Only in South Africa – Cocktails with Hippopotamuses Anyone?

- Sarah Glyde, Regional Vice President Hotel Relations, EMEA for Kiwi Collection

When planning for your next holiday, I suggest you put a trip to South Africa on your bucket list. Experience mingling amongst the world’s most breathtaking wildlife while relaxing at a luxury Private Game Reserve.

You’ll never complain of not having enough space at the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa‘s Eastern Cape province. Situated within 54,000 acres, the equivalent to approximately 49,000 football fields, this is one of the most exclusive reserves – especially as it only can have a maximum of 44 guests at any one time.

In case you were wondering Kwandwe means “Place of the Blue Crane” in Xhosa and the reserve is a haven for a population of these rare, vulnerable birds (South Africa’s national bird).

When you arrive at the main gates, they direct you to the old farmhouse, Heatherton Towers, to check-in with a member of the team. This is another 10km drive and as you leave they remind you to not get out of the car –  after all, you are in a game reserve with all the animals wandering freely! Of course if you don’t want to drive, the reserve has its own airstrip and will be happy to organize a transfer for you.

After a delicious glass of cold lemonade at the house, we had a 4  x 4 jeep for the transfer to our accommodation, Great Fish River Lodge. We got to see Giraffe, Zebra, Red Hartebeest and White Rhinoceros in this 45min journey, trust me this was no ordinary transfer!

Jurie and his team at Great Fish River Lodge greet you with huge smiles and whisk you around their beautiful lodge. This is the largest of the lodges and commands an unforgettable view of the Fish River below and out across the reserve in front – some parts of which are so remote it would take over 7 hrs driving.

The nine luxury suites are beautiful, simple and unique – decorated in a African colonial style with contemporary touches. They all have their own deck, private plunge pool and uninterrupted views but be warned, no walking at night back to the lodge without a ranger, you are not fenced in!

The outdoor shower is also out of bounds after dark. It is only the odd passing Springbok that might get a shock….

After a delicious homemade afternoon tea it was off for our first game drive with Jonty and Sakikile (Saki for short). The two of them were great fun and very entertaining, plus they showed us some superb animals!!

White rhinoceros, Chacma baboons, more giraffes and cheetahs but probably the highlight was seeing the bull elephant demolish a huge tree – he was very hungry.

We then enjoyed sun downer drinks and nibbles beside the dam with eight Hippopotamus watching us. Then it was off again to see some nocturnal animals, including a Jackle pup before dinner back in the lodge around the log fire – it can get chilly at night. Over some delicious Ostrich, Jonty then told us that he almost got attacked by a Hippopotamuses canoeing in the river a few weeks before, funny he didn’t share that during drinks!

Kwandwe has a number of different lodges for guests to stay in, there is the child friendly Melton Manor, which you can take over exclusively for up to eight guests. There is the hip Ecca Lodge with six suites and lastly, for a real homely experience, you can take over Uplands Homestead which sleeps up to 6 people. All of them have their own unique style and the teams at each are fantastic.

Kwandwe has a great sense of community spirit, not least because all of the 160 strong team live on the reserve with their families and they have built a crèche, pre-school, etc. on site.

In addition to what they offer, the team who work there, the Angus Gillis Foundation, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve’s social development partner, is currently raising funds to build the KwaDoli Community Centre which will service eight rural villages in the Eastern Cape. The Angus Gillis Foundation was started in 2002 by the owners of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, in order to empower the rural areas surrounding the Reserve. The focus of their work is with rural people who live in conditions of abject poverty, some deprived of access to even basic resources.

The sustainability, the animals, the lodges and the team all combine to make this reserve a truly special – trust me it was very sad to leave.

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  2. Mark Rovers says:

    Kwandwe Game Reserve looks breathtaking. I love how traveling here would be an experience you’ll never forget – something beyond your regular week in Hawaii or shopping trip in New York. Thanks for this post and for sharing this experience.