A local, luxurious treasure
A magically secluded environment located on the Garden Route and only 4 hours away from Cape Town, Gondwana Private Game Reserve is everything and more than one expects from a luxury getaway in the bush.
Being the only free-roaming Big 5 reserve in the Southern Cape, Gondwana is also the only Big 5 reserve in the world that is located in a critically endangered fynbos biome, containing over 1000 species of fynbos that are cared for and protected by the knowledgeable staff at the reserve. The 11 000 hectare reserve serves as the perfect spot to escape to while enabling you to effortlessly be one with nature. We were fortunate enough to spend a few nights at this incredible property, learning about the biodiversity, animals and experiencing the immense love and respect that the staff and visitors alike have for the environment around them. Read more below to learn more about our stay and what you can expect from some time away at Gondwana Game Reserve.
The drive into the reserve stretches for about 10 minutes, making you feel as if you’ve just walked onto the lush green set of Jumanji (just the set – nothing to fear!). Upon entering the security gates to the reserve, one has to follow a dirt road towards reception where a friendly staff member will share information on your stay, show you to your room and allow you to marvel at the awe-inspiring, green reserve that suddenly appears before your eyes – just on the other side of the eco-designed reception area. We were unlucky with our timing as we arrived in some particularly bad weather but both the reception area and our room had a glorious fire going, warming us up and exciting us for the adventure ahead (we were also blessed to witness a magnificent lightning and thunder show that lit up the entire reserve).
Whether you’re coupled up or coming with your family and need a big enough area for the kids, the reserve offers lodge suites for a romantic safari experience or beautifully built villas to suit the needs of a family or group – there is even a private villa (Ulubisi House) where you can have your own chef and butler!
We stayed at the 5 Star Kwena Lodge which is designed for couples. Each stand-alone hut offers a modern twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwellings. The open plan suite is nestled amongst the fynbos and offers a 180-degree mountain view while giving you the utmost privacy. With massive skylights above the bed, fireplaces, rain showers and deep baths, you’re bound to feel a sense of calm and relaxation the moment you step foot in the door.
The lodge facility includes an open-plan lounge and bar, a beautiful dining room with 2 fireplaces and a large infinity pool that is not only easily accessible to all guests but often gets visited by the animals on the reserve. With meals included in the full and half board packages, guests can spend their days resting or exploring the reserve with the assurance that a beautifully prepared, 3-course meal will be ready in the dining room. Head chef at Gondwana, Chef William put together a classic menu that ensures all guests will find something that they love. I highly recommend the perfectly made steak for mains but if you’re vegetarian, then they have equally tasty options available as well. Both Chef William and Chef Sabrina go out of their way to ensure that guests are happy and satisfied throughout service and will even go as far as whipping up a dessert that is not on the menu if you have any food allergies.
Get up close and personal with the lion, rhino, giraffe and much more
If there is one thing not to be missed while at Gondwana, it’s the game drives through the reserve. The field guides have a wealth of information on both the animals and the land and offer in-depth information while navigating their vehicles seamlessly over the terrain. I highly recommend requesting a safari with Felix or Megan who are such incredible spirits and, like the rest of the staff, share their vast knowledge on the animals, biodiversity and history of Gondwana with ease. During your safari, your guide will find a beautiful spot to enjoy drinks and snacks, allowing you to snap some lovely pictures. The Full Board package offers 2 safari’s per day and I highly recommend that you enjoy as many as you can during your stay.
Gondwana also offers an array of other activities like guided walks, mountain biking and a junior ranger programme that includes educational family game drives, interactive activities with a dedicated Junior Ranger Field Guide such as fishing and tracking, as well as a fun Ranger’s backpack and cool custom safari booklet for kids to fill in throughout their stay. During the game drives and other activities, kids are taught how to identify mammals, birds, fynbos specifies and stars, ensuring that they leave Gondwana with a greater understanding of conservation.
What I really appreciated about Gondwana is that they give you a list of things to pack for your stay, ensuring that you will always be comfortable and prepared for weather changes and the terrain.
Revitalize yourself with nature’s touch, tone and tempo
As if your experience could get any better, Gondwana also has a tented bush spa built right in the middle of the greenery with 2 treatment rooms that give you a breathtaking view of the reserve. We had a facial and full-body massage which were utter bliss but they also have smaller treatments available like manicures and pedicures. Signature treatments include the anti-ageing Sundowner facial, African Bliss Body wrap, and Love Bird’s Nest couples package. I highly recommend booking a treatment at the spa during your stay at Gondwana, especially after a game drive!
If you’re unsure of where to go for your next local holiday, then I highly recommend Gondwana Private Game Reserve – you certainly won’t regret it.
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