History

The Story of "White Elephant": God wrested the beautiful Lebombo Mountains from the steamy Maputaland plains and here nature ruled with a harsh hand for hundreds of years...

But the vast herds of game lured determined men: hunters and explorers. So began the advance of white man in the early 19th century. Hunters made considerable fortunes. One such hunter known as “Elephant White” shot 150 elephant in one season. In the plenitude that was Africa, everything seemed inexhaustible.

The abundant game began to dwindle. In 1894 President Kruger proclaimed the Pongola Game Reserve, the first reserve in Africa.

The Anglo Boer War in 1899 brought chaos and the new Game Reserve was abandoned. For years thereafter due to a lack of funds, muddled boundaries and political agendas the game reserve became a “white elephant”.

After the 1st World War, man toiled on the steamy plains planting fields, building houses and railway lines but nature ruled ruthlessly with droughts and disease.

Man fought a bitter struggle for almost 30 years against sleeping sickness and the tsetse fly. For a long time angry gunfire echoed across the plains. “Kill the game!” man cried for he believed he had to destroy the animals to rid the land of the tsetse fly. Hundreds of thousands of animals thudded to the ground. By 1940 the game was gone but the tsetse fly remained: Another “white elephant” in this history of man.


In 1948 man finally won the tsetse fly war, with the notorious DDT insecticide. Cattle now flourished and sugar cane crept further along the course of the Pongola River...
The construction of the gigantic Jozini Dam began in 1970. But it was a flawed dam that caused considerable controversy and it, too, became known as a “white elephant”.

Finally, in 1993, the wheel had turned full circle. Fences were dropped and game re-introductions began. Two elephant herds were re-located to our “new” reserve. One of these elephants is an albino, not entirely white but a symbolic reminder of the past “white elephants”. After 100 years, the Lebombos reverberated again with the triumphant sounds of nature.

In 1999, shrouded in the mists of early morning, an elephant bull pushed over the mighty Mphafa tree in the lodge’s garden. It was this tree that had given the Lodge its name. It seemed fitting that the newly restored lodge be named “White Elephant Lodge”.

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