South Africa

Wildfire rips through 15 KZN farms, destroys world-renowned game lodge

Wildfire rips through 15 KZN farms, destroys world-renowned game lodge

A runaway wildfire has gutted a luxury KwaZulu-Natal private game lodge featured on Gordon Ramsay's travel food show.

Little has been left of Gwahumbe Game Lodge and Spa, in mid-Illovo, after a wildfire ripped through the area, also leaving a trail of destruction across about 15 farms and destroying about 2,000ha of sugar cane on Sunday. The fire started 16km away about 9am and, fanned by strong winds, spread rapidly across the region. ​

Shannon MacKenzie, owner of Gwahumbe, said staff and local community members had fought late into the night to try to save the lodge and chalets.

Most of the property was razed with damage estimated to run into millions of rand.

“Most importantly, all our staff members are safe and accounted for and our staff accommodation was saved. We have sent most of our traumatised staff members home,” she said.

All guests were safely evacuated. MacKenzie said the family and conservationists spent Monday trying to account for wildlife on the reserve.

“By midday, it appeared animal casualties had been minimal and most animals had been located.” 

With most of the grazing land destroyed, she appealed to local farmers to help with donations of hay bales for the wildlife.

MacKenzie's husband, Craig, said the support they received has been “overwhelming”.

“Many volunteers have been here to help. People have been delivering food for the animals,” he said.

Gwahumbe was founded 26 years ago by MacKenzie’s  parents, who designed and built the reserve on rehabilitated farm land. Over the years it has hosted BBC television’s Top Gear and Gordon Ramsay’s National Geographic travel food show UnCharted. ​