and almost every other aspect of our business. The region lacks most skills so it’s up to us, being the employer, to teach skills.
We believe that the education of young people holds the most promise for social and economic transformation in our community and South Africa. We have sponsored the farm school library, built a class room, donated fencing materials for the school garden, built a school playground and set up basketball nets. Regular supplying of stationery and school shoes seems to always be a gap to fill. We are supporting The Chrysalis Project which is a Non-Profit Organisation working in schools in the Giants Castle/ Kamberg area and if you are interested in more information or even a donation have a look at the website: http://chrysalis-project-za.org/
If you would like to be part of our responsible tourism vision and would like to volunteer for a while at the lodge then have a look at our volunteer page
We grow our own herbs and vegetables and also keep chickens for eggs. Of course all is done using organic principals and the best conditions for the animals. Conny has a worm farm and compost heap to process any organic material that the pigs or chickens can't eat. We are proud of our ongoing intention to offer our guests hospitality within sustainable conscious living.
We take our duty as stewards of our 229 hectare farm very seriously. Since we arrived we have been clearing our valley of alien vegetation, and have planted hundreds of indigenous trees. The main reason for this is water conservation and erosion rehabilitation. We clean up our waste water using a reed bed filter before its returned to the environment instead of just dumping it into a soak pit. As a business we recycle our waste and take an active part in our Conservancy's efforts to keep our lowlands valley clean, safe and wildlife-friendly. The use of renewable energy sources has been started by replacing our electric water heating systems with solar heaters and heat exchangers.
Our building efforts are alternative to say the least. We have used straw bales, cob, rammed earth, sun dried clay bricks, stone from the farm, thatch and untreated poles. All of which we think has made for beautiful structures, but adheres to the principals of sustainability.
The Drakensberg is an eco-tourism paradise, and the Antbear Drakensberg Lodge is situated in the heart of the Drakensberg and Natal Midlands which boasts some of the most beautiful countryside and wilderness areas anywhere in the world. We are very aware that tourism plays a critical role in conservation and upliftment and would like to thank you for the role you have played for visiting our area.