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Game Lodges of the


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									Lodge Reviews

      Game Lodges of the

                                                                                                                            Deck at the Water Lodge

    South Africa’s Eastern Cape as a game viewing destination may not be as well known as the Sabi Sands,
    but it has something well worth exploring. In the style of Shamwari - now more than 15 years old - recently
    established reserves such as Amakhala Game Reserve, Pumba Game Reserve - and several others in
    addition to Addo Elephant National Park - have resulted in an expanding choice of lodging products. And
    it is one of the more accessible - just a quick flight from Johannesburg or Cape Town and then a 90km drive
    from Port Elizabeth - with the added benefit of being malaria free. The region has unique topography and
    there are seven different biomes, resulting in a bundle of different birds. And it is here that you can add
    marine life to your game viewing experience, with whales (June to September) and dolphins. For one used
    to viewing game in the more traditional areas it takes a bit of getting used to, but the rewards are there...

    Pumba Game Reserve –                                                           Pumba Water Lodge has a large central area and its 12 suites
    Water Lodge & Msenge Bush Lodge                                             overlook Lake Cariega. The suites are magnificent with many special
    Reviewed by Derryn Lendrum                                                  touches, from their beautiful pot fireplaces to their plunge pools. The
    Pumba Private Game reserve is about 25km from Grahamstown and               public areas include a bar with views over the reserve, an outside deck
    105km from Port Elizabeth. The reserve is just under 7000 hectares          for dining and relaxing and a swimming pool. All the usual activities
    and hosts the big five. The game viewing is good – during our two           are available here, - plus their latest addition of archery - but you can
    drives we saw lion, white lions, elephant, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, and     also enjoy fishing, picnicking and walking in an area which does not
    plenty of plains game. One of Pumba’s attractions is their white            have dangerous game,
    lions, and to see these lions free roaming is extraordinary. Pumba             Msenge Bush Lodge has glass-enclosed suites each nestled in
    is also home to five of South Africa’s seven biomes including fynbos,       the bush. Each suite has a private plunge pool and there is also a
    savannah, grassland, forest and subtropical thicket. With a bird list of    swimming pool overlooking the waterhole and floodplains. The
    317 species, the reserve has a lot to offer birders. The scenery on the     elephant pop in from time to time for a drink from the pool! The
    reserve is stunning and varied with beautiful bush scenes.                  main lodge area has a couple of comfortable lounges, a dining room
       I was struck by the passion all the staff felt for their jobs from the   with a view to behold, and a boma for the all-important evening
    general manager to the rangers and restaurant staff. Their dedication       fireside chats. Pumba’s spa and gym are located at Msenge Bush
    and enthusiasm is obvious and it fills the lodge with energy. A lot of      Lodge for the use of all guests.
    thought has been put into the details.                                      W:

  22 | Sept / Oct / Nov 2009                                                                                                                 Africainbound
Hlosi Game Lodge and Bukhela Game Lodge
Reviewed by Derryn Lendrum
Only 80 km from Port Elizabeth, one of the 7000 ha Amakhala Game Reserve’s
attractions has got to be its accessibility It is either a first-class addition to a Garden
Route itinerary or a game viewing breakaway within easy reach of Johannesburg or
Cape Town. Game is plentiful and we had a great sighting of a rather cheeky black
rhino (living up to its reputation) and also of the relaxed elephant herd including
their two brand-new babies. The magnificent lion are in a separate portion of the
reserve. The rangers are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and go out of their way to
ensure their guests have a great game viewing experience, and I learnt some new facts.
A lovely alternative to game drives is to take a sundowner cruise on the Bushman’s
River – a gentle end to a busy day’s relaxing.
   Hlosi Game Lodge sleeps a maximum of 12 guests and has two recently added
family suites. Children are well catered for here, from the games room to a children’s
menu and special activities. The lodge is colonial and is influenced by the rich 1820
settler history. The main lodge comprises the dining room, lounge and bar areas
separated by double-sided fire places – a blessing in winter. The veranda and deck
overlook the boma and onto the open plains. Game regularly wanders through the
unfenced lodge area, often coming to drink at the swimming pool. They’ve had buffalo
in the pool before!
   Bukhela Game Lodge is an intimate, four-suite lodge secluded in a hilly area of
the reserve. If you want a private breakaway it does not get much better than this.
The suites are individually styled and all have spa baths, indoor and outdoor showers,
fireplaces and private decks. They are linked to the main lodge by wooden walkways.
I enjoyed high tea at Bukhela – just a sampler of their excellent cuisine.
W:                                                                                                Luxurious bedrooms at Hlosi Game Lodge

