The objective of the Ant Collection is to create sustainable tourism by means of conserving the environment around us, enriching the lives of our guests and staff alike as well as uplifting the community and providing as much skills and development to the locals as possible.
Community support, training & upliftment
At Ants we always strive to do what we can to support the community. There are several projects we are involved with.
Sponsoring underprivileged children through their education
There are a number of children who we have helped fund, in conjunction with previous guests, to get a better education. This is done through the Waterberg academy which offers a safe and structured environment in which young people can learn, grow in self-confidence and knowledge. This is complemented by the provision of quality boarding facilities (for grades 4 to 12) and an enviable lifestyle. We highly encourage our guests to sponsor a child through school, having several who already do this.
Community support and Upliftment
The Ant collection works in partnership with the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve who take unemployed youths from the area and provide them with training and skills to get back into employment (YES project). There are four training projects; wildlife security, chef training, housekeeping and nature guiding. At Ants we provide placements for all of the above and some of these people are now permanently employed here. The majority of our staff are employed from the local community and many ask us to assist members of their family with training to further assist them in employment. We provide training and development in guiding, housekeeping, kitchen work, and maintenance, helping family members to find employment in the area or here at Ants.
Ants supports the local soup kitchen in Vaalwater on a monthly basis which provides food to a large number of disadvantaged children each week.
Our reserve is ones of diverse topography and vegetation ranging from wide-open plains to beautiful mountainous areas, enabling us to naturally sustain the widest variety of game possible. It boasts over 40 species of game including Sable Antelope, Nyala, Oryx, Eland, Giraffe, Buffalo (disease free), White Rhino and well over 300 species of resident and migrant birds.
We are members of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy which is made up of numerous private game reserves covering an area of 300,000ha. This all falls within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve which is a UNESCO heritage site promoting conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources within its boundaries.
Save the Waterberg Rhino
Tess and Ant, having suffered their own rhino poaching where instrumental at starting Save the Waterberg Rhino project.Save the Waterberg Rhino
By utilizing the following management systems, we strive to conserve in the most efficient and eco-friendly ways:
- Eco friendly pest control
- Ecto-parasite Management
- Leopard conservation
- Erosion management
- Controlled burning
- Alien plant control
- Waste Management
- Manure management
- Buffalo breeding project
- Sable breeding project
At The Ant Collection we are constantly looking for new ways to improve. Be it with our luxury lodging, food, horses, guiding and finding new ways to move towards eco-friendly tourism.
With the help of Johnathan Law, of ‘EcoSolutions’ we have made a step closer to eco-friendly tourism. ‘EcoSolutions’ focuses on natural ways to control certain rodent and flying insect populations. At Ant’s we have introduced an innovative way of dealing with rodents, which are inevitably drawn to the stables. We have installed ‘Owl boxes’, to encourage Barn owls to set up new homes around the stables and target the rodents specifically. The system is highly effective and can be an encouragement to people elsewhere to stop using deadly poisons and let nature run its course! There are already a few pairs of Spotted Eagle owls established in the area. ‘Ecosolutions’ can also apply for an owl release site for us. An Owl box is set up with two young barn owls which are fed every night. Three weeks later they are released into the area and they continue to be supplement fed. The owls stay in the area as they have a consistent food supply and will then start to hunt for themselves.
This is great way to educate guests, allowing the opportunity to see these beautiful birds in the wild. We hope it will make guests conscious of the effects of poisoning and encourage people to become more eco-friendly. At The Ant Collection we are constantly looking for new ways to improve. Be it with our luxury lodging, food, horses, guiding and finding new ways to move towards eco-friendly tourism.
With the help of Johnathan Law, of ‘EcoSolutions’ we have made a step closer to eco-friendly tourism. ‘EcoSolutions’ focuses on natural ways to control certain rodent and flying insect populations. At Ant’s we have introduced an innovative way of dealing with rodents, which are inevitably drawn to the stables. We have installed ‘Owl boxes’, to encourage Barn owls to set up new homes around the stables and target the rodents specifically. The system is highly effective and can be an encouragement to people elsewhere to stop using deadly poisons and let nature run its course! There are already a few pairs of Spotted Eagle owls established in the area.
