The Gondwana Game Reserve sprawls across 11,000-hectare of expansive plains, framed by the Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains on the famous Garden Route with its ancient forests and seaside villages. With an awe-inspiring landscape, the animals come almost as a bonus on this malaria-free private game reserve where all Big Five roam freely. What makes it even more attractive is that it is only a little over a 4-hour scenic drive from Cape Town – making it easy to combine the best South Africa has on offer without the need to hop on another plane and the ideal starting point for people who have not been on a safari before!
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The reserve features an infinity pool for its guest as well as different accommodation types from safari rooms to private villas all overlooking the surrounding lush vegetation.
We stayed at a Kwena Lodge – a luxurious twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. The interior of the lodge was nicely appointed with an open plan layout, a skylight for star gazing, fireplace and bathtub with a view.
The reserve is named after one of two supercontinents – Gondwanaland, that existed millions of years ago with the Quteniqua and Swartberg Mountains being the last visible evidence of its existence. The fynbos (the unique Cape floral kingdom) is home to one of the most critically endangered vegetation types on earth with Gondwana making an active contribution to its conservation. The vegetation was a big part of the daily sunrise and sunset game drives which were certainly the most exciting part of our stay and well worth getting out of bed for at 5 am in the morning.
The golden light of morning sun enhanced the colours of the grassland and made it a magical experience to view wildlife from the comfort of our range rover and warmth of a blanket.
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Gondwana has a high diversity of antelope species such as the springbok, eland, gemsbok and red hartebeest.
We had to return to the lakes a few times before we got lucky to spot a hippopotamus. Despite their friendly sounding name and look, hippos have an aggressive temperament and are highly territorial which makes them one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
Gondwana has made a great effort to re-introduced endangered species onto the reserve like the Cape mountain zebra and I especially liked the one in the picture above – a real character 😉
We also came across a large family of baboons.
The Cape Buffalo, also known as ‘Black Death’ was peacefully grazing when we entered their enclosure on the reservation. As with hippos, you’d hardly guess that they are dangerous animals which is due to their highly unpredictable nature. Buffalos are part of the Big Five – a term that refers to the five African animals which are most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard).
The black rhinos on the reserve have their own dedicated security unit – they are monitored 24 hours a day to keep them safe from poachers who are responsible for the rapid decline of this critically endangered animal!
On our search for elephants, we got incredibly close to one of the male elephant on the reserve,
The elephants were rather unfussed by their human encounter, continuing their journey after a mud bath.
We almost gave up hope to see a lion during our stay, it was our last game drive that day and just before sunset when we saw a lioness walk down the road, followed by a male Lion.
The lioness eventually passed our vehicle while looking at us which was an incredible moment!
The male lion, on the other hand, was not at all interested in the car or its passengers. Seeing lions on a game drive is, of course, the most sought-after experience on a safari and we felt very lucky to have seen almost all Big Five with the exception of a leopard which is a very rare sight.
We arrived back at our camp after sunset where we warmed ourselves in front of the open fire and a hot drink.
This is also where I would like to say thank you to our extremely knowledgeable guide who passionately educated us about the unique vegetation of the Southern Cape as well as the wildlife. It was great to have him throughout the duration of our stay and I very much enjoyed the hot chocolates with Amarula on our early morning drives.