Part 8: Tshukudu…the perfect ending (1980+)
Lolly’s dream for his family was to end up on a reserve surrounded by animals – a sanctuary. After almost buying a farm in Vaalwater, he was dissuaded and ended up in the quaint town of Hoedspruit. He fell in love for the last time in his life. The farm consisted of 3 farms called Vienna, Paris & Berlin. In those days the surveyors would name the land from where they were from in Europe, to try and incorporate a little bit of culture in this untouched land.
At first Ala was shocked by the “pandokkie” (humble, broken down dwelling) that would become their home. She was outnumbered by Lolly & the 2 boys who were beside themselves with excitement. They knew this was the perfect place to cultivate their “bushmen” dreams, just like their father. Ala was hopeful that the sale would fall through as there were 6 other bids on the farms, so what were the chances? On her birthday in 1980 she heard that their bid won and she was flooded with mixed emotions. Now they had to scrape together the money from all their past endeavours, properties & businesses. Lolly was blissfully unaware of Ala’s trauma and was happy to move to the derelict farm. Ala had to stay on for 6 months in Nelspruit to assist the new owners to take over Bushveld Safaris – much to her joy.
Buying the farm in Hoedspruit was the biggest gamble of their life, and it was in no way ready to generate any type of income. The renovations and maintenance were a daunting task happily taken on by Lolly and the boys. It took 8 years, and selling off a piece of their farm due to rife poaching, to start generating any type of income – mostly just lunches at first. In those days people weren’t as much interested in seeing the Big 5, than to just experience the bushveld. They employed some rangers to help out and befriended a veterinarian, whose employee also became friends with Ian & Chris.
Their friends were enormously supportive and helped with the moving of their furniture, and spread the word about a possible additional safari destination apart from the KNP and Blyde Canyon. Later on, a friend would suggest building a ‘rondavel’ (round small house) to stay in on his visits, and it became part of the accommodation. Another friend, who was a paraplegic, came to visit often and they invested in building a wheelchair friendly cottage for disabled visitors. All of their visitors spread the word and soon their property would become a fully-fledged lodge. Fortune favoured them and Bushveld Safaris (from Rhodesia) decided to include them in their game reserve packages.
Animals in the beginning was very scarce on the farm, but they were adamant to create a reserve where animals would feel safe, and pretty soon they would start seeing more and more species and numbers. Their travels proved to be much more than them just seeing the world – it was them introducing the world to Africa. Pretty soon they had a large Taiwanese group that visited them and spread the word. People they met on their travels soon followed.
The first ten years were the hardest, but the family persevered and kept developing the lodge. Pretty soon they had large rowdy crowds fill up the lodge enjoying nature as it was intended. Tshukudu Game Reserve became a landmark in Hoedspruit and a “must-visit” location to every local and visitor to the area. The orphaned animals, big open lawns for picnics and fantastic food & service was a good recipe for success.
Sadly both Ala and Ian suffered an untimely death in a traffic accident in 2010, just outside the entrance gate to Tshukudu Game Reserve. The family took over the running of the lodge until Lolly passed away in 2012. Since then Chris and the rest of the Sussens family have upheld the vision that Lolly & Ala had for the reserve – putting visitors first, and creating a home away from home in the middle of the idyllic bushveld.
Thank you for reading our story. We would love to hear your stories of Tshukudu Game Lodge, so please visit our Facebook page and post your stories and photos. YOU (after all), are the reason why we are here, and why we will continue to serve nature lovers, travellers, photographers, foodies, conservationists and the curious at heart.
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