‘Ecosolutions’ can also apply for an owl release site for us. An Owl box is set up with two young barn owls which are fed every night. Three weeks later they are released into the area and they continue to be supplement fed. The owls stay in the area as they have a consistent food supply and will then start to hunt for themselves.
This is great way to educate guests, allowing the opportunity to see these beautiful birds in the wild. We hope it will make guests conscious of the effects of poisoning and encourage people to become more eco-friendly.
There are several bat hotels which have been set up around our lodges. They are boxes designed by ‘Ecosolutions’ which have channels of netting inside and can accommodate between 250-300 bats. Bats are very important species and can consume up to 2000 mosquitoes a night – Find out more. In South Africa our horses suffer a terrible virus called African Horse sickness which is contracted through the midge (Culicoides imicola the main vector species) bats also eat these midges which is why they are vital at Ants to help reduce the likelihood of our horses contracting this virus.
Together with the help of Jonathan Haw and his team at EcoSolutions, we look forward to further improvements at our lodge, making it a haven for all animals and humans alike.
There have always been many natural ways to control ticks and ectoparsites, however as the Waterberg became more inhabited and much of the land was used for cattle farming one of the most well know tick control species, the Red and Yellow billed Oxpecker started to decline. Oxpeckers feed almost exclusively on ectoparasites (ticks and lice) which they pick off the skin of many African animals (including cattle,) providing a mutualistic relationship between the Oxpecker and their host.
Cattle farmers started using cattle dip containing arsenic to combat ticks which lead to the death of many oxpeckers feeding on dipped cattle. This almost caused the extinction of the yellow billed oxpecker and caused a dramatic decline in the Red billed oxpecker population, in turn leading to an increase in different tick species as they no longer had any natural population control.
It has become extremely important to understand the natural balance of our ecosystems and by removing one species it will have a knock on effect upon others which is why Oxpecker compatible dips (pyrethroyd based dips) have been introduced.
At Ant’s we strive to develop and research different methods of tick control, having the least impact on the animals and the environment, while also trying to reintroduce Oxpeckers back into the area.
1. Oom Gielies Dip Bakke
These are large square drums on standing legs which salt and mineral lick is put into. On the top edges of the drum are rollers; underneath these are channels which are filled with Oxpecker and Vulture compatible dip. The animals come to lick the salt and mineral blocks, the rollers run along their necks leaving the oil based dip to spread further through their coats.
2. PRESSURE PLATES
Bush encroachment trees and shrubs are cut and placed to make a wall of impenetrable brush packed thorn trees, with a small gap in the middle. A pressure plate is placed in the gap and filled with dip, and has two tubes with spray nozzles on the end. On each side of the pressure plate is either a dam, or a trough for salt and mineral lick (sometimes both) set up on a well-used game path. When the animal steps on the pressure plate the dip is pushed through the tube and sprays onto the animal via the nozzles.
We have also installed several Oxpecker boxes on the reserve to help assist the Oxpecker in nesting season, creating prime property for them. We hope this will encourage Oxpeckers into the area and get the population back to a healthy size. With only a few dozen seen in previous years, this year alone guides are reporting flocks flying over head of between 10 and 20. Guests have also managed to photograph some gleaning ticks off the giraffe shown below. Fantastic news!
Lourens Swanepoel, through the Centre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria, has been doing research in this area for the past 3 years. His main objectives have been to determine their home ranges, diet, and the attitudes of farmers towards leopard conservation. His work continues in this area and we collect data for him on Leopard sightings, leopard spoor, leopard kills as well as any other predator or local information we may attain.
A series of dams have also been built in erosion gullies which were caused following heavy storms in areas of overgrazing by cattle. These dams hold the water and form small wetlands below them creating micro environments for insects, birds, and plant life alike. On the spillways of our dams overflows have been built using gabion baskets in order to prevent erosion which is highly effective, and safely lets the storm water flow back into the river bed.
Brush Packing is done in areas of overgrazing where the soil has become bare and does a similar job to that of the sickle bush. It prevents further erosion and helps to regenerate the land by;
- Preventing animals trampling over the area
- Reduces surface water run off allowing water to seep back into the soil
- Protects the soil from the baking sun
- Traps seeds which then have a better environment to germinate.
Numerous tree, plant and grass species rely on bush fires to reproduce and regenerate, for example the Protea Tree, the King Protea being South Africa’s National flower. The seeds of the Protea are protected in fire proof cones. Following a bush fire the cones dry out and release the seeds which then germinate after the first rains. It is therefore very important for Ants to have controlled fires to ensure the regeneration of our plants, trees and grasses.
Burning is also required to clear old vegetation as many grass species have a short life cycle and die after a few years, unlike the everlasting European grasses. The dead grass prevents new grasses from germinating. As the fire sweeps through it removes the dead vegetation and leaves behind fertile soil, ideal for new growth.
Controlled burning is also one way to control ecto-parasite populations.
Invasive alien pants are non indigenous plants which are introduced to an area and adversely affect the native species which naturally occur there. Early settlers introduced many non-indigenous plants in the form of trees and shrubs to create their “home from home” in their gardens. They displace the native plant species and have no naturals controls like insects, animals and disease to stop them growing. Many of these species have spread across the Bushveld, affecting South Africa’s naturally occurring vegetation. Firstly we have to identify the alien plant species which need to be eradicated and then find the best method of removal. Some need to be removed at specific times of the year, others need to be dug out from the root, cut or poisoned.
Our focus is on the following alien invasive species:
- Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus spp) which were planted around homesteads to create a large shady area and were used to dry up marshy areas. A large Eucalyptus can utilise up to 2000 litres of water a day through transpiration, therefore use up our scarce water resources.
Bankrupt bush (Seriphium plumosum) one of the Cape Fynbos plants that takes over open grassland.
- Prickly pears (Opuntia spp) – introduced from Central America and widely cultivated for their fruit, as a fodder and as a hedge, they are rapacious invaders
- Lantana (lantana camara) which can produce impenetrable thickets.
- “Queen of the night” (Cereus jamacaru) a succulent cactus like plant that displaces grazing
- Fluff bush (Lopholaena coriifolia) which spreads across grassland and kills the plants that grow underneath it.
At Ant’s we are very aware of the amount of waste we produce. As a lodge we recycle all of our waste products. All rubbish is divided into plastics, paper, bottles, cans and compost.
All the manure from the stables and the fenced off paddock is collected and placed on a manure pile. Once this manure has dried out, we then burn off the dry stuff, letting it smoulder (mainly only done in summer as winter is high risk fire season). Dung beetles play an important role in managing our manure, they lay their eggs in the manure and the larvae of the Dung Beetle break it down. We then use this compost in Gardens, and on lawns to keep them looking vibrant all year round for our guests.
We are currently looking into making manure bricks to be used as fire lighters. This is a compressed brick, left out to dry and then set alight underneath the fire wood to start a fire.
The reserve is home to a healthy herd of free ranging, Cape buffalo, which are “Disease free” as they do not carry Tuberculosis, Foot and Mouth disease, Corridor, or Brucellosis. The genetics of our buffalo are made up from three distinct gene pools; the Addo, Kruger and the East African strain of buffalo (introduced via Zoo’s in Europe). Before any animal may leave or enter the property they are quarantined and tested for the four diseases mentioned above to ensure they are disease free.
It is essential that these animals maintain their “disease free” status and being in a cattle producing area it is important they do not contaminate the National herd. These iconic animals embody the toughness and uncompromising nature of Africa and it is thrilling to ride amongst the herd on horseback.
In 2001 the first sable antelope were reintroduced onto the reserve and over the years we have had the numbers grow into to viable and healthy herds. Having been a natural resident in the Waterberg, they had hunted to near extinction a century ago. By monitoring their genetics, the animals have thrived. A number of breeding groups have also been sold on to other reserves in order to establish new populations. It is always a thrilling sight to see these iconic antelope with their Scimitar shaped horns gracing the Bushveld.