Eco-Tourism Adventure Centre
KwaXolo Community, Ward 8, Ray Nkonyeni Municipality
KwaXolo is one of the 6 Amakhosi areas within Ray Nkonyeni characterised by massive poverty levels for which critical interventions are needed. The N2 freeway bisects the municipality’s space economy into the 2 works syndrome. The coastal belt with well developed infrastructure, pristine coastline with 6 Blue Flag beaches is characteristic of world class standards. On the other hand, the hinterland serves as a dormitory for cheap labour to service the coastal belt as it is an area of abject poverty characterized by traditional and informal settlements as well as peri-urban areas. Inland of the N2 freeway there are also large tracts of sugar cane and banana plantations characteristic of the commercia, farming sector which in the main is an activity of the white section of the population. It is the 2-world scenario that has then propelled Ray Nkonyeni to come with tangible programmes and interventions that will touch the nerve centre of abject poverty. The overdeveloped coastal belt meeting 1st world standards is serviced by the labour pool coming from the rural areas, and KwaXolo is no exception.
Against the background mentioned in the afore-going, Ray Nkonyeni identified the potential of the KwaXolo area in terms of scenic beauty, undulating valleys, and the Khoisan rock caves for a rural community tourism project that will serve as a differentiator. The thinking behind was to divert the critical mass of tourists descending into the upmarket establishments of Margate, Southbroom to as far afield as the Wild Coast Sun to venture into the traditional area to experience a unique tourism project meeting the standards of prestigious ones elsewhere in the district, and the 1st of its kind within a traditional village settlement.
The business opportunity has been strengthened by the proximity of KwaXolo to the bustling centres of Margate, Southbroom and Port Edward within a radius of 15 kilometres from each of the identified iconic tourism nodes of the south coast. Research has revealed that the new tourist wants to experience authentic community interaction moving away from the current offering of beaches, hotels and retail or shopping malls. Simply put the strategic thrust to serve as a catalyst in shifting the centre of gravity of tourism activity from the traditional coastline into the Amakhosi areas. The thinking is that more top end tourists visiting the area which will expose the scenic beauty of the area, give a feel of the value system of the local residents and thereby convincing potential investors that KwaXolo or any other rural area is an ideal area for inward investment.
KwaXolo has the added advantage of disciplined community members putting a premium on government investment as the 1st phase of the project is only gearing for implementation now. For the duration of the period for which the project has not been commissioned since 2013, due to funding constraints, no vandalism has been experienced, a rare feature in community projects nowadays.
As indicated earlier the then Hibiscus Coast Municipality and now RNM identified potential for an adventure eco-tourism project anchored around the Khoisan rock art located about 60 meters below the ground surface on a gorge of about 100 meters in depth. A business plan was developed and funding applications made to various stakeholders which culminated into KZN Cogta making an allocation of R4.6M in 2012/2013. Funding secured enabled construction of the main administrative building, fencing, paving and installation of enabling infrastructure – electricity, water and sanitation only. Due to funding constraints, there was a lull with implementation as the real attraction in terms of connecting the surface with the caves and official opening for Phase 1 was later completed in 2020, February. Harnessing the real attraction has been made possible by funding made available by both RNM and Ugu South Coast Tourism, amounting to R1.3M in total. After a period of 5 years since completion of the main building, the construction of a Via Ferrata system that serve as a link of the caves with the administrative office on the surface was successfully completed.
The operator to run this attraction site is an African male with an experience in outdoor activities, having hosted major events in Durban and Pietermaritzburg and he is from the community, appointed by the Trust.
Furthermore, during construction and installation of the highly specialized and risky Via Ferrata system, no skill was imported but rather the contractor was encouraged to employ local labour.
Phase 2 – Zipline, Walkway bridge and High Wire Bridge
Phase 2 expansion brought in a critical mass of complementary adventure tourism activities meeting the stringent adventure tourism standards and a first of its kind in a rural setting. For the adrenalin junkies a 3-point zipline is 90% complete which connect the 2 edges or surface of the valley lines thereby also serving as a connector to the adjacent primary school. For the less adrenalin junkies, a High Wire Bridge is complete to serve exactly the same purpose. Decking walkway linking the welcome centre to the start of zipline These activities altogether were intended to provide a unique tourism experience within easy reach of the centre of gravity of tourism establishments along the coastal belt. Phase 2 project secured R4 Million funding from the local mine IDWALA holdings.
Phase 3 – Growth and Expansion phase
Phase 3 of KwaXolo Caves was reviewed and approved by KwaXolo Trust. The focus is still on growth and expansion in complimenting what the current investment on site. The Trust with the assistance of sector departments work tirelessly in mobilizing funds and investment for the success of this project. The following development is proposed to bring opportunities for phase 3 with the cost of R518 667 940.00 :
- 10 Chalets
- Coffee Shop
- 100 Seater Hall
- Parking Area Extension
- Visitors Toilet Block
- Promenade and Paraplegic Ramp to Caves
This phase has a potential to present number of opportunities from buying shares as an investor, job opportunities for locals , small business opportunities in terms of horse riding, bungee jumping, hiring out camping tents, security escorts, mini-restaurant will accrue to the locals thereby ushering in a new era of opportunity to an otherwise poverty-stricken area. As mentioned, scarce skills will be imparted upon as there will be no importation of skills.