Affable, always smiling and an absolute gentleman: that is Derrick Lilienfeld in a nutshell. As he retires from the Board of Directors this year after three terms, we took a moment to chat to Derrick about his passion for the environment and wildlife and, of course, his Simbithi legacy.

Derrick and his wife, Margi, first heard of Simbithi around its inception in 2004, when the Sunday Tribune advertised an eco-estate being developed on the North Coast. The couple took a drive to Ballito to see the site. “After a visit to the sales office, and a brief tour of the undeveloped roads and sugarcane fields, and being told what was envisaged, we thought the developers were dreaming and it would take very many years before their dreams would be realised,” Derrick recalls.

It was around six years later when the Lilienfelds visited Simbithi again, this time for lunch with friends living on the Estate. The discussion turned toward whether Derrick would consider moving to Simbithi. “I said I was very happy where I was, and that I did not want to live on estate, governed by rules. I also explained that in my retirement I loved to spend time in my workshop, which would obviously not be allowed on a gated estate.” The lunch hosts assured the Lilienfelds that Simbithi’s rules were reasonable. “We were amazed at the changes that had happened since our previous visit and decided to investigate further.”

When he perused Simbithi’s rules, Derrick was pleasantly surprised. After viewing a few properties, he and Margi opted to buy land and build their own home – workshop included – which they moved into during 2012.


Once they became homeowners, Derrick and Margi fell completely in love with Simbithi: its ethos, environmental practices and goals, the wildlife and security. While becoming a Director was not an ambition of Derrick’s, he and Margi found they had much in common with those they met, who seemed to be here for similar reasons. “We both felt that we would voluntary offer our services in any way we could to maintain and help develop the environment on the estate. Being a retired veterinarian, I have been able to offer advice and very basic veterinary care to the wildlife on the Estate,” Derrick says. “I was approached by a board member at that time to be nominated for the board. I initially declined, but a year later agreed to put my name forward.”

Having come from a large, specialist veterinary hospital with outstanding facilities, operating theatres and experienced veterinary nurses, Derrick finds it frustrating to only offer a basic wildlife emergency service to the wildlife of Simbithi, which he does voluntarily. However, the care he provides for Simbithi’s animals is in no way diminished. “On Simbithi, I assess the presenting problem and decide whether the animal is likely to recover without any intervention or needs to be stabilised before being referred to a Veterinary Hospital, or wildlife rehabilitation organisation.” Derrick explains that treating wildlife is very different to domesticated animals. “In many situations I have had to make the hard call to euthanise a suffering animal. The successful treatments have been most heart-warming. I have built up good relationships with both CROW and FreeMe Wildlife and liaise with dedicated wildlife veterinarians.”

Derrick has had an indelible impact on the environmental department, its policies and procedures. He has worked closely with our environmental managers and staff, providing thoughtful input and guidance. His legacy, Derrick believes, is still being written. “Simbithi’s environment is complex and a work in progress. There are numerous challenges from managing animal numbers, alien invasive plant and animal species, siltation of our forests and dams and improving our diversity and habitats,” he says, mentioning the solid policies and protocols in place. “I trust that the residents and board will continue to support Ayanda Duma and Rowina Kanniappen as they manage the enormous task of improving our open and landscaped spaces for the benefit of all who live and work on Simbithi. I feel that I had a positive impact, but there are still huge challenges ahead.”

After six years as a Director, Derrick feels the time is right to take a step back from what he calls an “amazing experience”. “I embrace change and feel it a good time for new eyes as director charged with the environmental portfolio. I will continue to be available to Simbithi if ever called on for any reason, and offer basic veterinary services to the Estate wildlife.”

He acknowledged the Directors with whom he served his three terms. “I found all the board members to have only the very best interests of Simbithi at heart. They have all been experts in one way or another, giving freely of their time to make Simbithi Eco-Estate the very best it can be with the aim of becoming the best and most sought-after Eco-Estate in South Africa. It has been an amazing journey.”


Being a Director is a time-intensive role, Derrick confirms, and with his tenure winding down he looks forward to creating space for his other passions. “I love the bush and visit game parks and farms whenever the opportunity arises. I am also a keen photographer which ties in well with our bush experiences. I travel to Vilanculos annually where I enjoy snorkelling on the coral reefs and ski boat fishing.”

And, of course…his beloved workshop! “I look forward to more time in my workshop and with my grandchildren.”