For over 30 kilometres, one of South Africa’s iconic rivers wends its way through Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. The Great Fish River is the life force for both man and beast living here. It’s wide, scenic and soothing, a snaking watercourse that epitomises rejuvenation and renewal – which is a rather fine reason to visit Great Fish River Lodge built right on its banks.
Set under cool thatch and linked by raised, level walkways, the nine, luxury double suites comprising the lodge are a study in timeless elegance. Each feels like a private bush residence, spacious and calm. You have your own pool and relaxation deck, and both indoor and outdoor showers encouraging communion with the breath-taking natural environment. Décor inside also reflects the surrounds, but is so subtle it may even go unnoticed. Kudu love to walk the river course, browsing and drinking as they go, so kudu horns are seen in décor on walls and light fittings; dining and comfy chairs in pale blue reflect the river, and Nguni hides on floors remind you of the historic farming traditions of the Eastern Cape.
Yes, game drives are twice daily and the Big Five live happily on Kwandwe. But the reserve offers even more, since it’s founded on ethical and active conservation principles. You can experience wildlife at eye level on guided nature walks, which is grounding and unforgettable. Then there’s another level of wildlife experience on a big game walk, guided by an armed specialist ranger. Imagine communing with kudu or tracking black rhino, meeting elephant or buffalo – or one of the threatened or endangered species that live safely on Kwandwe. It’s a bucket list experience for wildlife lovers and will certainly be a coveted memory for a lifetime.
But if tamer is more your style, spend some time fishing, relax at your private pool, shop in the boutique for keepsakes, enjoy soothing spar treatments, or lie back on your deck and let you mind wander across the river and all the way to the distant horizon. It’s deeply relaxing and refreshes body and mind like pure oxygen. And if you look carefully, here will be wildlife too. Because Kwandwe is teeming with life, great and small.
Reviewed by Keri Harvey
What we love
- ceiling to floor glass windows in suites, so the great outdoors is palpable
- the cut stone, turret-like fireplace in the main lodge
- such romantic décor, privacy and relaxed luxury
- additional options to be involved with real-time conservation on a specialist safari
- incredible, lush bush views
- how the lodge walkways follow the river course
Need to know
- the reserve is malaria free
- children over 12 years old are welcomed
- the lodge is not wheelchair friendly
- there are daily, scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth airport, 160km from Kwandwe. Charter flights can also be arranged on request to Kwandwe’s private air strip.