South Africa : Cape Game Reserves (Malaria-Free)
There are a number of 'malaria free' private game reserves in the Eastern Cape with some excellent game viewing and lovely luxury lodges. They are only a short drive from Port Elizabeth, making a couple of nights’ safari an easy add-on to a trip along the Garden Route. Some of the reserves only have plains game but the more established reserves such as Shamwari have the Big 5 and Addo has huge herds of elephant and some rhino. The Cape Reserves are great for children, being malaria-free, but also because some of the lodges cater specifically for them with children’s activities, children’s meals and babysitting services.
There are also malaria free reserves in the northern province of Madikwe.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve lies in the heart of South Africa’s malaria-free Eastern Cape near Grahamstown. Twenty thousand hectares of farmland in the Great Fish River region were given over to conservation, restored and restocked with African wildlife and today thousands of animals including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo and elephant roam this diverse and fascinating reserve. There are three lodges on the reserve
The exclusive Great Fish River Lodge, which has nine luxurious suites, set high up on the banks of the Great Fish River. Each thatch and glass chalet is decorated with a mix of Settler and Xhosa fabrics, artefacts and antiques and has a private plunge pool and observation deck with spectacular views over the river valley. Imposing chandeliers dominate the guest areas while glass-fronted sitting and dining areas have breathtaking river views. Dinner is served on the private decks, in the candlelit dining room or al fresco.
The über-chic Ecca Lodge, which has six modern suites. Stylish and intimate, it’s ideal for honeymooners and despite its contemporary appearance there is little separation between you and the African bushveld. The suites are nestled into a gently sloping, densely vegetated hillside with views over the rolling spekboom valley, and built from stone gabion walls and corrugated iron. The guest areas are spacious and include a sitting room, dining room and bar area, interactive kitchen and rim-flow lap pool.
The historic Uplands Homestead which is ideal for families. This sensitively restored 1905 farmhouse has three country-house-style rooms combining modern touches with Settler décor and classic architecture. The main areas have high ceilings, wooden floors and beautiful fireplaces, and there is a gazebo and a large swimming pool. Here you enjoy your own private ranger, tracker, chef and open 4x4 safari vehicle.
Amakhala Game Reserve was set up in 1999 by descendents of settler families who were farming here, and is a successful conservation initiative which has re-introduced animals to the area where they once roamed freely. Just 45 minutes from Port Elizabeth, it sits on the southern boundary of Shamwari Reserve, and game drives are in wonderful rolling countryside. Game includes lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, black wildebeest, zebra, tortoise and over 16 antelope species, including large herds of hartebeest, eland and blesbok. You may also enjoy sightings of cheetah which we were lucky enough to see, including cubs, on our last visit. There’s a choice of different places to stay, all varying in location and ambience, including two colonial homesteads, two bush lodges, an historic inn and a Settler farmhouse. The descendants of the original families who settled here tend to have a role to some extent in the management of the properties. Our favourites are:
Bush Lodge - the most romantic property with a remote location in the heart of the reserve and secluded luxury tented rooms with their own private plunge pools.
Amakhala Safari Lodge - a classic thatched safari lodge with 11 stylish ‘huts’.
Woodbury Lodge - a former homestead and traditional-style safari lodge with six stone-and-thatch cottages, which offers exceptional value
Leeuwenbosch - best for families with a lovely atmospheric country house set in traditional gardens, and both family suites and a honeymoon suite.
Shamwari Game Reserve is particularly well known for its conservation and responsible tourism, and it may be familiar as it has appeared a number of times on our television screens. The 49,000 acres of malaria-free private game reserve has five eco-systems, home to a huge diversity of plant, animal and bird life, and it offers an almost guaranteed Big Five experience,. The reserve is also home to the Born Free Centre, a sanctuary for big cats which have been rescued from captivity or life-threatening situations.
The reserve is less than an hour from Port Elizabeth, and it has six five-star lodges, all with swimming pools.
Long Lee Manor is an Edwardian manor house built in 1910 which has been lovingly restored and expanded to create 19 guest rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom and air-conditioning. The lodges offers a special children’s programme, and those aged seven and over can go on the adult game drives.
