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South Africa Safari

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Eastern Cape, South Africa

Kwandwe Game Lodge on the banks of the Great Fish River, Eastern Cape, South Africa
      Return to Map of Eastern Cape Reserves          © CC Africa

View images of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve: Kwandwe Images

KWANDWE RATES: Kwandwe Rates

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, one of the continent's southernmost game reserves, is located in the beautiful and historically rich Eastern Cape along 30 kilometres of privately-owned Great Fish River frontage, surrounded by 21,000 hectares/45,000 acres of exclusive, malaria-free wilderness. This location is a natural conclusion to a journey along the world-famous Garden Route.

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is operated by CC Africa.

Kwandwe aptly means “Place of the Blue Crane” in Xhosa (South Africa’s highly endangered national bird) and is home to a population of these rare birds. It offers an exceptional safari experience in a region steeped in history and culture. The Great Fish River was a hotly contested border during the Frontier Wars of 1779 to 1878 between the Xhosa nation, Dutch farmers and the 1820 Settlers from England. Kwandwe’s reception building is a Frontier War-era fortified homestead, and the Reserve boasts its own intimate chapel.

The reserve is set on the edge of the former Karoo Basin where several of Africa's vegetation zones converge and biodiversity is therefore extremely rich. The Kwandwe landscape is dominated by valley bushveld on open plains and rolling hills, with succulent euphorbias, aloes and spekboom among the characteristic plants. Thousands of animals, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) have been reintroduced to roam the reserve, which is also a haven for endangered animals and birds and numerous programmes to support them have been introduced.

Accommodations            For images of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, click Kwandwe Images
Kwandwe offers three (soon to be four) distinct accommodations:
The exclusive Great Fish River Lodge, unique historic Uplands Homestead, Ecca Lodge and the newly constructed Melton Manor, are exceptional lodges, all offering world-class sophistication and style in the African bush.

Great Fish River Lodge            For images of Great Fish River Lodge, click Great Fish River Images
Set along the aloe-studded banks of the Great Fish River, nine luxurious suites feature bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, separate w.c, twin basins, personal bars, portable phone for room service and covered verandas. The décor is African-inspired, with earth-toned fabrics, indigenous timber and early settler antiques and artefacts. Each suite has a private river deck and plunge pools overlooking the Great Fish River.

The guest areas are spacious, with generous, wraparound viewing decks leading from the dining room, bar and sitting areas. The sitting, library and dining areas each have a fireplace. The wine cellar has a selection of premier South African wines catering for the connoisseur. Pan-African cuisine can be served on your private river deck, or enjoyed under a canopy of stars in the firelit boma. Alternatively, meals can be taken in the sociable ambience of our spacious dining area. A well-stocked Safari Shop offers clothing, books, gifts and African crafts.

The stylish and classic décor at Great Fish River Lodge has been modelled on the new Frontier Settler style, which integrates local African culture with colonial settler history. Thick, roughly-hewn yellowwood tables, chunky kists and woven basketry exquisitely blend with Persian rugs and plush chaise longues. The emphasis is on deep comfort and contemporary design elements. Subtle aloe green and slate grey hues are used throughout the lodges to complement and enhance the natural environment.

The main reception area is situated in a turreted, fortressed old farmhouse called Heatherton Towers, which is situated 40 minutes from the Lodge. Built as the home of Arthur Douglass, the world's first ostrich farmer, it has spacious rooms, a shady, deep verandah, yellowwood floors and high ceilings from which chandeliers hang imposingly. A welcoming fire blazes from the huge fireplace with massive stone chimney. The glass-fronted lounge and dining area follows the river's contours. It is surrounded by timber-decking which overhangs the cliff edge, offering spectacular views.

Uplands Homestead            For images of Uplands Homestead, click Uplands Homestead Images
Uplands Homestead offers an alternative experience at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve and is perfect for those for whom privacy is paramount. This lovingly restored 1905 farmhouse contains three air-conditioned, spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and private balconies. Two rooms have bathrooms with a ball and claw bath and one room has a bathroom with an oval stone bath.

Perfect for the sole use of a group or family, Uplands Homestead is situated half an hour from Heatherton Towers (Kwandwe’s reception building) and 45 minutes from Main Lodge. Children are welcome. Uplands can accommodate a maximum of six adults, one child and one infant (in cot).

Antiques and memorabilia reminiscent of an 1820's Settler home elegantly blend with comfortable, modern finishes. The sitting and dining areas feature high ceilings, wooden floors and beautiful fireplaces. The airy living and dining rooms each feature period fireplaces and have been restored to turn-of-the-century style. A deep and shady veranda leads out to the large swimming pool and gazebo.

Uplands has its own chef, who will create delicious, mouthwatering Pan-African meals and local specialities for you.  A private butler is also included to tend to all your needs. Guests also have exclusive use of 4x4 safari vehicle and a private game ranger.

