When planning our trip to Cape Town we weren’t sure if we should include a safari or not. While researching I saw many options. Some of them where just a 1.5 hour drive away or other there were other where you had to take a domestic flight. At the end we thought why skip a safari if you have the option to do it and decided to book 2 nights at Gondwana Game Reserve, A private game reserve, only 4.5 hours drive away from Cape Town. Before telling you in more detail about our stay at Gondwana I want to answer some general questions you might have regarding safaris near Cape Town.
Do I need vaccination?
That’s probably one of the biggest Pros for doing a safari in this region. It’s malaria-free and you don’t need to take any extra medicine or vaccination before visiting.
How do I get there?
Since we already had rented a car for the whole duration of our trip we used this chance to drive along the beautiful scenery, also named ‘Garden Route’. Along the way there many great places to stop and soak in the views: For those who get hungry I recommend Hickory Shack. Do also stop at Swellendam to buy some handmade Biltong from Biltong Botiek. Such a cute town by the way. If you have extra time and want to extend your drive a bit you can also stop at Cape Agulhas, which actually is the most southern point of the African continent (Yes it’s not Cape Point).
Is safari near Cape Town a real safari?
Well it ain’t Serengeti but hey you have the opportunity to see lions and elephants and many more up close without any fence or glass between you. It truly is an unique experience. I would not recommend to go travel to Cape Town just for the safari but you should do a safari when you are already going to Cape Town.
Which animals will I see?
Most of the safaris here promise you the Big 5, which are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos. But since this ain’t no zoo there is no guarantee you will actually see all of them. During our 2 day trip we saw many animals like lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, antelopes, kudos, ostriches and wildebeests.
Is safari expensive?
It’s not a budget activity but when I look at the experience and value we got from our stay at Gondwana I think it’s totally reasonable and worth it. Prices at Kwena Lodge are around 600 Euros per night but in exchange you have a full board accommodation including breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. All of them where really high quality and good. You also have 2 game drives per day which last at least 2 hours each. Afternoon tea and morning snacks are also includes. On top of that you stay at one of the most romantic places in a beautiful hut. So the price you pay is totally justified for the value you get. Also think about it as a once in a lifetime experience.
So now I want to tell you a bit more about Gondwana Game Reserve. It is located close a the town Mossel Bay and is a 4.5 hour drive from Cape Town along the beautiful Garden Route. The Reserve is spread across 11,000 hectares with different Lodges within this area. We stayed at Kwena Lodge which is ideal for couples or small families.
Kwena Lodge consist of 14 individual huts which are really spacious and beautifully decorated. They all have a stunning view over the reserve and the private patio gives you space to relax and enjoy the views. So does the bathtub which was one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been to. We also really appreciated the own fireplace and the heated bed. Since we visited during winter months this was the best!
Another really exciting part is that you are actually on the same reserve where all the animals are and remember they are not fenced. Meaning you can have a lion or elephant right on you front porch at anytime of the day. Actually during our stay we enjoyed the zebras stopping by regularly during lunch and tea time. It was amazing being so close to them. We also saw huge elephant poop just 2 meters away from hour room but we sadly missed them :( When the sun sets guest are always accompanied by a ranger when going outside their huts just for safety reasons.
Room rates include Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon tea and dinner. Drinks are charged extra. The daily schedule is in general as following. The times can change slightly due to season and sunrise/sunset times:
6:30-8:30 AM: Morning snacks followed by sunrise game drive
8:30-10:30 AM: Breakfast
1:00-2:30 PM: Lunch
3:30 PM: Afternoon Tea
4:00-6:00 PM: Evening game drive
7:00 – 9:00 PM: Dinner
Between meals and game drives you have plenty of time to enjoy the infinity pool or just chill at one of the many loungers. There is also a SPA where you can choose from a variety of treatments. For those of you who want to explore more there are walking tours offered around the reserve.
Meals are served in one of the two dining areas or on the outdoor terrace. We had breakfast outside and this was definitely the most memorable meal of all. Coming bag hungry and happy after a great morning game drive we sat in the sun, had a delicious breakfast with stunning views. Lunch is A La Carte and you can choose from many options like burgers, salads or fish and meat. The Fish and Chips I had where even better than the ones in London. Dinner consists of a daily changing 4 course menu where you can have a soup, cold starter, main dish and dessert. The highlight was the Kudu steak which I tried the first time in my life and is now my favourite meat. Too bad we don’t have it here in Europe.
In general the quality and presentation of the food is really high end. Portions are huge and at the end of 2 days we were really full.
So how does a game drive look like?
As mentioned we had two game drives a day. One in the early morning during sunrise and one in the afternoon until sunset. You have a dedicated ranger during your stay and also a dedicated group of people you go on a game drive with. So even when one of the group members leaves they do not rearrange the groups. Our ranger Abby was super nice and really was very engaged to give us as much information about the animals and nature as possible. She also did everything in her hand to show us all animals. What I loved most, she really loves what she is doing and you can feel this.
The drives take around 2-3 hours. You drive around an open car through beautiful valleys and scenery basically looking for animals. Once you spot them you stop and enjoy the view and Abby was telling us a lot about the animals including some fun facts. We even stopped for drinks with a giraffe, a memory I will always remember. We also ate termites and a spitting contest with antelope poop J Well, I didn’t but Abby and the kids from our group did.
Which animals you will see that day changes. It is an 11 thousand hectare area so of course the rangers don’t know where the animals are but they know every inch of the reserve and usually know where to find them. Since there are several rangers out at the same time they always communicate to each other in case they find something. We did 3 game drives and saw like lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, antelopes, kudus and wildebeests. The feeling of being so close to the animals and hearing their breathing and noises was truly amazing.
In a nutshell: I really recommend Gondwana Game Reserve not only for the safari but also for the whole experience and the quality of the Lodge. This is a true luxury safari lodge. So while you are in Cape Town you should add a couple of days to your trip and use this opportunity.
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