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Gondwana Game Lodge – watch out for elephants :)

12 May 2021
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Several times I heard extremely positive opinions from various people about the lodge, located in the south of South Africa. They’ve said "You must visit Gondwana Game Lodge!", "It's a really amazing place!", "They're having an unforgettable safari!" Each time I thought to myself that I had to find out for myself if this place really has so much to offer.

The opportunity came very quickly. My friend visited me and she really wanted to experience a safari. Of course, I was in! Always, when it comes to African wildlife. :) Even though I could book a safari closer to Cape Town, we rented a car and moved further south of the African continent, towards Gondwana!

The lodge is situated less than 400 km from Cape Town. The shortest route will take about 4 hours by car. That's not bad, especially since South Africa's roads are in very good condition, comparing to Poland’s ones. When we were approaching the lodge and turning from the main road onto the non-asphalt off-road, my first thought was "damn our orange (that's how we called our brand new Toyota Yaris) won't survive this." She survived. However, the real danger was not the rocks on the road, but the elephant Elizabeth. I will come back to this "accident" later.😅

The location of Gondwana is amazing. It is 11 000 hectares of private reserve surrounded by the Langeberg and Outeniqua mountains. Moreover, the fynbos grows here. The "fine bush" is a plant formation, one of the most diverse in the world, even more than the tropical rainforests of South America! More about fynbos here. Wild animals living in the reserve, including the Big Five (lion, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo, leopard) have a really beautiful run here.

 

Passing two receptions, we immediately felt like on a mini safari. Our way was blocked by a herd of zebras! I’ve just read the book by David Safier, "Bad Karma" (I can recommend it!) and I thought that if, as in the book, it turned out that after death we are reborn as animals, I would not mind being such a zebra or a lion living here in the next incarnation. Maybe I will stick with a lioness. 😅

We checked into the Kwena Lodge. In this part of the reserve there is a reception, restaurant, bar, swimming pool, spa and fourteen luxurious cottages reminiscent of traditional huts of members of the Khoi-San tribe. Gondwana offers 3 or 4-bedroom villas for larger groups or families or the exclusive and spacious villa Ulubishi, which can accommodate 6 adults.

There are two options of meal plans while you book a cottage in Kwena Lodge or villa (more information at the end of the article). We chose the package with breakfast, dinner and morning and afternoon game drives.

 

The afternoon game drive began with an encounter with zebras, hippos and elephants. I will never forget tea and snacks at sunset, overlooking the majestic mountains that remember the Khoi Khoi tribes and the split of the Pangea supercontinent which was existing from about 510 to 180 million years ago. The name of southerly one was Gondwana. The name of the lodge is perfect because when we look at the mountains which are surrounding the lodge, we have a piece of history of our planet in front of our eyes! After such an amazing afternoon, we got up at 5 am the next day without any issues. We knew that more is coming up.

The ranger who accompanied us on the safari was very knowledgeable and answered every question. We learned how giraffes deal with the sharp spines of acacia, which is their main food, for example but I was most impressed by the vision of Eden to Addo. It is an organization that works to connect three great reserves in the south of South Africa: the Garden Route National Park, Addo and Baviaanskloof with natural corridors to enable, the migration of animals, among others. It is turning out that artificial division into parks causes the extinction of species, which is why it is so important to reverse this process. More information about this initiative here.

You can see the landscape of the lodge and our game drive experience in the video below:



 

Coming back to the elephant accident. When we were given the car back during checking-out, it turned out that it had dents in several places. According to the staff, while standing in the hotel parking, our car must have attracted the attention of one elephant living in the lodge. Apparently, it was not the first such accident. There are two explanations. The elephant Elza is a car fan or rather she is allergic to orange. We got a bit nervous, because in such cases the whole incident has to be reported to the police. Fortunately, the staff was very helpful. We drove to the nearest police station escorted by one of them. The closest one was in Mossel Bay. It wasn't a short visit, but it worked! After two hours, with a statement signed by a policeman and another experience on our account, we returned to Cape Town on the same day. If in the future you have any questions about car rental and how to solve this kind of situations with the insurance company, please contact me.😀

My adventure in Gondwana Game Lodge lasted 3 days and I can surely confirm that it is an amazing reserve. This lodge is not only a hotel, it is an experience. The experience of being close to nature, among wild animals, sometimes with a thrill when an elephant or a lion is taking a nap close to our cottage. If we add amazing landscapes and combine them with warm South African hospitality, it will turn out to be a perfect place. I recommend you visit it on your own!

 
Practical information:

  • I recommend splitting the route to Gondwana into two stages. The first 220 km (3-hours drive) to Cape Agulhas, (read more here) and another 270 km (3 hours) to Gondwana.
  • This is a malaria-free reserve.
  • The Spa - was under renovation during my stay. I checked the price list and the costs of treatments are really affordable!


The weather:

  • Garden Route - the evergreen part of South Africa, where Gondwana is located, has a Mediterranean climate. Summer lasts from October to March with daytime temperatures around 24-30 degrees. Sometimes above 30 degrees. Winters (May to August), with temperatures around 15-20 degrees during the day. Sometimes you can expect wind from the ocean. More information: here.


What to pack:

  • something warmer for a game drive, even if it’s summer. I recommend taking a sweatshirt or a light jacket and long pants and dress with layers. The morning game drive starts at 5:30 am in the summer and it is quite chilly. Blankets are available during the safari. Warmer clothes will also be useful if you want to relax by the fire after dinner. Clothes are best in natural colours- brown, beige, khaki.
  • sports shoes, generally covered and flip-flops. Rather don’t pack high heels.
  • bathing suit - obligatory in summer.
  • sunscreen, filter 50SPF - even in winter!


Prices in Kwena Lodge (packages, according to two people):

  • I - breakfast, afternoon tea, 3-course dinner + morning or afternoon game drive – price from USD580 per night
  • II - breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner + morning or afternoon game drive - price from USD660 per night
  • Additional charges for beverages during dinner.
  • Each package must also include a mandatory conservation fee" ZAR300 (around USD20) per person per stay (price from 2021). The fee is intended for the protection of fauna and flora in the reserve.

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