Ecca Lodge            For images of Ecca Lodge, click Ecca Lodge Images
Set in spectacular African wilderness surrounds, this unique safari lodge boasts a revolutionary design – stone-and-mesh gabion walls, sliding glass, timber and gauze doors and corrugated iron roofing. Ecca Lodge is fun, flamboyant and fabulous, with a “funk-meets-futuristic-farmhouse” ambience. Nestled into a gently sloping, densely vegetated hillside, the Lodge is airy and open with barely a barrier between indoors and the African bushveld.

Six spacious suites feature bedrooms with en-suite bathroom, plate glass-enclosed indoor shower, outdoor shower, separate w.c, twin hand basin, large veranda and a private deck. There is a sitting area which can comfortably convert into accommodation for children 11 years and younger. Interior design reflects natural textures in hues of burnt aloe orange, rust and olive. Furnishings combine clean, contemporary sofas with venerable old collectables from the area.

Guest areas feature a spacious sitting room with fireplace, dining room and bar area and a deep veranda with expansive wooden viewing decks overlooking rolling spekboom valleys with a backdrop of the distant cliff-faces of ecca shale. There is an inviting swimming pool and an intimate study.

Delicious fresh farm cuisine is prepared in the modern, open-plan kitchen and an interpretive centre provides hours of entertainment for children of all ages.

Melton Manor            For images of Melton Manor, click Melton Manor Images
Melton Manor is a sole-use safari villa with four ensuite bedrooms. Combining the very best elements of Uplands Homestead and Ecca Lodge, this is a contemporary Frontier farmhouse with added warmth and humour. This spacious u-shaped lodge is characterised by high ceilings and deep, cool verandas, each overlooking the central courtyard and its large swimming pool. The bedrooms each have their own spacious bathroom and innovative “butler hatches” for discreet room service.

Set in a beautiful location overlooking the Fish river and afromontane forests, Melton Manor is the perfect escape for a family safari, accommodating 8 guests. The elegant and simple design incorporates earthy, organic finishes, deep, inviting sofas, gorgeous Nguni rugs, dramatic photography, and celebrates the style of early frontier days.

The four ensuite bedrooms feature innovative "butler hatches" for discreet room service and the interactive kitchen is a cozy place where guests can chat with Melton Manor's expert chef.

The gracious guest areas feature fireplaces for evenings spent relaxing with a glass of wine or reading a good novel. The interactive, contemporary farm-style kitchen is abuzz with chefs cooking up wholesome and always delicious farmhouse dishes with Eastern Cape flair.

Meals and Cuisine
The Kwandwe chefs feature Pan-African cuisine with an emphasis on Eastern Cape classics like Ostrich, Lamb and Venison specialties. Examples of favourite recipies are:
• Lightly curried West African corn and coriander soup served with Naan bread
• Spice rubbed chicken with grilled bananas and ginger chutney
Fire-roasted Karoo Lamb with caramelized onions and chilli served with sweet potatoes rubbed in cumin
• Homemade vanilla bean ice cream with macadamia nut praline and slow-roasted rum-soaked pineapple

Kwandwe caters for all specified diets. When making your booking, kindly request the specific diet you require. Should specific items need to be flown in, there will be an additional charge, which will be quoted separately.

Great Fish River Lodge: Children over 12 are welcome.
Uplands Homestead: All children are welcome.
Ecca Lodge: All children are welcome.

Children five years and younger cannot participate in the regular game drives unless the Uplands Homestead is reserved (all three rooms). Child-minders can be booked at an additional cost. Other activities for children include painting, fishing and children's Eco-Guides.

Morning, afternoon/evening and night game drives in open game viewing vehicles, guided river walking and hiking, bush sundowners and picnics on the reserve, fishing, rhino tracking, sleep outs, visits to hides, Battle Field and Historical Tours to Grahamstown and surroundings can be arranged. Other activities include Pioneer Cultural evenings and story telling, as well as bush breakfasts/dinners - weather permitting. Wild Coast viewing flights can also be arranged.

Game Drives: Twice-daily game drives in open 4x4 safari vehicles. Other activities are bush sundowners, dinners on the banks of the Great Fish River, picnics in the Reserve, guided river-walking/hiking and canoeing, fishing, rhino tracking, sleep-outs, visits to hides and Pioneer cultural storytelling evenings.

Interpretive Walks: Walking in Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is a unique way of experiencing the wild. Hiking along the river or in the valley is permitted only with a guide and is especially rewarding for those interested in birds, vegetation and folklore.

Adventures: Additional excursions are wide-ranging and can be adapted to special interests:
• These include a tour of rock paintings, stone tools and artefacts in the Valley of the Ancient Voices, or a trip to nearby Grahamstown to explore the museums and historical homes.

