When visiting South Africa for the first time, I knew I had to find a way of fitting a safari in to our trip. Kruger is somewhere I’ve always dreamed of visiting, and will one day, but for my first trip to SA I wanted to see as much as possible and I think I could spend a week in Kruger alone! When looking for game reserves around Cape Town and the Garden Route, Gondwana stood out for us because of it being a free roaming Big 5 safari park.
An African Safari has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time and this year I finally ticked it off! It was even more incredible than I could have hoped and that’s all down to the amazing team at Gondwana. From the moment we turned off of the main road, we knew we were in for a great few days. The schedule we had received during the booking process (which was helpful and friendly) was as follows:
- Lunch 13:00 – 14:30
- Check in to room 14:00
- Afternoon Tea 15:30
- Afternoon game drive 16:00
- Dinner from 19:00
- Morning game drive 06:30
- Breakfast from 08:30
- Departure 10:00
We made sure to arrive in time for lunch to make the most of our 2 days at Gondwana and we were greeted with a hot chocolate by the reception team. Reception, bar and restaurant are located around the pool in a beautiful location. Both days we were there the lunch menu stayed the same, but the dinner menu changed. I ordered a chicken salad on the first day and enjoyed it so much, I ordered it again the next. There was a variety of lighter and more filling lunch options. Dessert was also on offer, but I chose to give that a miss until dinner time.
After lunch it was time to check in to our accommodation. We were in the Fynbos Villas, which is a short drive from reception, but we were led there by a ranger who showed us around and discussed the facilities. The villa was huge for the 3 of us, but beautiful, with great views and there were animals relaxing right outside! We didn’t have long before we had to meet for the first game drive and we decided to use the pickup facility, so we could all enjoy some wine at dinner. We called reception and were collected by a ranger around 15.30, to take us to the bar for Afternoon Tea.
At this point we met our guide for the next 2 days and we turned out to be extremely lucky in this department. Not only did we love Kayla and think she was an amazing, friendly guide, but other guests also noticed how good she was. There was 10 of us (plus Kayla) and we were advised that this would be our group for all of our drives during our stay. It was pouring with rain, but Kayla pointed out that this actually gave us an advantage because it draws the animals out. The very first thing we managed to see was the lion cubs with the mothers, but not every group got a sighting. We then went on to see elephants, rhinos and lots of zebra, wildebeest, impala and more. It was raining quite a lot, so we called it a day and went back for dinner.
For dinner, there were a couple of options for starter, main course and dessert. Both evenings, the menu was quite similar, but the food was good – not spectacular, but enjoyable. There was also plenty of cheese and a soup to help yourself to, which was great. All meals were included in the price we paid and any wine and drinks we ordered were added to our bill, which we settled at the end of our stay. A lot of people went back to their rooms before dinner, but we decided to have it early, so we weren’t late back to our villa. We were dropped off by a ranger and arrived back to the rooms having been turned down; electric blankets were on (amazing!) and there was a sweet treat for us. We got bathed and showered before heading to bed for our early start.
We drove ourselves to reception for the morning drives and had tea/coffee with a small bite to eat before heading out around 6.30 for our drive. The first thing we did was go on the hunt for lions again because they tend to stay hidden during the day, so we drove to a spot where they had been sighted earlier. Kayla sat and gave us time to try and see or hear anything, and it was Katie who spotted them first, coming down a hill. Kayla quickly got us round, just in time to see the mother and father cross our path and head into the grass. Another lucky sighting and it was amazing to see Mufasa!
The morning continued with a tiny glimpse of a baby hippo and its Mum, both in the water. As well as sightings of a baby zebra, baboons, more rhino and others. We could have stopped for a hot drink, but all decided to continue on to see as much as possible. Then it was back to reception for some breakfast. Breakfast is served in the same spot as lunch and dinner and was my favourite meal of the day! There was a huge continental spread laid out and a menu of cooked items to choose from. I had plenty of helpings of the meat and cheese platter, as well as an omelette.
In between meals we stayed in our villa, relaxing, looking at the scenery and enjoying a glass of wine. If the weather was hot, then this would also be a good time to enjoy the beautiful pool. On that morning drive, Kayla had noticed ‘elephant evidence’ that indicated that the elephants were heading towards the pool and once we arrived for Afternoon Tea there was an elephant drinking from the pool!
On our 3rd drive we ventured into the valley to try and find some giraffes. We spotted more elephants on the way and managed to find a place to stop and enjoy a drink from the ‘bush bar’, whilst watching some giraffe (Katie was in her element). At this point Kayla also told us about a game called Bokdrol Spoek (spitting buck droppings). She suggested playing it with giraffe poop, but I was highly skeptical that putting animal poop in my mouth was a real game! However, Kayla advised their poop is just dried grass and after putting it in her mouth, I decided to join in. It was a really bizarre experience, but one that (almost) the whole group got involved in and was good fun! When we arrived back from our drive we joined other guests in the bar for hot chocolate, which I loved. There were so many little touches at Gondwana that added to our incredible experience.
For our final game drive the next morning, we went on the hunt for lions again, but we were unsuccessful. We did however spot buffalo and we saw the baby hippo out of the water, which even Kayla hadn’t seen before; we really were extremely lucky with our sightings! This morning we stopped for a hot drink and I had another delicious hot chocolate, whilst taking in the stunning views. We were also taken to the endangered zone to see the animals that are kept separate from the carnivores. Gondwana does a lot for conservation, which we could see straight away with the monitoring of the rhino around the reserve. Rhino only breed every 6 years, yet 1 is killed every 10-12 hours – heartbreaking. These little guys had watched their Mum’s brutal death by poachers and hadn’t left each other’s side since arriving at Gondwana; they were my favourite.
Words can’t ever describe what an unbelievable experience our time at Gondwana was, but a HUGE thanks goes to Kayla for her hard work and passion. The setting, animals and people are unfaultable, and I would highly recommend it for first time safari goers in South Africa. I already can’t wait for my next bush adventure!
MY BIG 5 MOMENTS
- Seeing 4/5 of the Big 5 in the wild (leopards are very elusive)
- Seeing the lion cubs
- Seeing the baby hippo
- Bush bar drinks with giraffe
- Seeing rhino