“WAIT, NO! EVERYONE STOP!”
“I need to take a photo of the first spotting of wildlife!”
This is what you get when you combine fiercely trained bush eyes, and super speedy camera reflexes upon your arrival at the wonderous Gondwana Game Reserve.
Gondwana Game Reserve
When you think South Africa + The Big 5 + Safaris, it automatically = Kruger National Park. When I was invited to Gondwana Animal Reserve just four hours out of Cape Town, and a little internet stalking revealed that it’s 11,000 hectares form the only fynbos game reserve worldwide to boast the Big Five – I was equally shocked, impressed and flipping excited.
It was a 6am start, when the lovely Robyn from Nicky Arthur PR played mommy-mommy and collected the Dawn, Natalie and moi to begin the journey to Gondwana and the fun began. Four hours later, we parked the car, drooled over the magnificent views, and immediately sat down in the entrance room to use the free WiFi (obvs).
A quick tour of the open-plan hut-chalets of the Kwena Lodges: with their sky lights, fireplaces and 180° views from the bed and bath (naaaise), showed us the more romantic side of the reserve.
If there is one thing they know how to do at Gondwana, it’s to make you feel at home by feeding you. And feed us they did. Firstly, there’s snack on your game drive, followed by breakfast, then a little later is lunch, then high-tea, followed by another game drive snack, and dinner. Off to lunch we went at the hotel restaurant. I loved the fact that it was laidback – there is a time and a place for pretentious dining, and this was not it. A hearty tomato soup, was followed by a sharing platter of the most delicious cottage pie I have ever eaten, with a mix of salads and sides. Perfection.
After annihilating our meal, we hopped into a safari truck (or S.T. Dunno what else to call it?) and head off to our digs for the weekend – one of the spacious and homey Bush Villas. The full open-plan kitchen, lounge and diningroom, led out on to the deck which led out on to the 11,000 hectares of beauty. Every design detail has been meticulously considered from the four en-suite bedrooms, to the shared space. I felt like I was at home, a very beautiful and opulent home, which is welcome to treat for any traveller.
We made ourselves comfortable and soon our safari truck (yes, I’m sticking with this) arrived to chauffer us to high tea and then… ANIMAL TIME. After a little unnesessary eating of cake, biscuits and quesadillas, we hopped aboard S.T. and ventured into the fynbos.
Fynbos, which means “fine bush” in Afrikaans, is made up of a mixture of wild flowers and shrubs, found in a region of the Western Cape. Driving through these flowers is as serene can be. We immediately spotted a variety of buck and birds, zebra, and suddenly, we stumbled across these two beauties.
This was my first ever encounter with rhino. We asked if we were allowed to talk about them online, or if it was dangerous, and we were told to go ahead, because we need to talk about the problem to educate people and protect them. I didn’t think it was possible, but now, I was even more in love with Gondwana.
After a perfect evening, the #girlsonsafari team headed back to the restaurant for a delicious, hearty dinner – then hopped on the S.T. back to the villa, and within minutes, we were all asleep.
When we woke up the next morning, it seemed that someone had done a gloomy weather dance over night. After an early morning safari where we didn’t spot anything new, but learnt a lot about the history of the reserve. From its Khoi-San past, to the making of the reserve, to its name derived from the super-continent, Gondwanaland, to the introduction and conservation of the animal species and more.
It’s hungry work sitting on a safari truck, so attacked the buffet then devoured a hearty hot breakfast, before heading back to the villas to relax. Ominous clouds and heavy winds turned our balcony picnic lunch, into one by the fireside. And when we went on our evening game drive, heavy rains stopped us from going out too far, but not before we spotted a herd of elephants playing in the mud. That evening the weather continued to bully us, forcing our villa braai inside. Nonetheless, we ate delicious food, drank fine wine, sat by the fire – the room was filled with happiness.
There is something very special about Gondwana Game Reserve. It’s not pretentious or up its own arse (excuse my French). It feels very real. And I mean that in the most loving way. It’s humble, comfortable and just, well, so very beautiful – that I can’t wait to go back and experience it again.