For many South Africans, June has been a stormy month with extreme weather conditions and newly declared disaster regions. The month has been a poignant reminder of the importance to support and care for each other. June, being World Environment Month, also reminds us to continue to help preserve and replenish our natural surroundings and animal life. The annual month event, which is an extension to World Environment Day (5 June), now moves into its 44th anniversary year after being established by the United Nations Environment Programme in England in the 1970s.


Africa has undoubtedly seen the population of different animal species decline. Currently, Africa’s cheetah charts stand at roughly 70 000 less than 100 years ago, with South Africa’s count at approximately a thousand wildcats, if not less. These concerning facts are accompanied by environmental hazards that result from our day-to-day routines that often involve overusing natural resources.


Emdoneni Lodge and Spa with Cheetah Project (, a family-run hospitality establishment in Hluhluwe (St Lucia World Heritage Site) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, offers an educational rehabilitation programme to help protect wildcats. The establishment’s owners strive to educate guests and day-visitors about daily conservation and the importance to sustain essential resources. “We live in and are surrounded by nature everyday”, says co-owner and Cheetah Project lead, Louis Nel.  “Conservation is the act of preserving or protecting the environment, and at Emdoneni Lodge, it’s what makes us ‘tick’. Louis’ business partner and wife, Cecillie adds that “without biodiversity, we would not have been able to continue offering guests organic and educational experiences”.


In addition to challenges posed to preserve SAs unique fauna and flora, there are many pressing issues concerning the country’s wildlife that should not be overlooked. SA is no stranger to violent acts against animals and battles against poaching and illegal animal petting remain rife. It’s a daily reality where ‘underground’ hunting clubs go as far as raising game and wild animals for the purpose of hunting. “Animal cruelty among our wildlife is therefore becoming more and more of a reality, and it’s important to continue creating awareness about such inhumane acts”, says Louis.

Emdoneni Lodge consistently works toward providing a safe ecosystem for a small number of ambassador cats that are cared for by experienced wildlife rehabilitators. Louis, his family and staff have come to love each cat and have even become attached to their personalities. “It’s clear that the animals we protect crave our attention”, says Cecillie. “As much as we would like to enable guests to closely interact with them, unfavourable perceptions about petting that likely resulted from violence that has spurned from illegal hunting groups, we don’t allow it. Interestingly, before we put this rule in place, guests have said that after touching a cheetah, they felt a physiological upliftment.” Cecillie’s remark can be backed by research recorded by Science Magazine journalist, Elizabeth Pennisi. In a recent article, Pennisi argues that social touch with animals have a calming power on humans, and Pennisi also notes that wild animals seem to enjoy being caressed too.  


In support of World Environment Month, Emdoneni Lodge and Spa with Cheetah Project owners, Louis and Cecillie Nel encourage South Africans also continue the initiative the month associates, and add the following easy-to-follow eco-friendly tweaks to your routine:


  • Saving water should be second nature: After the Western Cape kick started World Environment Month with level four water restrictions, water is without a doubt a scarce commodity. It can be easy to add water-saving to a routine cycle such as simply doing a full load of washing rather than leaving it half-empty
  • Recycle more water: With many guests who go through Emdoneni Lodge’s doors, every drop in the bucket counts. We try to maximise water saving by capturing unused water and a separate irrigation system, where we repurpose water for your gardens.
  • Adding to the first point; learn the technique of ‘speed showering’: A geyser uses both water and electricity so shortening your shower session by a few minutes can give back double your guarantee. Fact: minimising shower time with one minute can save up to 600 litres water per month!
  • Garden smartly: Keep to indigenous trees and plants when adding to your garden. Native plants are suited to growing in their own region, naturally latching onto the eco-system to benefit growth and oxygen production.
  • Time for groceries? Opt for re-usable fabric shopping bags: plastic bags can take up to ten centuries to decompose…enough said….


If you find yourself in the Hluhluwe region, feel like taking a roadtrip (just under a three-hour drive from Durban), or planning for a proper breakaway with family and friends to the east coast, Emdoneni Lodge and Spa with Cheetah Project is stripping 20 percent discount off when booking online.For more information and reservations, visit For updates, travel tips and news, follow the Facebook page (, Twitter (, and Instagram (

About Emdoneni Lodge with Cheetah Project:

Emdoneni Lodge with Cheetah Project is a three-star establishment located in Hluhluwe (St Lucia World Heritage Site) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, with a range of hospitality experiences that includes accommodation, spa and wedding offerings. The Emdoneni Cheetah Project is foundational to the lodge. It is a rehabilitation initiative to help conserve wild cat species including the cheetah, caracal, serval, and African wildcat. The protection programme comprises the successful breeding from a small number ambassador animals before releasing their fully-grown offspring into the wild. Since owners, Louis and Cecillie Nel established Emdoneni Lodge with Cheetah Project in 1995, it has developed from a seven to 44-room lodge (soon to develop further spa and accommodation facilities). The Nel family is passionate about contributing to South Africa’s hospitality industry and refer to the lodge being a ‘human institution’ that strives to not only revitalise but educate guests on the importance of environmental and wildlife conservation.


Awards: Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Awards (2015 – 2017) and Certificate of Excellence;  Luxury Travel Guide Global Award (2015 – 2017)