Emalahleni, the Nguni word meaning place of coal, is a small, coal mining city situated on the Highveld of Mpumalanga and in its centre is the stunning Witbank Dam.
Cushioned on the North West banks of the dam, lies the charming Bankenveld Estate and like cold water to a weary soul the dam forms a fundamental feature of this unique yet thoroughly relaxing estate. With amenities and attractions in extremely close proximity, Bankenveld has an obvious appeal for young families and the convenient location draws residents from as far as Pretoria/Tshwane and Johannesburg, all of which are less than a ninety minutes’ drive from the estate. Famed for its trout fishing and enjoyable winter breakaways, Dullstroom is a mere 90 minutes away whilst The Lowveld and The Kruger National Park are less than a three hours’ drive. Closer to home, the nearby Highveld Mall and Ben Fleur Boulevard provide for ample shopping whilst the Ridge Casino Resort boasts a host of entertainment options.
The greater Mpumalanga area is home to employees of approximately 48 coal mines as well as their families so it comes as no surprise why this region is often dubbed the energy hub of Africa. Yet despite this, Bankenveld retains a truly rural, naturalistic charm. Estate dwellers can share their outside environment with a large selection of neighbouring game including bontebok, springbok, blesbok, black wildebeest, water buck, red heart buck and zebra.
The estate shares the 18 hole (currently sporting first 9 hole) golf course, designed by the renowned DDV Design Group, with an adjacent estate and offers resident golfers a reduced membership rate. Delicious meals are served at the Primi Piatti restaurant located inside the clubhouse of the golf course and offers breathtaking views over both estates. The Witbank Dam, one of the largest municipal dams in the southern hemisphere, is one of the cleanest in the country and forms an integral part of the communal and entertainment aspect of this estate. Naturally underpopulated, it ensures loads of freedom and fun and water systems are already in place to ensure that the water levels remain constant and regular tests by the Rand Water Board and in-house yacht club ensure utmost safety.
It is therefore little wonder that the Witbank Yacht and Aquatic Club chooses to have direct access from the estate. Although privately owned, a portion of each resident’s levy ensures free access to the club and all its facilities. This NSRI (National Sea and Rescue Institute) accredited club organises a number of regattas, night races and competitions throughout the year and also busies itself with the development of junior sailing which includes lessons held at the club.
At the club; designated picnic areas, a communal swimming pool, braai facilities with bar area and camping or caravanning zones supplement this wonderfully idyllic lifestyle and a fully equipped function hall makes the perfect venue for a multitude of events. In summertime, the dam is used for water skiing and many other water sports and the club also offers storage areas for yachts belonging to residents who are permitted to launch their speed boat or Jet Ski from the available jetties. Owners of the waterfront homes are allowed to build their own jetties, giving them immediate and direct access onto the dam. The prestigious St John School of Johannesburg also utilises the club’s fantastic resources and uses it as their base when practicing rowing.
A wonderful wealth of recreational facilities allows residents to enjoy the great outdoors in all its natural splendour. 18 hectares of luscious Highveld grassland encompass endless meandering pathways for jogging, running and cycling plus dedicated walking trials and bird watching societies; further drawing families outside to enjoy the mild Highveld climate. The estate was first conceptualised in 1998 and the first home built in 2001 with an exciting range of properties available from those sitting on the waterfront edge, with direct and private access to the dam, to freestanding homes further inland as well as fashionable townhouses. Of the 384 existing stands, with homes averaging 900m² under roof and stands between 1200m²-2000m², a little over 300 homes have been built and are mostly inhabited by families that thrive in the great outdoors.
Although subject to approval by an aesthetics board, residents are at liberty to add individual character to the exterior of their home, making for a lovely combination of architectural styles.
Townhouses sell from R3 million and homes from R4 million with the highest recorded sale to date standing at an astounding R15 million. Up to a 96% profit margin proves that this is an extremely financially viable option, and the trend shows that owners tend to retain their properties for personal use and letting purposes as opposed to selling them.
Families with young children have the opportunity to send their children to the excellent Curro schooling facility just outside the perimeter of the estate. Smaller children can also be entertained at the Equestrian Centre, where a petting zoo with a pony and piglet provide lots of fun and an ideal children’s party venue, with premises available for hire. The Home Owners Association office is also home to two guinea pigs which are regularly fed by resident Oom Lappies’ home grown vegetables.
With a substantially young population of school children, security remains paramount. The estate has a solid security strategy in place and is extremely happy with the services of CSC Tactical and Vital Security in looking after the safekeeping of the residents.
A professional service consisting of two reaction vehicles, personal panic units in each house linked to the Reaction Control Room, officers on foot, guarded entrances to the estate, with pre-clearance codes, access cards and VOIP and two patrol vehicles constantly ensure a secure environment. Even the dam border is patrolled by the security team to ensure no breach of safety. Bankenveld has a true community feel to it. Due to the close proximity to the dam, the region receives more rainfall than surrounding areas. In summer months this means lovely warm temperatures, but winter can get extremely chilly, with temperatures falling to -3°. Both security companies ensure that their teams are fully kitted to cope with this element. The guards are often spoilt with cups of coffee from some of the residents and the unique management team never has a dull moment in the office. Every day is a fun filled experience with residents often spoiling them with homemade meals, biltong and special treats, showing a real atmosphere of camaraderie. A Glovent portal also ensures that they remain in touch with its 300 odd homes with news, developments and other communications.
A small estate with a big warm heart, Bankenveld really does hit the mark and is a worthwhile option for families desiring an authentic countryside lifestyle whilst still being able to easily commute to nearby cities. For a relaxed weekend feel but with all the bells and whistles, this is definitely an estate to watch.
Photographs taken by Annemarie and Francois du Randt