  Lalibela Game Reserve                                                              and Lalibela’s own pride of lion. Keep your eyes peeled for cheetah, leopard,
  Reviewed by Graham Howe                                                            hyena, hippo, giraffe, zebra, warthog - as well as eland, kudu, bushbuck and
  Conveniently located between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth, Lalibela              wildebeest. On thrilling night drives, fortunate guests might spot the elusive
  Game Reserve offers an authentic safari experience in malaria-free Eastern         bat-eared fox, aardvark, aardwolf and jackal.
  Cape. Home to the big five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard),             Lalibela has three lodges built to the same luxury standard - Lentaba
  all of the animals, including predators, are free-roaming throughout the           Lodge, Mark’s Camp and Tree Tops - with stylish decor and warm hospitality.
  7500 hectare reserve. Spanning five ecosystems - valley bushveld, savannah         The secluded thatched chalets with private decks merge invisibly into the
  grassland, fynbos, riverine forest and acacia woodland - Lalibela supports a       indigenous bush. The lodges also have a large lounge, dining-room, viewing
  breathtaking diversity of flora and fauna.                                         deck, pool and outdoor boma for fireside dinners and open-air brunches.
     Safari packages are inclusive of full board, drinks, and two daily game         A charming blend of the formal and informal, Lalibela specialises in safari
  drives. On morning and sunset drives in an open vehicle with experienced           cuisine with local specialties and produce.
  game rangers, guests are guaranteed sightings of elephant, rhino, buffalo,         W:

                                                                                              Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve
                                                                                              Reviewed by Derryn Lendrum
                                                                                              Described as a piece of heaven on earth, this reserve offers the perfect
                                                                                              ending to a photographic safari and equally is a destination in its
                                                                                              own right. It is spectacular! Situated just outside of Port Alfred, the
                                                                                              property is unique in that it is built on the top of a ridge overlooking
                                                                                              beautiful coastal forest, dunes and beach. It has plenty of game from
                                                                                              white rhinos to giraffe, sable and nyala. Here you can go on games
                                                                                              drives at your leisure or you can even embark on an ocean safari
                                                                                              looking for whales and dolphins. The ocean activities are organised
                                                                                              through an operator in Port Alfred. Alternatively you can go down
                                                                                              to the beach where you are able to walk for miles on unspoilt beaches.
                                                                                              In addition there is a beautiful private spa where you can enjoy being
                                                                                              pampered. In fact, the whole resort is about being pampered. Formal
                                                                                              dining is offered in the ‘Great Room’ - the cuisine is delightful.
                                                                                                 I had the pleasure of staying in one of the Ocean Suites and what a
                                                                                              treat that is. The suites have two bathrooms - one with a spa bath and
                                                                                              one with a shower - ensuring uninterrupted ocean views from both.
                                                                                              Children can be accommodated on sleeper couches and are welcome
                                                                                              at Oceana. The main building has three Lodge Rooms, each with
                                                                                              huge balconies and sea views, and then there is the three-bedroomed
                                                                                              Private Ocean House complete with a personal chef. The decor has
                                                                                              an African influence and you will find yourself surrounded by many
                                                                                              beautiful artworks.
                                                                                                 The staff go out of their way to accommodate the needs of their
                                                                                              guests and you will not find a schedule here. Activities happen when
                                                                                              and where it suits you. More than the beauty of its surroundings and
                                                                                              the luxury and style of the lodge, at Oceana you will find a unique
                                                                                              sense of peace and tranquillity. I have no doubt this is a place you
                                                                                              will want to return to again and again.
                                           Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve
                                                                                              W: or
   Africainbound                                                                                                                           Sept / Oct / Nov 2009 | 23
Lodge Reviews

