The history of the area and the Reserve is varied depending on who you talk to but is nonetheless fascinating. Here are a few stories we have gathered from various sources, including Carolyn van den Berg, Trevor Jordan and, with permission from Ron Hopkins, extracts of Ron’s book: Ingwelala: The first 30 Years.  

The “Post Office” (circa early 1900’s)

Legend has it that the Marula tree which stands at the entrance to Ndlopfu Game Reserve, was once used as a “post office”.  As the story goes, with landowners spread far and wide, there was no way a postman could ride out to each farm and deliver post. So, all post was collected by those passing through and placed next to the Marula Tree. Landowners would ride and collect their post from this central location. 

Stories from the Argyle Farm: The Old Days (circa early 1900’s)

The following is a story found in Ron Hopkins’ book as told by a farm worker, Malplank to the Leopard Ladies in March 1993, when he returned to the farm to collect his father’s spirit. 

Malplank had been on the farm since he was 9 years old (at the time of the re-telling of the story he was in his 70’s) and his fascinating story recalls the formidable days of cattle farming and living alongside wildlife.  (…read more)

Roodekrantz: The Days before Ntsiri (July 1939-)

In July 1939 Roodekrantz, 3827 morgen in extent, stretching from the Tsiri River to the Nhlaralumi River was purchased by Mr Toby Rochat from the South African Townships,Mining and Finance Company The sum payable was £1913.17 to be repaid in the following manner – £287 in cash and the balance of £1626.17 in nice equal instalments of £180.15.3d each.

Toby and Vi Rochat had not seen the farm they had purchased but had chosen the area off an old map with the two rivers being the boundaries. (…read more) 

Rietvlei Farm (circa 1950’s)

Rietvlei was owned by Herman de Jager and his wife and was utilised as a cattle farm in the 1950s. 

Mrs de Jager planted and marketed tomatoes on the open area below what is now the farm manager’s house/ clubhouse area. 

At that stage the dwellings consisted only of two rondavels linked by a verandah. (The current upgraded guest cottages at Ndlopfu).

The Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty (Jan. 1963)

When Izak Botes, whilst visiting Johnny Roux on Buffelsbed, discovered a soapstone rock on the Sharalumi River, he decided to carve a mermaid on it.  He worked on his artwork tirelessly over the December holidays, completing it on New Year’s Day 1963. 

In July of the same year he decided to sculpt his wife, Susan, the “Sleeping Beauty”, into the rock too and it took 4 years to complete. 

When Johnny informed Izak that he would be selling the farm in 1969, the “Sleeping Beauty” was removed. Many years later the sculpture was eventually tracked down in the Hartebeespoort Dam area. Luckily for all, the Sleeping Beauty was recently returned to Ingwelala and can be found at the members’ entertainment area. (Source: Ron Hopkins) 

The Start of Shlaralumi (1964)

In 1964 the Argyle farm was purchased by the developers of Shlaralumi. Eventually 200 units were developed and mostly sold as timeshare units. Despite over 2000 people visiting over peak seasons the development didn’t make a large amount of money. 

This, along with indiscriminate hunting, gross mismanagement and the selling off of portions of the property, Buffelsbed and Argyle 5, left the developers with no other choice but to sell to what was to become Ingwelala. 

(Source: Ron Hopkins)

Umbabat Private Nature Reserve Proclaimed (1969)

History of Mansimvula (1969-)

The following story and letter on the history of Mansimvula by Brian Russel and Boris Balinsky give a wonderful account of its beginnings: 

Mansimvula – Company history according to Brian Russel

Mansimvula – historical record according to Boris Balinsky

The White Lions (circa 1975 – )

The 1975 book: The White Lions of Timbavati by Chris McBride, brought to the world’s attention the existence of leucistic lions (white lions). They had a large territory and over the years were seen on various farms in the Timbavati and Umbabat. 

Rob Hopkins tells the story of the world’s fascination with these lions, sometimes to their detriment, in this extract from his book.

The first big game Share block in South Africa: Ntsiri (1980)

In 1980, 3 partners, Trevor Jordan, Eddie Bain and Dr. Algenon Barnes who owned a farm in Gravelotte, came up with the idea to syndicate a piece of bushveld property. With the help of a local estate agent they managed to find a 990 Ha portion of Ntsiri with its 44 ‘houses’ in a state of disrepair. Trevor Jordan managed to sell 44 units and 6 vacant stands before the ink was even dry, without spending a cent on advertising. Eddie Bain erected the fences and Dr. Algenon Barnes was responsible for driving the bulldozer, clearing roads, etc. This was the first ever share block to be formed in a big game area in South Africa! 

(Source: Ron Hopkins)

Formation of Ingwelala (1983)

The success of the Ntsiri development led the trio to purchase Sharalumi, which was in liquidation, from Rand Consolidated Investments (RCI) on 1 October 1983.  Trevor Jordan then joined RCI as a property developer and the newly formed Rand Consolidated Properties was formed. 

