While the story of Gondwanaland may have centered around the dramatic movements of tectonic plates, the story of Gondwana Game Reserve is a lot more intimate and enchanting. Owner, Mark, met his American wife, Wendy, whilst she was a guest on one of his game drives. At that stage he was the head ranger of a Kalahari reserve, and after a few days into the visit there was already some ‘safari chemistry’. Six months later she arrived to assess whether this bush relationship had a future. Fast-forward a few years, and not only did the relationship blossom, but it’s given birth to Gondwana Game Reserve – among the finest of the reserves in the country.
I was invited to take in the splendor of Gondwana over a long weekend, along with photographer Jordan and blogger Omphile. The farm is a four-hour road trip from Cape Town…making a scenic circuitous drive via the N2 and Route 62. Fueled with coffee and venison pies from the compulsory stop at Peregrine Farm Store, we were on our way. With excitement mounting, and the GoPro happily recording, we enter the reserve gates and within minutes were greeted not only by the staff but also hippo, rhino and impala. At reception we were given warm towels to freshen up, and were soon sitting on a safari vehicle heading off on our first adventure.
Welcome to Gondwana
As with other luxury game reserves in South Africa, the daily rhythm includes three welcoming meals and two safaris of around two to three hours each. The breaks inbetween the game drives afford one the opportunity to unwind in the various lodge facilities: a large overflow pool with comfy loungers, the modern bar and lounge, two restaurant receptions and of course the gorgeous chalets.
The reserve is “free-roaming”, which means at any point it’s possible to bump into an animal on route to the dining room or pool. For this reason, longer walks around the lodge require an escort from one of the rangers on duty. Despite my desperation to see the elephants drinking from the pool they never did oblige me…rather a troop of inquisitive baboons provided some local entertainment.
With its proximity to the ocean, the reserve is located on the outer perimeter of the Western Cape fynbos belt. The game drives thus take in not only the magnificence of the big five (and the bountiful other animal species on the reserve), but also the majesty of the fynbos. Falling under the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest – and most diverse in the world, the fynbos is ubiquitous on the farm (one of our game drives meandered through a forest of flowering Proteas.
Sunsets & Lodge-Life
At Kwena Lodge (where we stayed) guests are accommodated in rather swanky thatched rondavels with expansive views over the adjacent valley. I was enthralled to discover that the roofs have an almost two-meter diameter glass centerpiece: you can be treated to some star-gazing without having to leave the comfort of your bed. They’re also equipped with fire places to keep you warm whilst falling asleep, and bathtubs with enchanting views.
Ranger Patrick was our guide for the duration of our stay, and he kept us entertained with stories and educational anecdotes. We were delighted to discover that it was his birthday on our final evening, and couldn’t help but belt along the words of “Happy Birthday” whilst taking in our sunset safari view. He had chosen an elevated hilltop, and the sunset was quick to jump on board and produce one of the most beautiful lightshows I’ve seen for a while: the last slivers of light flirting with the valleys around, and lastly catching the fynbos around us. Accompanied by some bubbly and the ever-present safari snacks, this was the grandest of farewells from a truly special place.