From jeans and trainers during the week to high heels and glad rags on the weekend, Palesa Dube makes it her business to be on point
story debbie reynolds pictures paul reichle
Everything about Palesa Dube’s Waterfall home reflects style and sophistication. Then she walks down the stairs and my first impressions are reinforced. She is the epitome of the elegance her duBoirs Boutique Lodge promises.
I can see now how it was Palesa’s palette that created the four-star lodge and events venue on the banks of the Nkuthu River. “I admit, I personally decorated each of the ten rooms, right down to the last cushion,” she smiles.
Growing up in Klerksdorp in North West Province, owning a lodge was not an option. Her heart was set on optometry and after completing her studies she landed a teaching post at the University of KZN.
“When one of the lecturers joined the International Centre for Eye Care Education, an Australian NGO promoting optometry education in Africa, I joined him,” she says. “At the time the only three countries in Africa that had offered training for optometrists were South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania, which means that people in the rest of the continent had no access to eye care, except what was offered from overseas outreach programmes.”
Palesa ended up running the Africa “office”, which included branches in SA, Nigeria and Uganda, for around nine years. “I loved my work, the teaching and advocacy, meeting funders from different parts of the world and working with underprivileged people, but, while I loved the travelling, it became a problem when I had my second child.
“My husband, Bafana, was very supportive, but I realised I needed to be around more for my children as they grew up. After giving up my job, I also soon realised that I needed to find another passion because I’m not cut out for being a stay-at-home mom.”
Having worked on conferences in her previous job, Palesa knew she had an aptitude for hospitality plus she was fixated with interior design.
“So, I decided to combine the two and after doing some research, I found out there was a gap in the market for events venues that offered seating for over 150 people and accommodation on site. When it comes to weddings you must understand that us black people have lots of guests!”
In love with trees, gardens and birds, Palesa found a smallholding with an old house on Inanda Road in Waterfall and set about converting it into an upmarket B&B and wedding and conference venue.
The duBoirs opened in 2010, offering a venue that can seat up to 300 guests and 10 individually decorated rooms, all overlooking an expansive manicured lawn, towering trees, a waterfall and dam.
“I went for a contemporary look mixed with an African twist, largely so that I could include the beautiful things I had collected during my travels through Africa,” says Palesa. “I wanted each room to have its own personality so returning guests will want to try each one.”
She was also very involved with the landscaping of the gardens which this year featured in the Kloof Conservancy’s Indigenous Open Gardens.
“My plan was to be a house mom during the week and work on events at the weekends, but that didn’t quite happen,” says Palesa. “While the lodge was getting built, I started helping out at Bafana’s electrical construction company. I’m now working full-time on project management for the fibre optic side of the business.”
Effectively having two jobs means that Palesa is up with the birds in the morning so that she can get to gym for her beloved cross-fit training at 5am and back home in time to get Boipelo (14) and Zoe (11) off to school before starting her “day” job.
“Working mostly with men I have to fit in, so during the week you’ll find me in trainers, T-shirt and jeans, while at the weekends when we have functions and weddings it’s on with the high heels and fashion gear.”
For time-out, the family loves hiking and game reserves, with Nambiti Hills in Ladysmith a top favourite.
“I also love gardening because it’s so rewarding and soothing,” says Palesa, confessing she’s lucky to have the perfect canvas for her “experiments”.