The family-owned luxury Gwahumbe Game & Spa was one of the casualties of a devastating runaway wildfire that destroyed farms and businesses in Mid-Illovo on Sunday.

Shanon MacKenzie, owner of the Gwahumbe Game Lodge and Spa, confirmed that staff and members of the local community had fought late into the night to save the lodge and chalets. However, they were ultimately razed to the ground causing damage that will run into millions of rands.

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

MacKenzie said that the family and conservationists had been working since before dawn this morning to account for wildlife on the reserve. By midday, it appeared that animal casualties had been minimal and most animals had been located.

As most of the grazing on the reserve had been destroyed by the fire, she appealed to local farmers to assist with donations of hay bales for the wildlife.

The smoke and fire could be seen for miles at Gwahumbe

The fire, which started 16 kms away began at 9am on Sunday and, fanned by strong winds, spread rapidly across the region.

Gwahumbe was founded 26 years ago by MacKenzie’s mother and father who both designed and built the reserve themselves on rehabilitated farm land. Over the years, it has achieved a great deal from a conservation point of view and has hosted the BBC television’s Top Gear and Gordon Ramsay’s National Geographic travel food show, “UnCharted”.