The Golf and Safari Resort is situated in the Waterberg Region of Limpopo

Province and forms a part of the Waterberg biosphere , a world heritage site.

The famous Hanglip Mountain chain.

This article discusses the landscaping of the project's gatehouse and surrounding areas.

From a historical point of view, the project is built on the southern most reaches of the Monomotapa Empire, and close to the first Monomotapan capital in Mapumgubwe. Following on from Mapungubwe and Zimbabwe, the resort attempts in architecture , position and heritage to create a mythical "third capital" of Monomotapa, a region known for its wealth and extensive trade links to the east. It is widely accepted that Monomotapa was an indigenous African trading empire.

The architecture of the gate house and welcome centre is reminiscent of the western wall of the Zimbabwe Ruins Great Enclosure Complex. Based on what  is known about the era of  Monomotapa, the design tries to capture the centuries old African way of living, where circular buildings symbolises positive energy, wealth and happiness. The double volume building is the hub of all leisure activities.and also the departure point to the rest of the resort.


Landscape brief and design philosophy

Insite Landscape Architects were appointed to undertake the landscape design for this project. Their brief was to produce a master plan for the entire development including all open spaces, road verges, the club house, gate house, welcome centre, golf course and housing stands. At the same time, the landscape concept and theming posters were developed, capturing a landscape response to the overall theme of the development.

The landscape design around the various facilities such as the gate house, field of dreams, botanical gardens, welcome centre and residential estate is therefore integrated with the architectural concept, as well as with the natural surroundings. The project should be seen as a holistic design where all the elements co-exist and do not function separately from each other.

The landscape philosophy strongly echoes the overall theming and concept of the resort which is based on the ancient African kingdom of Monomatapa. This kingdom played an important role in southern Africa from approximately the 1200s to the fall of Great Zimbabwe, and encapsulated well known ruins such as Mapangubwe (a world heritage site) and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. The landscape design was also driven by the need to integrate all elements of the project with each other. Additionally, the design was to create a natural landscape by using only indigenous plant material throughout the resort.

At the dramatic walled gatehouse, the landscape design consists of a combination of both soft and hard landscaping, equally important in terms of function, aesthetics and symbolism. For the main hard landscaping feature, a series of natural rock ruin walls, based on the Dzata Ruins (Venda), was used.

The walls differ in height to resemble the weathering process over time and the idea was to create the impression that all landscape features, mainly the rock ruin walls and planting in between, are part of the ruins that were discovered. The road network thus appears to have been built around these discovered ruins. The planting palette was also compiled to represent the typical plant species found within the Kingdom of Monomatapa, at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Mapangubwe, all of which were used for medicinal purposes or other cultural reasons.

The positioning and planting of some of the Aloes in the rock ruin wall areas contributes to the authenticity of the concept. The planting design is such that it specifically softens the dramatic and beautiful walls without hiding them. The site's natural surroundings influenced the landscape design in a very particular way. Hanglip, the prominent rock formation to the north of the development, is visible from almost all facilities on the site and plays an important role in visual appeal at any given point, whether one is standing at the gate house with glimpses through the ruin walls, on the golf course overlooking the greens and fairways, or visiting the botanical dams which reflect the Hanglip rock in their large water surfaces.

Some of the other important design influences included endemic plant species such as the Eugene Marais cycad, the site-specific climate and the fact that there is free roaming game on the resort grounds. The Eugene Marais cycad (Waterberg cycad) is a very site-specific species, occurring only in the mountains of the Waterberg, Polokwane, Middelburg and Witbank. It is a threatened species in most areas.

The fact that there is free-roaming game on the resort greatly influenced the choice of plant material as well as the installation of the irrigation system, especially in the more natural areas. Plants were selected on the basis that they are not likely to be eaten by antelope. The irrigation sprinklers around the botanical dams were installed with a PVC pipe around each one to prevent animal hooves from damaging them.


Environmental considerations

The most important environmental considerations pertaining to the site were its natural slope, existing tree and plant species, and the climate. Being on the edge of the Waterberg escarpment, the area has wet summers with heavy storms where 40-80mm of rain can fall in less than an hour. The possibility of erosion therefore had to be taken into account. In winter, certain low lying areas are prone to cold and frost and three years ago, the site experienced black frost in certain parts. It was important to retain the existing indigenous plant species and trees as much as possible in order to maintain the site's natural character; where it was not possible to retain these trees, they were transplanted elsewhere on the site.