                                                                                                                     The spa at Baye Tented Lodge

     Shamwari Game Reserve                                                      sightings are made. A superb wine list showcases fine vintage South
    Reviewed by Graham Howe                                                     African wines, imported champagne and French wines - with Cuban
    Steeped in 1820 settler history, Shamwari is one of the biggest             cigars from the humidor.
    private conservation initiatives in South Africa. This 25 000 hectare          Bayethe is a luxury tented camp - an exclusive enclave within Shamwari.
    conservancy is set in verdant bush in the Eastern Cape. An hour’s drive     This is a bush safari with all mod cons. Nine luxury tents are shaded
    from Port Elizabeth, Shamwari is easily accessible to visitors on the       under trees with ample privacy and unsurpassed comforts. Each tent is
    garden route.                                                               air-conditioned and heated with an en suite bathroom, shower, private
       A personal game ranger designs daily itineraries for each party, and     plunge pool and viewing deck. The three premier tents at Bayethe Hills
    takes guests on morning and afternoon game drives. Guests report            are the ultimate in luxury - with fireplace, satellite TV and hammocks.
    frequent sightings from a checklist of rare birds as well as the free-      Now that’s where we would like to stay when we return!
    roaming big five (including black and white rhino), hippo, and more
    than eighteen antelope species. After spending two decades reviewing
    safari lodges, I found the rangers at Shamwari are particularly             Long Lee Manor
    knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and culture of the Eastern Cape,       It was so quiet we could hear white rhinos snore in the long grass, their
    a crucible of South African history. as ballerinas, heading for the sweet   tiny ears twitching like antennae, picking up the familiar throb of our
    grass in the cool of the night. “Blimey, we’re doing the full monty         Land Rover on a night drive. Next we came across four hippos leaving
    tonight,” whispered an enthralled British tourist.                          the river near Rautenbach’s Drift, tip-toeing as delicately as ballerinas,
                                                                                heading for the sweet grass in the cool of the night. “Blimey, we’re
    Bayethe Tented Lodge                                                        doing the full monty tonight,” whispered an enthralled British tourist.
    Imagine buffalo at full moon, browsing on the plains, scratching their         Over a potjie supper around the river boma at Long Lee Manor, we
    hides on the rough bark of the aloes of the Eastern Cape - we could         listened to the cries of nocturnal animals while a ranger amused guests
    hear and smell the nocturnal herd from a long way off. We watched           by imitating their calls. Built in 1910, Long Lee Manor recreates a
    a breeding herd of fifteen elephant cows and five calves head for the       gracious era of Edwardian elegance. Ideal for larger touring groups or
    Bushmans River. A tiny ellie pinned back its ears and trumpeted in a        private parties, Long Lee Manor accommodates 38 guests in 15 elegant
    scene straight out of The Jungle Book.                                      en suite rooms and three luxury suites. After working up an appetite
       Blink your eyes and you could be in Serengeti. Over a traditional        on game drives and walking trails in the huge reserve, we enjoyed
    African dinner under the stars around the fireside back at Bayethe          sumptuous meals - with a choice of alternating between the dining
    Lodge, tourists from all over the world exchange notes on the day’s         room, around the open blazing fire at the barn, and outdoors in the
    game drives. Bayethe has an exclusive thatch and stone lodge with a         river boma on a warm summer’s night.
    large deck area overlooking a waterhole where some of the day’s best        W:

  24 | Sept / Oct / Nov 2009                                                                                                                 Africainbound
Camp Figtree
Reviewed by Graham Howe
Camp Figtree is an eco-lodge perched on
a spectacular ridge in the Zuurberg, nestled
between Addo Elephant National Park and
neighbouring private wildlife conservancies.
Set in the midst of a deeply forested valley, we
found this sanctuary an ideal base from which
to explore Addo with a resident ranger who
takes guests on guided game-drives on an open
Land Rover. The lodge enjoys a well-deserved
reputation for its contemporary South African
cuisine served in fine dining style.
   Designed in the colonial pioneer style, the
suites clad with corrugated iron have private
verandas on stilts which afford panoramic
mountain-top views. Built around a gnarled
old fig tree, the main homestead with elegant
lounge and intimate dining room recreates                                                                                                     Sibella at Karoo Lodge
the authentic ambience of the early settler
days of the Eastern Cape. The owner, the           Samara Private Game Reserve
great-grandson of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick -          Reviewed by Graham Howe
author of Jock of the Bushveld - who settled       Scenically located on the slopes of the Sneeuberg escarpment near Graaff-Reinet, Samara is one of the
in the nearby Sundays River Valley, has            largest private game reserves in South Africa. Accessible by land and air (with a private airstrip), this vast,
decorated the lodge with family memorabilia.       28 000 hectare conservancy is home to a Noah’s Ark of wildlife including cheetah, white rhino, zebra,
(We also visited Sir Percy Fitzpatrick Library     giraffe, Cape buffalo, wildebeest, eland, kudu, gemsbok and many other species of antelope.
near Addo.)                                           The landscape of mountain, savannah and plains provides a spectacular backdrop for a range of guided
   Adventure activities at Camp Figtree            activities - including tracking cheetah on foot, game drives, fossil walks, eco-activities for children and
include forest walks and horse-riding in           birdwatching. On the famous plains of Camdeboo we spotted flamingos, kori bustards, black eagles,
the Zuurberg, horse-riding, birdwatching           sixty blue cranes, secretary birds, fiscal flycatchers, white storks and kingfishers among other sightings.
cruises on Bushman’s River and game drives            One of the highlights of Samara is the opportunity for a close encounter with cheetah. A sanctuary for
through the Schotia and Amakala private            the endangered cheetah, Samara is renowned for its success in breeding cheetah cubs in the wild. Sibella,
game reserves. Addo Elephant National Park         the matriarch of Samara, has produced 18 cheetahs with Mozart and Beethoven, the two resident male
(founded in 1931), one of the oldest reserves      cheetahs. On night drives, we spotted rare nocturnal animals like aardvarks (ant-bear), bat-eared foxes
in Africa, is the star attraction. Visitors        and genet.
can explore the home of the ‘big seven’ -             Samara is famous for its mouth-watering Karoo cuisine inspired by local ingredients and traditional
including whales and great white sharks in         recipes. Guests dine in the elegant dining-room or under the stars in the boma, picnic on the farm dam,
Addo’s coastal reserve - on self-drives through    and take genteel teas on the colonial veranda. Samara offers a range of luxurious accommodation in The
the 13 5000 hectare park.                          Karoo Lodge - a heritage homestead ‘out of Africa’ -the three Karoo suites, or in the new Karoo Manor
W:                             House, an all-inclusive enclave for private parties with own chef, dining-room and opulent suites.

