Familiarisation Trip to Eastern Cape Game Reserves

The main objective of the trip was to acquaint ourselves more thoroughly with some of the game reserves in the Eastern Cape which are popular as a short safari destination at the beginning or end of a self-drive trip through the Garden Route. Also to ascertain whether these Reserves are suitable as a stand-alone safari destination.

Addo Elephant Park

The park itself consists of the public park and some large private concession areas which have been incorporated into the park and are subject to park rules, they are not necessarily fully integrated into the park and may be protected by fences so the animals cannot migrate between different parts of the park. We stayed in the Nyathi concession which was formerly a private reserve but which is now incorporated into the national park, but which is still fenced off from the main reserve. There is currently just the one smallish lodge in this section of the reserve.

The park has plenty of plains game and is very scenic in parts, unfortunately a main road runs along much of the length of the park and it is also somewhat disfigured by the pylons and cables that cross the property particularly in the area close to the only lodge in the park.

National park rules dictate that only animals which are known to have lived in the region are allowed to live in the park which does limit the wildlife viewing on offer.

We stayed at the very nice five star, Riverbend Lodge, where there is quite good game viewing from the rooms and public areas of the lodge. The lodge prides itself on its fine dining experience and this is one of its principal selling points. Both the lodge staff and the guides were extremely friendly and helpful.

The highlights are exclusive game viewing as there are presently no other operational lodges in the Nyathi section of the reserve so you do not see other vehicles on the game drives.

Outstanding elephant viewing with very relaxed jumbos which are curious and happy to come right up to the vehicles, also a good place to see black rhino. Many popular African animals are not present so will not probably suit first timers if using on its own.

Shamwari Game Reserve

This reserve is internationally renowned for its conservation work and has been one of the leading reserves in the Eastern Cape for many years and is famous for its contribution toward conservation of endangered species. The reserve is large but also has a high density of lodges as well as other buildings on the property and has a very definitely commercial feel to it.

We stayed at Long Lee Manor which was a little stuffy for my personal taste and was more like a country house hotel located in a game reserve and we felt acyclovir cream buy online uk insulated from the wild Africa we like to enjoy. That said, we had a huge room, although it lacked the spectacular view of the plains that could be seen from the public areas. The food was excellent and the guiding was also of a good standard our guide joined us for dinner on one occasion.

The beauty of having a number of lodges in the reserve is that there is one to suit most types of guest, we got to inspect some of the others of which my personal favourites were Bayethe Tented Lodge and Eagles Crag. All the lodges are rated 5 star and prices do not vary greatly, the game viewing and guiding should be similar at any of them.

All of southern Africa’s major wildlife species can be easily seen on the reserve including many that would never have occurred naturally in the region but which seem to flourish here. First time safari guests are unlikely to be disappointed with the game viewing as the “Big Five” including both species of rhino plus cheetah are relatively easy to see. Guests who have travelled to other more remote safari areas in Africa may find that the necessity to heavily manage the game viewing and the ease with which the wildlife is located makes the whole experience rather too commercial.

We have spoken to many Safari Club guests who have visited the lodge as well as a number of guests who were visiting at the same time as ourselves and all, without exception, thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Kwandwe Game Reserve

This reserve is owned by a private individual and has only two smallish 5 star lodges and two exclusive use villas on the property, hence it feels less commercial than some of the other reserves in the Eastern Cape. The variety of wildlife and numbers appear to be similar to Shamwari in a similar sized area but the lower numbers of visitors make it seem like a much more exclusive experience and few other vehicles are seen on drives. Of the reserves we visited this was my preferred option as it felt more like a traditional safari with a tracker sitting on the front of the vehicle and the more exciting sightings located through the skill of the guide and tracker rather than relying on the radio to chase sightings.

The safaris here started a bit earlier in the mornings and the afternoon safaris finished with spot lit game drives. The lodges here offer some interesting additional activities including fishing, big game walks and rhino tracking on foot at extra cost.

Very good game viewing with excellent lion sightings and both black and white rhino, this was the only reserve where we saw a leopard which our guide found by careful tracking.

Visit November 2014

POSTED BY: on 01/03/2016

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