Riverdene Lodge is a restored frontier homestead, with nine interleading luxury rooms. Each room has a private balcony leading onto landscaped gardens, and there is a rim flow pool, supervised playroom, spacious green lawns and jungle gym facility. Children are welcome and there is a special children’s programme.
Bayethe Lodge is a luxury tented lodge in the south-east corner of the reserve. Although the location means driving further for game drives, there is a more ‘in-the-bush’ feel than the other lodges. There are nine luxury tents with their own decks with plunge pool, and three premier tents with their own fireplace, satellite television and hammocks.
Lobengula Lodge and Eagle’s Crag offer a luxurious and exclusive experience. The ethnically decorated Lobengula has just five luxury rooms and a chief’s suite with fireplace and private pool, while Eagles Crag has nine superior rooms with private plunge pools on the deck and an indoor and outdoor shower. It also has a spa. Neither lodge accepts children under 16.
Bushmans River Lodge is a restored Victoria homestead with four bedrooms, which can be booked for exclusive use by a family or group of friends.
Shamwari will soon open a new exclusive use property, Sarili, an environmentally friendly African thatch designed villa with four suites sleeping a maximum of eight guests. It will have a child friendly swimming pool, dining and lounge areas and children’s den, courtyard barbeque area, special children’s menu and dedicated child minders, making it ideal for special family gatherings.
Addo Elephant National Park is just an hour from Port Elizabeth and has the densest population of elephant in the world. For those who love elephants, this is the place to come. It is an amazing conservation success story. When the national park was proclaimed in 1931, it offered sanctuary to just 11 elephants that had survived the years of hunting, poaching for ivory and extermination by citrus farmers. Today there are more than 450 elephants thriving in the park. The park is also home to the rest of the Big Five – black rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard – as well as other wildlife including red hartebeest, warthog, hyena, zebra, ostrich and the flightless dung beetle. Activities include guided game drives, guided walks and horseback safaris.
River Bend Country Lodge
Situated within a 14,000 hectare private concession area of Addo National Park, River Bend Country Lodge is a lovely country house-style retreat with eight luxury suites, some with private outdoor showers, and the Honeymoon Suite with its own plunge pool. They all have en-suite bathrooms and a terrace with open views across the concession. The atmosphere is that of a luxury country home, and being on a private concession, you don’t have to share your game viewing with lots of other vehicles. The lodge has another private area beyond the concession where they have introduced a number of other species, including giraffe, which you will also be able to visit. The food is their real pride and joy, and the chef takes obvious pleasure in his work. There is a menu from 8am to 2pm so you can choose breakfast, brunch, lunch (or all three!) and dinner is a gourmet multi-course meal. There are lovely areas inside the main house and out in the garden to sit and relax, and you can indulge in a massage or other beauty treatment after a hard day of game driving. The guiding is great and the personal touches here are endless.
Gorah Elephant Safari Lodge
Gorah is an exclusive safari lodge in a private concession in the heart of Addo Elephant National Park. The main house, built in 1856, has been immaculately restored, period furnished and decorated to exude the opulence and romance of safari in the late 1800s. From the lazy, colonial verandas spilling out over the African plains, to the 11 beautifully appointed, luxury tented suites, the emphasis is on personalised, warm, unobtrusive service and meticulous attention to detail. There is also a lovely swimming pool.
The Elephant House
The Elephant House is an exclusive owner-managed thatched lodge set in the Sundays River Valley, only minutes away from the Addo Elephant National Park. Surrounded by rolling lawns, it is a luxurious retreat to come back to after a day in the African bush. The nine spacious bedrooms are beautifully decorated, opening out onto courtyards and private verandas, and there’s a stable cottage for families (children are made very welcome). There is a swimming pool and a number of cool verandas to relax on after a day game viewing in either Addo or one of the nearby Big Five reserves. The day ends with a sumptuous candle-lit dinner. The lodge can arrange game drives with their own guides or you can explore yourselves.