• For those with an interest in military history, the area surrounding Kwandwe was the battleground for ongoing Frontier Wars from 1779 to 1880 and is peppered with military graveyards, war memorabilia, forts, museums and military towns such as Fort Beaufort.

• Further tours explore the culture of the Xhosa people, their myths and legends and oral history, as well as their political development, dating from the mission schools of the 1820s. Scenic Wild Coast flights can also be arranged.

• You may track rhino and/or buffalo under the guidance of an experienced ranger.

• It is also possible to go on polo or golf tours in the vicinity of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve.

Kwandwe has a cozy library with first edition books on the region as well as other valuable books on South African history, fauna and flora.

Wildlife and Ecology
Landscape: The Kwandwe Private Game Reserve stretches along the lush banks of the Great Fish River. The main lodge and glass and thatch chalets have been built along a steep cliff edge overlooking the river. The landscape includes vast plains, deep valleys and gorges filled with spekboom, aloe and euphorbia and is characterised by undulating hills covered in sub-tropical thicket, also known as valley bushveld.

Game: The massive and ambitious wildlife reintroduction programme at Kwandwe is now virtually complete, with all of the large mammals historically known to occur here, once again roaming free. For the first time in over 100 years, Elephant, Lion, Cheetah, Buffalo and Black Rhino wander free in this reborn wilderness. Giraffe, Zebra, Greater Kudu and several other antelope are resident and regularly seen. Of particular interest are the many unusual nocturnal mammals which are regularly encountered on night drives; these include the comical Aardvark, termite-eating Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox and Springhare. This is also the home of the sociable and entertaining Suricates (or Meerkats) which live in close-knit family groups.

Birds: Kwandwe supports a great diversity of birds with over 200 recorded species. Several of South Africa's rare and endemic birds occur here. Kwandwe means "Place of the Blue Crane" in the local Xhosa language and these graceful and sadly threatened birds are seasonal breeding visitors.

Resident species in the bush clumps and thickets include Bokmakierie, Karoo Robin, Acacia Pied Barbet and Chin-spot Batis. When the abundant aloes are in flower between July and September, hundreds of nectar-feeding sunbirds, the Greater Double-collared and Malachite dominating, visit the spectacular blooms. Ground-dwelling birds are well-represented, with Kori and Stanley's Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, Helmeted Guineafowl and Spotted Dikkop all regularly encountered. In well-wooded areas, the Black-headed Oriole, Knysna Woodpecker and Narina Trogon may be encountered. Birds of prey flourish with Jackal Buzzard, Rock Kestrel, African Fish Eagle, Black Eagle and Secretarybird among those most frequently seen.

Insects: Interesting insects abound, with colourful grasshoppers particularly abundant during the warmer months. Nectar-feeding bees and wasps are prolific when aloes and euphorbias are flowering. Butterflies include the African Monarch, Citrus Swallowtail and African Migrant.

Reptiles: A variety of small lizards and four species of tortoise are present in rocky areas and bush clumps. Several species of snakes (most are harmless) occur but they are rarely encountered. The large Nile monitor is regularly seen sunning itself on the banks of the Great Fish River, but will quickly dive for cover when approached too closely. At night, look out for nocturnal geckos hunting around lights.

Fish: The Great Fish River is home to Banded Tilapia and Chubbyhead Barb, as well as the predatory Sharp-toothed Catfish which has invaded the system from the Orange River. Frogs are more readily heard than seen, but Common River Frog, Raucous Toad, rattling Frog and Plaintive Rainfrog are among the 17 species thought to occur in dams, rain pools and the river itself.

Flora: A great variety of plants occur, with numerous succulents being among the most interesting. Flowering aloes are at their spectacular best during the dry winter months. Common trees include the Karoo Boerbean, Sweet Thorn, Jacketplum and Karoo Shepherd's Tree. A stroll around the lodge surrounding will reveal a host of fascinating miniature plants, and several species of lichen.

Habitats: Four distinct habitats (based on dominant vegetation and topography) can be recognised. Bushclump Savanna Thicket, Tall Succulent Thicket, Grassy Dwarf Shrubland and Riverine Thicket each support characteristic animals and plants.

Conservation: At Kwandwe, CC Africa has followed their conservation model of restoring barren farmland to its former pristine wilderness state. Over 2,000 kilometres of fencing was removed, along with windmills, metal pipe-lines, drinking troughs and other signs of organised agriculture. Rehabilitating the land from damage caused by extensive sheep, goat and cattle grazing was a project that was started several years ago and is expected to continue for quite some time.

Up until the mid-1800s, the Fish River valley was full of large numbers of game, which included herds of elephants and animals like the now extinct Cape Lion. Before opening for guests in October 2001, 7,000 animals were re-introduced to the reserve.

Kwandwe currently supports the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Eastern Cape Crane Project which monitors both Blue and Grey Crowned Cranes in the province.

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For tourist information and activities in the Eastern Cape, click More Eastern Cape
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