LOOKS Travel Diaries

Kwandwe – The best safari in South Africa you never heard of

Today I’m finally sharing my last safari destination while exploring South Africa.

I have to admit that every time I visit an African country it turns out to be a super enriching experience and every time it makes me fall in love with this beautiful continent. I remember that this week when I made my 30th birthday party, many of my friends asked me where are you going next and I told them I will be back to Africa in January and they asked me: Don’t you get tired of being in the same region? And the truth is that … Africa has such unique beauty that I could give a thousand reasons why everyone should go to Africa, but I still have a lot to discover and I’ve only been traveling in this beautiful region for a year. From the little I have discovered I do not want to stop visiting it until I explore every corner.

Our last experience was with Kwandwe that to be honest, not many people knew about and the reason for this is because they used to belong to the &Beyond group and until a few years ago the group became independent and they created Kwandwe.

This is located in the Eastern Cape near Grahamstown. The nearest national airport is in Port Elizabeth, which is 160 km (100 miles) from the reserve. The reserve is located approximately 65 km from the coast and is very close to the famous Garden Route.

I remember that Robert and I planned to visit Kwandwe last because we wanted to explore Port Elizabeth before going to Cape Town. We stayed 5 days in the Kwandwe Reserve where we split 3 days in Great Fish River Lodge and 2 days in Ecca Lodge.

Our experience at Great Fish River Lodge was truly unique. I think that of all the lodges that I have visited in Africa this is undoubtedly one of the best where I have stayed. This lodge have only 9 luxurious suites which are more suitable for couples or a group of people. Each one is incredibly spacious and designed to show the spectacular panoramic views of the reserve in a classic decor. Each suite has glass doors framed from floor to ceiling. It has a huge indoors and outdoors shower plus a bathtub with a beautiful view. I remember that the same night that we arrived they made a bubble bath of roses, candles and some white wine! – It was so romantic.

Each suite also comes with a terrace to enjoy those afternoons after the safari rides where you can sunbathe or swim in the private pool.

As for Ecca Lodge it is located in a dense vegetation overlooking a forest valley that offers stunning views. With only 6 suites, 3 are dedicated to families. It is very intimate, relaxed and modern, with a decoration inspired by the vibrant colors and textures of Africans. The highlights of the guest areas include large wooden gazebos, an open and interactive kitchen and an edge-flow swimming pool.

The rooms are spacious and open, decorated with really unique, modern and fun details. Wooden terraces with private pools and outdoor showers relieve the heat of the day. Super extra-large beds, large bathrooms with separate bathtub and separate seating areas with funky bags.

Robert and I were there 5 days and in the first 2 days we managed to see the big 5. If you are looking to travel to South Africa my advice is that 3 days is enough to see the big 5.

During the other days, we had the opportunity to visit 3 of their villas that are exclusive for large families. Each one with a very different design.

  • For House (my favorite) for a family of 8 people. It has four modern rooms with view to the reserve, a studio, training room, open kitchen, dining room, wine cellar, room for spa treatments and a pool with an infinity edge, an African boma for those African dinners under the stars and with a full staff to serve a family of 8.
  • Melton Manor: With panoramic views of the Afromontane forests. With a design quite elegant, contemporary, colonial, but relaxing and comfortable. The cozy U-shaped rooms and the 4 suite rooms of this exclusive safari villa are cleverly designed around the central courtyard and its large, cozy pool.
  • Uplands Homestead: is an intimate and colonial-style safari house located in a remote and quiet valley, and available for the exclusive use of families of up to six. This elegant country house from 1905 has been carefully restored to preserve all the charm and grace of yesteryear without losing any of its warmth and renowned atmosphere.

Without a doubt, it was a very nice experience for me and Robert to close our safari adventure with Kwandwe, enjoy one last time chasing the big 5, have a bush breakfast and to visit their 3 villas with designs so different that you would never expect to see a place like this on safari.

Thanks so much for reading!




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Robert Michael Poole

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  1. Samantha Mariko says on December 24, 2017

    I love how cozy the villa looks, with the blanket and plush chair! It must have been so nice to have all that natural light coming in from the big windows! The elephants look so gorgeous!
    xo Samantha