A look inside a R75 million ‘nature reserve’ home for sale in South Africa

 ·14 Mar 2021

About a decade ago, Willem and Makkie Joubert’s daughter decided to leave the family home in Pretoria, South Africa, to study architecture in Cape Town.

“We don’t want to say it out loud, but we decided to follow her,” Willem Joubert says, so the couple, having founded a pharmaceutical group that grew to employ about 2,000 people, began to look for what he calls “farms” near Cape Town.

The word “farm,” Willem acknowledges, is something of a misnomer.

“The correct description would be a nature reserve,” he says of their stewardship, “because there’s no farming activities on the farm and no hunting on the farm.”

In 2012, based on a tip from a casual acquaintance, they found what they were looking for: a 1,195-acre plot of land near Robertson in the Western Cape. The property is about an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town and had been pieced together by a conservationist from multiple lots.

“It was totally unspoiled, with no infrastructure on it,” Willem says—just vast stretches of fynbos, an incredibly biodiverse shrubland (plenty of evergreen heath, protea, iris, and lily) wholly contained within the Unesco-protected Cape Floral Region. There’s greater density of unique plant species here than in the world’s rainforests.

For her part, Makkie Joubert had always wanted a home with a small enclosed area—“a sort of piazza,” she explains—but the couple realized that that this wouldn’t quite work with the area’s climate, which mirrors that of the Mediterranean:

It’s temperate most of the year, with very hot summers and chilly, though rarely freezing, winters. Instead, they hired architects Joe and Reinette Klerck to develop “their own version of open space in nature,” Willem says.

Construction didn’t just entail creating houses. It meant building a three-kilometre access road, a dam and irrigation system, all without disturbing the flora and fauna. The compound itself, comprising six structures across about 26,000 square feet, according to Willem, wasn’t completed until late 2014.

The couple moved in 2015 and stayed for about five years until “our business activities caught up with us,” Makkie says. “We had to do so many flights from Cape Town and back. It’s not a way to live.”

Plus, she adds, their daughter completed her degree “and she’s awfully independent now.” Time to put their home on the market.

The property is listed with Aimee Campbell and Carrick Campbell of Greeff Properties, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in South Africa, for 75 million ZAR ($5 million). “We still love the place,” Makkie says, “but you know, life changes.”

The Buildings

The compound sits in the middle of a vast, open tract of land, though the town of Robertson is only 10 minutes’ drive, Makkie says. “The house is positioned fairly centrally in the property,” says Willem. “You don’t see fences or neighbours. It’s just a 360-degree view onto mountains.”

Construction of the property proceeded slowly; the Jouberts didn’t want to disturb any land unnecessarily, so they waited until the road was paved to begin building the houses.

The compound is surrounded by a five-foot-high brick wall, not to keep anything out, Willem says, but to keep the dogs in. Upon entering, visitors find two symmetrical main buildings connected by a furnished breezeway.

The east building has a living room, an “entertaining kitchen” in which guests can congregate around an open-plan dining area, and a separate “working kitchen,” where the cook does the heavy lifting. Upstairs is a bedroom suite and study. The western building has two guest suites, a double-height library, a music room, and a game room with a billiard table and a projector TV system. Each building has its own, two-car garage.

Nearby is a house the couple calls “the cottage,” with a gym and an additional guest suite. Deeper into the compound is a structure overlooking a massive freshwater pool; that building, which they’ve dubbed an “entertainment building,” has a kitchen, a bathroom, and dressing rooms.

There’s also a large barn that houses staff on its second floor and a “cottage” used by staff.

In total, the property has seven bedrooms and nine full baths. It currently employs two full-time staffers, plus a gardener who doesn’t live on site. A system of solar panels supplies the property’s daytime energy needs. (The system doesn’t currently have battery storage, though that could be added easily.)

“The amount of rooms and open space was to be able to enjoy it with a lot of guests,” says Makkie. She designed the landscaping and the house so guests can seamlessly circulate inside and outside and flow from one building to the next.

The Grounds

The buildings are connected by a series of walkways, gardens, and lawns. Mature acacia and fever trees dot the property, and a small, walled orchard with mango, guava, and orange trees connects to the barn.

The star attraction lies outside the compound’s walls, where a steady procession of wildlife parades by.

“Game runs freely on the property,” says Willem. Antelope including eland, springbok, and kudu (famous for their curved horns) graze around the house, and red hartebeest and zebra regularly visit the nearby lake. Leopards are the only dominant predator.

“You’ve got a view from the bedrooms to the main plain, where the game gather in the late afternoon,” he says. Although the Jouberts don’t themselves partake, periodic hunts have been necessary to keep the animal population down to prevent over-grazing.

Before they quit the farm, the couple went on bike rides and runs across the land without seeing anyone or anything; occasionally, they’d borrow horses from a (distant) neighbour and ride trails.

Given the mostly temperate climate and location set in the Cape Winelands region, the couple says that with proper irrigation, there’s ample land for a few hectares of vineyards. In February, when summer is at its zenith, temperatures can reach 30C (86F), Willem says; the rainy winter season peaks in July.

“In some years, there’s some snow on the mountaintops, but barely for a day or three,” he explains, “so it’s a lot of excitement for everyone in the area” when it happens.

The farm is looked after by a permanent staff “who run the place as if we’re there,” Willem says, and family friends in Cape Town regularly use the property. The Jouberts visit only every three months or so; still, Makkie says, this one will be hard to sell.

“There were a lot of big changes that necessitated we make different plans,” she says, “but we just really enjoyed the place.”

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