Having only been able to leave Cape Town after Friday afternoon traffic, me and my boyfriend were pretty fed up when we finally arrived at Gondwana Private Game Reserve, just before Mosselbay, at around 11pm in the evening. We underestimated the distance and we were running shockingly low on petrol, it was dark and we were just plain moody. But as we drove up, there was a friendly face waiting at the entrance to drive with us to the Kwena Lodge where we stayed, there were helpful hands taking our bags and disappearing to park the car, there was only one paper to sign and then there was a warm hut with a cheese platter and sherry, two neatly laid out bathrobes and a very comfortable bed welcoming us. And just like that, my world had taken a 180 degree turn. As I drifted off with the smell of the thatched roof and only the sound of frogs noising about somewhere outside, I couldn’t wait for the 5am wake-up call.
A quick cup of coffee and a few pink and yellow clouds saw us off on our first morning game drive with Delicious – the best guide you could ever ask for. As we chose the only cold weekend in November to visit, we were wrapped in blankets and wooly ponchos as we set off to explore. For the first time I was able to see what surrounded me. The morning light played along to make this shockingly beautiful discovery that much more incredible. Everything around us was green and dotted with dainty fynbos flowers and as we drove, we were staring down into these deep, rugged valleys and traversing overgrown cliffs of vegetation. We knew that Mosselbay and Mossdustria were close, but we were lost in a magical place where you’re on a grassy cliff the one moment and the next you’re cruising through open savanna or dense woodlands.
This 11 000 hectare reserve is the only fynbos reserve in the world that’s home to free roaming Big Five and I’m relieved to say that they haven’t yet fallen victim to rhino poaching. As we stopped that morning for a cup of flask-coffee and muffins we watched how a white rhino woke up and wandered around a little and it made me that much more frustrated that an animal so perfect can become so easily objectified and associated with nothing more than money. It was so peaceful, stretching its stumpy legs and enjoying a good old morning graze.
Something else that Gondwana can be pretty proud of is that their lions recently gave birth to what are believed to be the first wild cubs born in the Southern Cape in 150 years. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them, but we did catch the parents one late afternoon as they got ready for a bit of snooze in the long grass.
Having been so inspired with our surroundings and having seen four of the Big Five (the leopards staying true to their illusive nature) as well as a range of plains game, giraffe and two happy hippos, we felt completely content doing nothing else but laze around the rest of the time. Gondwana is well aware of this typical sentiment and they cater for it perfectly. Since it was raining or chilly most of the time, we couldn’t take advantage of the magnificent swimming pool and we didn’t feel like having a spa treatment – even though the spa is part of the camp. But with the fireplace inside our hut doing its thing and all the curtains pulled open to our uninterrupted view, reading, drinking wine and taking naps sufficed. Actually, few other things could’ve made me happier on that specific Saturday.
And then there was the food. I’d heard from the folks at work that a lot of your time on safari revolved around eating. And were they right! After 5am biscuits and mid-game drive muffins, we returned in the mornings to a full breakfast spread of fruit, yoghurt, warm fresh pastries, cereal, plunger coffee and all the usual hot breakfasts made to order.
Lunch time we were promised a platter. But not even a platter is a normal platter at Gondwana. It was more like a large plank filled with salads, skewers, wedges and nugget-type deliciousness. Next up was high tea, living up to its standards of delicacies and sweet treats. And then the grand finale – a four course buffet dinner that shows off South African cuisine brilliantly. Think steak, lamb, potato salad, seafood potjie, garlic bread, soup, malva pudding and cheese selections – just fancier.
When Sunday came and we had to drive all the way back, it felt like we’d had a weeks worth of holiday. The Gondwana petrol fairies put petrol in the car and replaced the empty coffee cups and wrappers with cookies and water bottles. And even considering that we only spent about 30 hours in paradise, it was definitely worth the drive. I’ll recommend this sweet discovery to anyone living in the Western Cape that’s keen for a weekend safari. But if you can, stay for a week. That’s what I wished I could do.
*Photos courtesy of Johan Strydom
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