Despite their initial disappointment in the site, they managed to sell the 209 units within 9 weeks as opposed to the 18 month budgeted time frame.

Trevor Jordan’s wife at the time came up with the name Ingwelala “where the leopard rests” due to regular sightings of a leopard near the main entrance. 

(Source: Ron Hopkins)

The start of what was to become Ndlopfu (1984)

In 1984, Mr John Jacobs purchased 843 hectares of Rietvlei from the then owner Mrs Amanda van der Westhuizen, a daughter of the de Jagers. John decided to develop the farm as a game farm and as a Share block. Originally is was envisaged that 50 stands would be made available for sale, however it was later decided by John and the first owners to decrease that number to 20. 

The first buyers were Jan and Nettie Mol, followed by the Edgerton’s, the Monks, Fullard’s, and Kreher’s (Sven and Corinna Kreher still own their house at #50). Those early days of building way out in the bush could not have been easy. Cherisse Roux, daughter of John was just a young school girl at the time and tells her story below. 

To read more about the history of Ndlopfu Private Nature Reserve click  here

“My parents would pick us up from school at 2 o’clock, go home and collect the loaded trailer. In those days Hoedspruit had a petrol station, the army base and a small spaza shop. No bank, no Spar, no Wimpy, no hardware or any shops, simply put the place was in the sticks and Phalaborwa was also not much help! Every screw, door frame, loo and basin we had to drive down from Pretoria. One particular year we drove down 48 times out of the 52 weeks, I was the only one in school who had a tan in the winter! When we moved into our house there was no running water, the water system had not been completed, so every day we had to drive down to the Club House and fill buckets with water and drive very, very slowly back to the house. My uncle, Hannes Fourie and my grandfather also helped out each weekend; they laid down the pipes and sunk a stronger water pump to provide the houses with water at the “Windpomp.” I guess that is now called the Windmill dam area.”

Cherisse Roux

Oom Wolfie and the Leopard (circa 1988)

Here is the famous and often wrongly-told story of one “old-timer” who was attacked in camp and lived to tell the tale. It is the oldest story we have dating back to circa 1988 shortly after Ingwelala was established, a very different era Ingwelala is truly a “leopard place” and we have many leopard tales from “Ingwe” to prove this, however this story is probably the best of them all.  The story is about Oom Wolfie from bungalow 198. It’s an amazing tale, and it is true, nogal!  …read more

Who were the “Leopard Ladies”?

“The Leopard Ladies” were sisters Alvira (Elvira) du Toit and Aileen Manfred who, together with their father Mr. Peek, moved to Ingwelala permanently soon after its inception. 

They both helped out at Ingwelala at one time or another, working in the reception, the shop, and writing the newsletters. The name “Leopard Ladies” came about because of the epaulettes, with the head of a leopard embroidered on them, which they always wore.” (source: Ron Hopkins)

Various newspaper articles have also been found on the antics of these ladies:  (…read more) 


Share blocks included in the Umbabat (1991)

Fences coming down! (1993)

In 1961 Kruger National Park fenced itself in from adjacent boundary farms, not only to prevent indiscriminate hunting (open system) but also to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease. 

The following is a story written by Trevor Jordan on the history of the lead-up to the fences coming down between Kruger and the private farms on its Western boundary.   This created the area that was to become known as the Greater Kruger. 

Click here to read more:  A dream of the Greater Kruger

Fences coming down between Umbabat and Kruger National Park (source: Ntsiri archives)

Tar Road and Control gate (2004-2010)

Back in the day it would take members up to 2½ hours to negotiate the dirt road between the Klaserie River and Ingwelala. The speed limit of 80km per hour also resulted in innumerable incidents. 

After the road was de-proclaimed in 1993 plans were underway to improve the road but it took until 2004 for it to be tarred. 

The control gate was finally erected in 2010 in order to control access and maintain the road.  

Signing of the GLTFCA Co-operative Agreement (5 December 2018)

The signing of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) Co-operative Agreement was an historical day. Fences were dropped between Kruger and some neighbouring areas in the early 1990’s and the enlarged conservation space brought significant ecological benefits for the landscape as a whole. However, tensions arose due to different role-players implementing conflicting approaches to the management of natural resources. 

The Cooperative Agreement directly addresses this problem by laying down a common governance framework to guide all aspects of protected area management, including ensuring that conservation benefits communities living closest to protected areas. The signatories added an additional 360,000 Ha to the Protected Area landscape. To read  more on this historical event click on the Press Release:  5 December 2018: Umbabat becomes proud signatory of the Cooperative Agreement

Theo van Wyk (Chairman), Lenny Willson (Vice-Chairman) and Bryan Havemann (Warden) signing the Co-operative Agreement

If you would like to add your stories and photos to this page, you are welcome to send them to: