Words: Robyn Anthony | Images: Salvelio Meyer, Supplied & Shutterstock
The Eastern Cape and adjoining Garden Route are home to a variety of game reserves that suit every traveller’s taste.
The Eastern Cape and Garden Route have a range of five-star luxury reserves boasting well-appointed lodges where visitors can experience the beauty of Africa in comfort. Pumba Private Game Reserve & Spa, Founders Lodge by Mantis and the Eastern Cape’s most recent addition, Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge, are just a few examples.
Shamwari Game Reserve, 75km outside Port Elizabeth, offers a luxury safari experience and has plenty of activities to keep children entertained. You can visit Shamwari as a day visitor, but it’s best to book in and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in comfort.
Five-star Kichaka Private Game Lodge near Grahamstown is an ideal location from which to enjoy the wonders of the Big Five in luxury. Large terraces provide an incredible viewing deck from which to witness game on the banks of a waterhole, with spacious luxury chalets ensuring you have a variety of creature comforts, such as plunge pools and Wi-Fi.
Samara Private Game Reserve, at the end of the Garden Route – just 40 minutes from the historical town of Graaff-Reinet – is another good option. The most luxurious element to this five-star reserve is its exclusivity. With only two Karoo farmhouse lodges sleeping no more than 30 people, you will feel like you have the 28,000ha reserve and its mountain surrounds all to yourself.
If you prefer family fun, then the Garden Route Game Reserve in Albertinia is ideal. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Langeberg mountain range and guarding the entrance to the Garden Route, it’s different from many other reserves in that it welcomes children of all ages on its morning and evening game drives. Childminders are also available and the lodge’s Bushwise Activity programme for children is led by a game ranger who will take them on drives, a guided bushwalk, insect walk or a fishing expedition.
Gondwana Game Reserve near Mossel Bay also offers child-friendly bush experiences. Here children between six and 12 years old can take part in a junior ranger experience. The programme includes educational game drives, interactive activities and exclusive ranger packs. During game drives and other activities with their ranger, children are taught how to identify mammals, birds, fynbos species and even the stars.
If your family have some horse riding experience, then a horseback safari at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve can be one of the highlights of your holiday. Here you can see wildlife from your horse in the company of trained guides. As the horses live on the reserve, the other animals are familiar with their presence, which frequently makes for incredible wildlife encounters.
A similar experience can be had at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, between the Outeniqua Mountains and the unspoilt beaches of the Indian Ocean. Visitors can enjoy a laid-back horseback safari, suitable for all experience levels, through the mountain valleys and breathtaking fynbos. There are also adventure trails through thick bush and over mountainous terrain.
If your dream is to see the Big Five, then Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is worth considering. At the foot of the Warmwaterberg, on Route 62, lies 54,000ha of mountains with indigenous fauna and flora, where you can enjoy amazing scenery and, if you’re lucky, spot the majestic white lion.
In the Eastern Cape side, Lalibela Game Reserve boasts the Big Five as well as predators such as cheetah, hyena, jackal and lynx. Only an hour from Port Elizabeth and the Addo Elephant National Park, Lalibela has no public roads running through it. This means that only Lalibela guests have access to the wildlife area. All of the animals at Lalibela, including the predators, roam freely around the reserve.
“The travelling distances are not too far and the coastal scenery is spectacular, plus we’re malaria-free and our climate is a lot more forgiving than up north”
Paul Lynch, co-owner, Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge
Experience it for yourself:
- Pumba Private Game Reserve & Spa: pumbagamereserve.co.za
- Founders Lodge By Mantis: founderslodgebymantis.com
- Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge: inzololodge.co.za
- Shamwari Game Reserve: shamwari.com
- Kichaka Private Game Lodge: kichaka.co.za
- Samara Private Game Reserve: samara.co.za
- Garden Route Game Reserve: grgamelodge.co.za
- Gondwana Game Reserve: gondwanagr.co.za
- Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve: plettgamereserve.com
- Botlierskop Private Game Reserve: botlierskop.co.za
- Sanbona Wildlife Reserve: sanbona.com
- Lalibela Game Reserve: lalibela.net
What to pack:
- Walking shoes or hiking boots
- Hat (preferably wide-brimmed) to keep the sun away from your face
- Warm jacket, preferably waterproof, to keep you warm on early morning or evening game drives
- High SPF sunscreen
- A pair of binoculars to spot birds and more elusive species
- Camera and charger
- Adaptor plugs
- Mosquito repellent for summer, though the Eastern Cape and Garden Route are, thankfully, malaria-free
- Water (if the lodge doesn’t supply)
Websites to bookmark:
- SafariBookings: The largest online marketplace for safari tours.
- SA-Venues.com: A comprehensive list of the best places to stay, including game reserves and lodges, and easily categorised to suit your needs.
- Rhino Africa: Rhino Africa’s expert consultants use their first-hand experience to create personalised itineraries for those interested in safari holidays.
- Garden Route Venues: Everything you need to know about holidaying along the Garden Route.