Jabulani today, is recognised as one of South Africa’s most respected five-star safari lodges. But the essence of Jabulani reaches far deeper than luxury and leisure – it reflects an exceptional twenty-year journey that began with a brave little elephant named Jabulani.
Our story started in 1997, several years before our lodge was built, at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) that our founder Lente Roode had established as a cheetah breeding project. With time, the Centre evolved into a wildlife conservation centre as species other than cheetahs arrived for rehabilitation and were included in the various conservation and breeding programmes.
Jabulani, an elephant calf of just four months, was brought into Lente’s care, after he had been found injured, abandoned and stuck in the mud of a silt dam. At HESC he was successfully rehabilitated and once weaned, introduced to the wild elephants of the reserve. However, they were not interested in him and he kept returning to the comfort and familiarity of HESC, which he clearly preferred.
Yet fate had a different plan for Jabulani. In 2002, Lente was contacted to urgently step in and rescue a herd of elephants from an elephant-back safari operation in Zimbabwe. The elephants were to be culled during the country’s land reformation process.
A few frantic days later, Lente and her team returned to the reserve with the herd of elephants and their dedicated carers.
The idea was to introduce Jabulani to the herd as every elephant needs a family.
Fortunately, Tokwe, the matriarch of the herd, accepted Jabulani lovingly and gracefully. Jabulani had finally found a family.
This was a significant moment in both our history and our future, as the original herd are all believed to have been orphans too. Their unique family structure would create a favourable environment for orphaned elephants in need of a herd. They have since warmly welcomed other orphaned elephants that we have introduced to them.
With the huge financial burden of having to care for the elephants and provide housing and income for their carers, it was decided to build a luxury lodge that would offer elephant back safaris and sustain the herd, and so, in 2005, Camp Jabulani came to be.
In 2006, the herd started to reproduce, an affirmation of their happiness and low stress levels, as an elephant will not easily fall pregnant when under duress. Five healthy elephant calves have since then been born to the Jabulani herd.
In January 2017, we took the bold step of discontinuing the elephant-back safaris and so successfully entered a new era in the Jabulani experience.
Jabulani has evolved into a soulful safari experience. Complimented by our people, the wildlife and the Jabulani herd, the experience will be etched into your heart and soul for a lifetime.