Soft landscaping

The indigenous plant palette was compiled to resemble the typical plant species found within the kingdom of Monomatapa – those used for medicinal as well as cultural purposes. At the gate house, the main feature plant species were

  • Adansonia Digitata
  • Euphorbia Ingens
  • Aloe Marlothii
  • Olea Europea subsp.
  • Africana
  • Acacia sSeberiana
  • Ficus Abutilifolia

Other considerations for the choice of plant material were low maintenance and plants with water-wise properties. Large Aloe Ferrox and A. Marlothii were brought in and planted among the rock features.

Mass planting was done with

  • Tulbaghia Violacea
  • Juncus Effusus
  • Chondopetalum Tectorum
  • Dietes Bicolour
  • Asparagus Sprengerii
  • Carpobrotus Edulis

Acacia Xanthophloea were chosen as theme trees for the pavements and common areas and Ilnika Wholesale Nursery supplied them in 100lt containers.

Baobab trees were bought in from Mussina by Wonder Gardens and carefully positioned according to the layout plans. They were planted slightly higher than ground level and a stone berm was packed around them to prevent them from being over-watered and to accentuate them within the landscape. Many of the ground covers are flowering varieties and present a beautiful colour display throughout the year.


Hard landscaping

Hard landscaping items such as the rock ruin walls contribute to the colours and textures of the project and accentuate the resemblance of the stone walls and towers to the Zimbabwe Ruins. The high curved walls of the gate house are based on the exact dimensions of the Great Enclosure of the Zimbabwe Ruins.

Upon entering through the gatehouse, a conical tower is reached; this is the highest point in the gatehouse and Ilnika designed a water feature with water flowing over the brim into a pool, from where it flows back into the irrigation dam.

Rock walls that resemble the ruins of the old empire were created among the landscaping. Only rock from the site was used to build these ruin walls. Due to blastings for services and foundations on site, there were large amounts of various sizes of rock available. Through a selection process of specific shapes and sizes, rocks were chosen to be used as building blocks for the ruin walls. The same rock was used to build the berms around the baobab trees.

Large rocks were collected from the resort and transported by truck, then carefully placed on top of each other to create the same rock stacking that occurs in the surrounding mountains.



The first phase of the gatehouse landscape installation was completed at the end of November 2007 for the official opening. Installation included soft landscaping, a fully automatic irrigation system, all hard landscaping items, rock ruin walls and rock mounds around the baobabs.

André Pienaar of Ilnika Landscaping was engaged by the management company of Legend Golf and Safari Resort to assist them with the second phase of the landscape installation at the gatehouse. After a brief meeting, he was handed a set of plans and given eight weeks in which to complete the task. Says Pienaar: "It was a huge undertaking - the roads weren't even built yet, the levels had to be revised at 2.5m and four hectares had to be prepared to install a 60 station irrigation system, for which the irrigation dam had yet to be completed.

The terrain and scope of work handed to him were altered a few times and the position of the roads changed extensively. Before he received the final plans, the design had also changed several times. Time was running out and a week had passed before ground was broken for the first time. With seven weeks left, he and his team began the ordering of equipment and a workforce of 67 people started with the irrigation.

Ilnika Wholesale Nursery is the growing arm of Ilnika Landscaping and is situated in Naboomspruit, about 37 km from the site. The logistics and transportation of plants was therefore easy and since the nursery is a grower of indigenous plants, specialising in trees, all the plants required for the project were available. Compost was made on site and was also readily available.

Another advantage was that much of the material required, such as rocks, pebbles, boulders and stone for the building of the walls, was to come from the site. However despite this, entering the mountainous terrain to collect them was strenuous on man and vehicle. Topsoil needed for the filling up of levels was also from the site and hundreds of tons of filling and topsoil was brought in to obtain the final levels.



The irrigation for the first phase of the gatehouse was designed by Gert Le Roux of Mainline Irrigation and installed by Top Turf. For the second phase, the system was installed by Ilnika Landscaping and designed by Keith Allison of Turf-Ag.

Water is pumped from a storage dam at the welcome centre which is fed by the Madakirri dam. The entire development is ring-fed with a 65mm mainline and irrigation lines are fed from the mainline. Two ICC controllers were used, situated 500m apart due to the unexpected extension to the original design. This forced Ilnika to make use of a pressure vessel which controls the pump operation. Numerous filter systems were installed to keep the water clean. The flower beds were fitted with MP rotators and PGJ rotor sprinklers. Two stations run simultaneously to shorten the watering time.

Information and photos supplied by Insite Landscape Architects and André Pienaar of Ilnika Landscaping.

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