Introduction

Recent feeling in South Africa (SA) has steered toward a “locals first” sentiment but historically, foreign nationals bolster economies through tourism. Foreign investment  leads to many benefits for SA, including invigorating our economy, easing paths to international trade, creating employment for locals and critical skills transference – all of which lead to an increased income for our country overall. 

Many foreign nationals, including our CEO, have found peace, solid investment opportunities and a place to grow their families in SA. Didier Duc, the owner of J-Bay Zebra Lodge, is a foreign investor and has created his little piece of paradise in the Eastern Cape. In this month of love, Didier shares how he came to fall for our country and its natural beauty.

Didier and Florbela Duc immigrated from Switzerland in October 2011 with their four-year-old daughter. They have developed an upmarket country house in the Eastern Cape, which has been featured in media and was awarded first prize at the Provincial and National Lilizela Awards in 2017 as the best 4-star Country House in the SA for quality and service. 

If you are interested in investing in SA, take a look at our Business Visa page or contact us about Residency-Through-Investment to find out if you qualify. We’d be happy to help you as we did Didier and his family. 

Now, the couple are looking for foreigners who want to immigrate to SA, who share similar values and are willing to invest in their own tourism activity business on the J-Bay Zebra Lodge property. 

Read the owners’ story below. 

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Didier Duc and family

The Beginning From Thoughts to Realisation

This was probably the best decision we ever made.  It all started with an idea that became a plan and then the first step into the unknown. Even though we’d visited SA 10 times prior and had an investment idea in mind from our first visit, it took us 10 years until we had all the ingredients to make it happen.

Those ingredients are: 

  1. the idea/project;
  2. the capital;
  3. willingness to get started;
  4. and most importantly, courage 

Today, 10 years in, we realise how privileged we are. SA is such an amazing country to live in and we are grateful for it. Of course, this country isn’t perfect and it has its challenges but the good overcomes the bad.

Our choice was to develop something different outside the rush of a big and busy city. We wanted enough space to be able to accommodate zebras.

After having spent months searching for properties on the internet, and two trips to visit it, it was one of the estate agents, who finally find our dream spot. This property was ticking every box of the brief we gave him.

Looking back, we are proud of what we have accomplished since we immigrated to SA. Our establishment contributed to promoting the area, which attracted other businesses in hospitality and other sectors.

The question we often get, is “Don’t you miss your home country?”. The answer is straightforward – “No, this is our home now”.

A European Lifestyle in Africa 

That said, it hasn’t been a smooth and easy journey; it has been rather challenging at times. 

We would quickly realise that SA may look very European but it is still Africa. The culture and systems in place are different, which can become frustrating until you understand how it works and you adapt to it – not an easy process.

The first week after we arrived, we stocked the freezer and the refrigerator for the week with fresh food, to limit our trips to town. The next day, the electricity went off, only to come back four days later, which put a strain on our nerves. It turned out to be an amazing experience – cooking over the fire and using kerosene lamps and candles in the evening.

Another time we got stranded with an empty tank because we hadn’t anticipated the reliability of the local gas station, which dried up, not knowing when it would be refuelled.

Now we laugh about it – these make great stories every time we celebrate the anniversary of our arrival. 

The Flavour of Success 

In 2017, we were riding the perfect wave. Occupancy had increased drastically, we were starting a new project of growing wine grapes with the assistance of one of the top winemakers in SA and we’d been nominated for the Provincial and National Lilizela Awards.

On the 10th of June, our business ground to a halt – a devastating wildfire took with it five years of hard work and everything we had accumulated over 28 years of marriage.

 It didn’t take long for us to decide what to do next. Going back to Europe was never an option. We loved SA too much to leave after so much effort. We took that downtime to rethink our venture and rebuild. That major setback helped us move forward, made us stronger and strive to do better, even for our 10-year-old (at the time) daughter.

This difficult experience also taught us never to sit on our laurels but to continuously strive for new ideas, new plans and take appropriate actions to grow. It is with such a mindset that you will better face challenging times. The pandemic is a good example of that. 

The Property 

The property is very well situated on the Garden Route, between the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and two tourism destinations (Jeffrey’s Bay and St Francis Bay), which makes perfect sense for a multi-activity park, MTB, zip-lines, rope course, vita course and trail-running. This will attract tourists, schools and corporates, whether it is just for two hours or a full day of activities.

The reason I mention a partnership is because we believe having people fully committed to the activity business will get better results than us trying to manage a business, hospitality services and activities. Each business will contribute to the success of the other. 

Giving Back 

In life, you can only receive if you give. We know there are people out there, dreaming of emigrating to SA to start a new life. We have been there and done that, therefore, helping a family realise their dream while developing mutual benefit, makes perfect sense and constitutes a perfect scenario for a success story.  

By experience, to realise such a dream, it takes more than money – it takes courage. There is little certainty in the process. You know what you want to do, how much money you have, where you are going, but in most cases, the layman has no clue about applying for residency or registering a business. 

We received the best advice on our last holidays in SA from a German couple who had been through a similar process a year earlier: Get professional advice. This German couple recommended IBN Immigration Solutions to assist with the immigration process – well worth the money spent.  

Using competent and knowledgeable people will give you peace of mind and allows you to use that time wisely to focus on the matters that will help you succeed. 

To us, the best assets are people. When we realised how much potential our property has for tourism activities, we immediately thought of getting partners. It became obvious to us – the best fit would come from people willing to immigrate to SA with a big dream and high enthusiasm to succeed.  

For more information:

Contact Didier at +2783 778 9487 /didier@absoluteowl.co.za or Florbela at +2778 925 6812/info@jbayzebralodge.co.za. 

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Written by: Didier Duc and Lauren Daniels