We live in a wildlife estate now. A wildlife estate is pretty much a housing estate with wildlife and because it’s Africa, the wildlife is awesome. In my mind, housing estates always sound a bit soulless. I associate them with uniformity and a lack of space and freedom. I lived in a housing estate nicknamed ’Toy Town’ for a year when I was at university. Living there was pretty nice actually. I lived with awesome people, we were right next to uni so I could wake up just minutes before lectures, and it was just a good year in general because lots of fantastic things happened to me. Toy Town was probably a bit more unique than other British housing estates. Its architecture looked like a prop from a miniature train set and there was a stream at the back where I remember a body being found. However, accommodation in Toy Town itself, even with its quirks, was small, squashed, samey, and had quite an artificial feeling.
Wildlife estates are the opposite. They are big, so big you can’t see a neighbouring house. And there are big animals wandering around. On our estate, there are giraffes, wildebeests, impalas, duikers, warthogs, zebras, and most recently eland. There are a few regulations on how your house should look so there is an element of conformity. The houses on our estate have to have thatched roofs and neutral colors for example. But there is still quite a bit of variation between homes. The bush around the houses is left natural and transitory animals like leopards come through from time to time.
Widlife estates have big fences and gates for security. These keep the animals in and outsiders out. As with much of South Africa, these gates reinforce aspects of a polarized society divided by inequalities and also allude that access to nature is only available for certain socioeconomic groups. Buying a house in a wildlife estate (frequently a holiday house) is often for the rich. I found a recently published list online of the top 10 wildlife estates for South Africa’s super rich (https://businesstech.co.za/news/lifestyle/149231/top-10-wildlife-estates-for-south-africas-ultra-rich/). Two of the estates listed are in Hoedspruit.
We are definitely not super rich and we are renting what we think is probably the smallest, most basic house on our estate. I think we are probably one of the only houses on the estate who don’t employ a domestic worker or have a pool. But for us living here is luxury. We love having more space and a safer living environment for our son than the tent. Here is a set of before and after photos showing Noggs playing in the tent and in the house.
We love that we can enjoy the benefits of living near a town but still remain in the bush and see amazing wildlife daily. I think that more housing estates worldwide would benefit from giraffes and zebras. It would certainly make them feel less mundane and be beneficial for the environment. On the flip side of the coin, it is difficult thinking about what gated estates in South Africa symbolise about society and as an individual, it is hard to know how to begin to tackle problems such as poverty and crime. As a result, I think many people living in gated communities in South Africa try not to look too closely beyond the walls. When there are beautiful animals wandering around inside, it makes this quite easy.