The distinctive contours of Mariepskop that loom over the Blyde River Canyon define the western boundaries of the lowveld town of Hoedspruit, while to the east the Kruger National Park stretches to the border with Mozambique.
Nature lovers will be stunned by the beauty and diversity that exists in the 50-kilometre belt that lies between these iconic landmarks. An increasing number of them are choosing to settle in the area, with Hoedspruit at its heart.
“Hoedspruit is a fast-growing gem close to nature, where like-minded people are seeking quality in their lives, rather than quantity,” says Cecile de Kock, chairperson of the Hoedspruit Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Hoedspruit Township Developers.
It’s not just the area’s natural beauty that attracts them though. The town has always been a popular gateway to some of South Africa’s best safari destinations. Today, it also offers an array of experiences, facilities and amenities that cater for a growing community. New schools, restaurants, shopping centres, secure wildlife estates and increasingly frequent direct flights to Cape Town and Joburg from Hoedspruit’s Eastgate Airport, are making life in the “slowveld” more attractive than ever before.
Settlers of all kinds
The town is drawing new kinds of people looking to settle here, suggests Annie van den Berg, who owns the local Remax franchise, which currently has nearly 500 listings on Private Property. While the town’s economic life has traditionally centred round tourism and agriculture, its laid-back lifestyle also appeals to retirees, foreigners in love with the bush, and young parents looking to raise their children in nature, away from the stresses and limitations of life in the city.
“More and more people are looking for permanent homes in secure estates,” says van den Berg. Many of them buy plots and build, “but houses are moving well too.”
Popular estates include the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate, Raptor’s View and Zandspruit, which offer bush living within a few minutes of the town centre. There are also a number of Big 4 and Big 5 estates like Leadwood and Modlito, as well as private reserves adjacent, and sometimes open, to the Kruger National Park.
In addition, there are several schools to choose from. Southern Cross is a co-educational day and boarding school. Its unique location in a 1 100-hectare nature reserve sets it apart from many of South Africa’s other private schools. “Our love for the bush and the fact that there was a wonderful school in town brought us to Hoedspruit,” says Candice Nel, who teaches there. “I couldn’t think of a nicer place to one day start my own family.”
The Lowveld Academy opened in early 2014 and a new government school is currently under construction. There is also a well-established school on the Drakensig Airforce Base, the Hoedspruit Christian School and in the nearby town of Kampersrus, Mariepskop School.
Slower golden years
For older couples, moving to Hoedspruit is often the fulfilment of a long-held dream. “For the 20 years that we lived and worked in Joburg, we wanted to move here,” says tour operator Venishia Burger, who moved to Hoedspruit from Joburg and started a courier business in the town three years ago. It’s not always easy to get a business off the ground, she confirms.
That’s why the Hoedspruit Chamber of Commerce was formed. “We want to support new businesses; they need help and advice,” says chairperson de Kock. In the last three years, two new shopping centres have been built and several new ventures have started: “My advice is to do your homework properly,” says van den Berg.
Today, there are more than half a dozen restaurants and coffee shops in town. From South Indian curries and authentic Italian pastas, to distinctively lowveld fine dining at The Hat & Creek, Hoedspruit is putting itself firmly on the culinary map. There is also the newly opened Piri Piri Portuguese restaurant and sushi bar, Sleepers (which is a local institution), the Safari Club, Safari Wine Bar, AfriCafé, and Old Kruger Trading Post (old-style kofi and kos – yum).
Get out there!
Entertainment is generally of the outdoors and active kind; the town offers white water rafting, microlight flights, hot air balloon trips, bush walks and hikes, fishing, and more. There are also art galleries such as Chalkhamhill and the newly formed iNyoka Art Co-operative, as well as a good mix of sporting and cultural activities to keep residents engaged and stimulated.
“Life is really worth living in Hoedspruit. You are surrounded by beauty and magic people, and there are enough hours in every day to really enjoy the extraordinary quality of life,” says van den Berg, summing up just why Hoedspruit is a natural law unto itself.