                                                                                                                                                 Long Lee Boma

  Africainbound                                                                                                                         Sept / Oct / Nov 2009 | 25
    Eastern Cape Game

                  Beast and Birds Booming in the
           EASTERN CAPE
Dr John Ledger

                 A recent and unusual advertisement in the Sunday newspaper immediately caught my eye:
                 “Invitation for bids: Supply and delivery of live game to the Addo Elephant National Park.” The
                 animals required are 150 Eland, 120 Red Hartebeest, 50 Burchell’s Zebras and 50 Ostrich. The funds
                 to buy the animals come from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (an
                 arm of the World Bank). How marvellous!

                         his is all part of the investment to expand and develop             plants, of which the ‘Spekboom’ Portulacaria afra is remarkable.
                         the national park, to make it a true jewel of biodiversity             Described by a scientist as the ‘wonder plant of the Eastern Cape’,
                         conservation in South Africa, and a magnet for tourists from        Spekboom is the main reason why large African herbivores were
                 around the world.                                                           historically found here, far away from their more usual savannah
                    Not all that long ago people tried to kill all the remaining elephants   biomes to the north. This plant seems to thrive when it is being eaten
                 in the Eastern Cape. After many years of relentless hunting for             and stomped on by elephants and other large herbivores. It is rich
                 their ivory, which was exported to Europe from Port Elizabeth and           in minerals and nutrition, and is an integral part of this unique and
                 East London (to make billiard balls and piano keys) the last tuskless       fascinating part of the world.
                 survivors found themselves condemned to death by farmers for the               The thicket vegetation of the Eastern Cape was almost destroyed by
                 crime of eating their oranges. In 1931 the original enclosure to protect    goat farming – these voracious alien creatures feed on the plants in a
                 the remaining 11 elephants was constructed. Today there are over 450        totally unsustainable way and large areas were destroyed. The whole
                 in the National Park, and elephants have been successfully introduced       biome might well have been turned into a wasteland had this priceless
                 onto many private nature reserves as well.                                  heritage not been saved by wise landowners with rare foresight, who
                    The Eastern Cape offers the very special opportunity to see a wide       began the long and difficult process of rehabilitating the vegetation and
                 variety of African game species in a temperate, diverse and sometimes       reintroducing wild animals. Shamwari was the pioneer in this arduous
                 spectacular landscape, without the risk of malaria. This is the only        journey of hope, restoration and reconciliation of humankind with
                 place on the planet where a diversity and abundance of large mammals        nature. Many others have shared the dream and are now the custodians
                 co-exist at latitudes above 30 degrees. The unique subtropical thicket      of our natural heritage that future generations will surely appreciate
                 vegetation of the Eastern Cape comprises many different species of          and cherish.

                 26 | Sept / Oct / Nov 2009                                                                                                              Africainbound
   In 1931 the original enclosure to protect the
    remaining 11 elephants was constructed.
  Today there are over 450 in the National Park

   Today the Eastern Cape is one of the most important wildlife conservation areas
in southern Africa. Both South African National Parks and the private sector have
made huge contributions. There are plans to expand Addo from 164 000 to 360
000 hectares, and to proclaim a 120 000 hectare marine reserve that will include the
islands that host the world’s largest breeding population of Cape Gannets, and the
world’s second-largest breeding population of African Penguins. Addo intends to
offer visitors the Big Seven – the traditional Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard
and buffalo) plus the Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark!
   Visitors to the Eastern Cape can enjoy outstanding hospitality in numerous
luxury lodges as well as the Addo Elephant National Park. Game viewing of a wide
variety of herbivores and carnivores is excellent, and birdwatchers will delight in the
raptors and cranes, as well as the seabirds along the coast. As the damaged biomes
and ecosystems are painstakingly restored, so the number and variety of birds and
mammals increases.
   Tourism is the key to continuing this healing process, and to ensuring that goats
will never again be regarded as more valuable than elephants!

Dr John Ledger is a writer, teacher and consultant on the environment and energy.

 Africainbound                                                                            May / June / Nov 2009 | 27
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