During the process of planning my trip to Cape Town, I knew I wanted to try and find a way to go on safari but didn’t necessarily have the time or budget to fly across country to Kruger National Park, which is probably the most popular spot in South Africa. Instead, I researched private game reserves within driving distance from Cape Town and came across Gondwana Game Reserve, a stunning safari resort only four hours away from the city and conveniently situated along the popular Garden Route. When it comes to planning a safari near Cape Town, Gondwana is an incredible choice that not only offers an authentic African safari experience, but allows travelers to Cape Town the chance to tick off this bucket list adventure in a long weekend.
During our visit to Gondwana Game Reserve, we got the chance to witness incredible animals like lions, giraffes and elephants in their natural habitat. Gondwana is the only free roaming Big 5 private wildlife reserve in the Southern Cape, so you’re not limited in the incredible wildlife you can see here. I especially love that Gondwana is extremely focused on conservation and treating the animals as they are meant to be in the wild, which means that nothing is manufactured — you won’t find any feeding or animal abuse happening here.
The Gondwana Conservation Foundation is a non-profit created by the reserve which is focused on the protection of threatened and endangered wildlife and flora and fauna in the region. Some of their programs include anti-poaching efforts, re-wilding programs for certain animals that have been born in captivity and job creation for local communities. Gondwana is truly a place that you can enjoy as a guest knowing you are supporting positive programs for this area in South Africa.
HOW TO GET TO GONDWANA GAME RESERVE
Gondwana is located northwest of Mossel Bay about four and a half hours driving distance from Cape Town. The easiest way to get there is by renting a car in Cape Town and driving straight there along the N2, however the Garden Route along the coast is the more scenic drive.
To take the Garden Route (with no stops) takes about six hours and will have you driving along stunning coastline for miles towards the most southern point of South Africa. I would recommend sticking to the coastal drive through Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond and Hermanus before you turn inland to finish the route to Gondwana. Or you can make an even bigger trip out of it and do the entire Garden Route itinerary and spend up to two weeks stopping and exploring along the way.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT GONDWANA GAME RESERVE
Gondwana is situated on a stunning 27,000 acre private game reserve, meaning the only people who are able to come onto the land and enjoy the landscape and animals that roam here are residents on the reserve and guests of the hotel.
Most guests at the hotel stay in the Kwena Lodges, which are dome-shaped luxury huts all situated in an arc around the main reception and infinity pool that look out over the reserve’s vast landscape. However, Gondwana also offers larger group lodging at their Bush and Fynbos Villas and the immaculately designed Ulubisi House.
The accommodation (minus Ulubisi House) isn’t fenced off from the rest of the reserve, so animals can walk freely about, which is why guests are always escorted after dark hours by a member of Gondwana’s staff. During our stay, we witnessed baboons hanging around the hotel property, but it’s not uncommon for elephants and lions to pass through as well.
Throughout a stay at Gondwana, guests may do up to two game drives per day, relax in the spa or at the stunning infinity pool or spend downtime in the spacious rooms that all feature beautiful views. Activities like hiking, cycling, and birding are all on offer at the property as well, or guests can take day trips into nearby Mossel Bay (although in my opinion, Gondwana is one of those hotels you really don’t need to leave once you’re there).
THE SAFARI EXPERIENCE
Twice a day — at sunrise and late afternoon — guests are treated to game drives (included in your stay) led by an experienced guide who each take a small group of guests out on the reserve in search of wildlife. I was blown away by the knowledge of the staff — we literally pummeled our guide with questions and she knew the answer to everything about these animals!
What is especially advantageous about doing a safari at Gondwana rather than a public National Park (like Kruger) is that instead of sticking to the main roads on a self-drive safari, guides are able to off-road to harder to reach spots — plus they know where to find all the most incredible animals! The staff was extremely accommodating in helping guests spot as many animals as possible during their stay and I never felt rushed on a game drive during our two night visit.
I stayed in the Kwena Lodges (pictured above) during my visit to Gondwana, and I loved these modern takes on the traditional Khoi-San dwellings which seamlessly integrated into the vast landscape. Our lodge was the perfect size for two people and very private from the other guests, featuring two twin beds (king beds are also available), a fireplace, skylight for stargazing, large open plan bathroom with a double vanity, rain shower and a soaking tub.
We also had the chance to tour the Ulubisi House (pictured above) and the Bush and Fynbos Villas during our stay. I would highly recommend looking at these options if you’re traveling with a larger group. The Ulubisi House is truly the cream of the crop of stunning safari accommodation and can house up to eight people with luxurious amenities like a private chef, laundry and butler service — not to mention stunning design from every angle.
- Three nights is the perfect amount of time to stay at Gondwana and be able to experience everything that the reserve has to offer
- Make sure to inquire about their Cheetah Experience which is held in a separate area from the normal game drives
- Pack layers as the temperature can get quite chilly in the early morning and on evening game drives
- Photographers will ideally want to pack a zoom lens for the best shots of wildlife
- Bring a dry bag for camera gear in case it starts raining during a drive
Live Like It’s the Weekend was graciously invited as a guest of Gondwana Game Reserve, but as always, all my opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I don’t freaking love.