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Paradise found at Amber Valley

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Where else in the world, I think as I observe seven warthog, blesbuck, impala and zebra grazing contentedly on the banks of someone’s lawn.

I am in Amber Valley, one of a series of retirement complexes situated in lush former farmland overlooking the Umgeni Valley, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. At least 700 homes make up the estate which features a heated swimming pool, an adjacent 25m pool, tennis courts, a bowling green, club house and frail care centre.

The centre bears no resemblance to the standard grey laminate/hospital fare associated with retirement. Instead, it is graciously decorated with colonial comfort – florals, comfortable wide wicker chairs – the walls adorned with botanical prints and tasteful African scenes.

As retirement estates goes, it is paradise found. The club house overlooks a dam fed by a freshwater stream – otters often cavort as if to give a show to the oldies looking on. Egyptian geese are raising goslings – a troublesome task when legavaan keep stealing their young. The old boys have been watching and there is now only one lone little gosling remaining out of a clutch of six. “Bloody bad parents, we need to raise them ourselves,” they complain.

Three rogue zebra used to brazenly scratch their rumps on the rough brick of front porches … or have a bit of a lark chasing dogs led by terrified retirees. They were moved before someone came to grief.

But on the game walk, yes, a retirement village with its own extensive game walk … in authentic African bush setting – you can spot zebra, buck and warthog – all breeding prolifically without a natural predator. Behind the high electric fencing and barbed wire, deep in the valley beyond, lurk leopard that must look on with great frustration at the feast so near, yet so far. Here is an entire smorgasbord of untouchable game just on the other side of the fence.

I grew up in the little country town of Howick. And it seems everyone is coming home to roost. My friend Filly has bought a home there and has already booked her spot. Another friend has bought one as an investment nearby. ‘The place sells itself,’ I’m told.

And as the day comes to a close, the familiar ‘tik-tik-tik-tik’ of guinea fowl announces their retirement for the day … scurrying along the verge in a cacophony of noise that so reminds me of Africa.

And the hadedas settle in noisily for the night with their ‘kraai-kraai-kraai’ … this is indeed a perfect place to roost.