‘Well, that was a pleasant drive’, says our youngest daughter, who has clearly mastered the art of understatement, when we return to the main lodge of the Gondwana Private Game reserve after a two-hour game drive. It’s now around 8.30 am and we’re perfectly on time for breakfast. The terrace offers splendid views of one of the most stunning landscapes we have ever seen. The Langeberg mountain range and the Outeniqua mountains are just becoming visible when the last bits of fog disappear from around the mountain tops and we can now see the indigenous ‘Fynbos’ (fine-leaved plants) in every direction of our gaze. Almost at once, we spot a giraffe near the farthest row of fourteen suites built in a style clearly inspired by the traditional Khoi-San style of architecture.
It’s only 6 am when we climb aboard an impressive game vehicle. It’s still rather chilly, but after we wrap ourselves in special thermo ponchos, we hardly notice the cold. Our children are ecstatic. Ready for a big adventure, each has a pair of binoculars around her neck. And a big adventure it is! Travelling at a rapid pace, we try to spot the Big Five, the legendary safari animals: the lion, the elephant, the rhinoceros, the buffalo and the leopard. But the absolute highlight is a quest that leads us through myriad of overgrown paths and ends with us looking straight at a newborn baby elephant. The bumpy ride takes us across more than 11,000 hectares of private game reserve. It is soon evident that this is serious game spotting: our guide is very friendly, but also strives to make every effort to ensure that we will be able to see all the wonders of the African landscape. His efforts are rewarded: we encounter steppe buzzards, hippos, waterbucks, zebras and, as a highlight, we enjoy a coffee break against the backdrop of a herd of elephants having their breakfast.
With mugs of hot chocolate and a big piece of African ‘grandmother’s cake’ in their hands, our daughters can’t take their eyes off the impressive creatures just a few hundred metres away. ‘They will never believe us at school, Dad!’, they say, giving us a big hug. Lions and rhinos we will leave for another day.
Gondwana Private Game Reserve is located only five hours’ drive from Cape Town and just under half an hour from the charming village of Mossel Bay. The 5-star game reserve has been presented numerous awards, all of which are well-deserved. We have almost never visited such versatile holiday accommodations. Gondwana is a paradise for families. When we arrive we are immediately served a glass of sparkling wine, and our children some special lemonade. While we register, they are presented a Junior Ranger Passport, fingerprint-taking including.
These ‘passports’ gives children aged 6 - 12 admission to the Junior Rangers Programme. During our stay, our daughters learned to identify paw prints, they made botanical discoveries during a special Leaf Hunt and actively studied the life of the dung beetle. Every day, their last spark of energy was spent swimming in the beautifully situated infinity pool. However, the absolute highlight was realising that Gondwana is truly a ‘free roaming reserve’. The few hundred metres from the lodge to our accommodations must be travelled in your rental car or on foot under supervision of a ranger. This was to ensure that guests do not run into any prey animals. Although chances are small that this will happen and the main lodge is well fenced off, this gave us a tremendous kick. ‘Does that means that the animals aren’t kept in cages, like in the zoo?’ ‘Cool!’ Returning to our accommodations after dinner on our first evening at Gondwana, we ran into a huge herd of wildebeest foraging for food right in front of our door!
Of course, being restricted to your accommodations or the lodge is no punishment, since both are truly breathtaking. The lodge has a lounge and bar, as well as a terrace and restaurant, furnished in the traditional safari style. On chilly evenings, the guests are welcome to enjoy a gin & tonic or a mug of steaming tea sitting in front of the enormous open fireplaces, in armchairs that are so comfortable that you never want to get up again.
Couples and families with only one young child generally stay in one of the fourteen suites grouped around the lodge mentioned earlier, while bigger families or groups are accommodated in the comfortable 240m2 bush villas. An impressive double-volume thatch roof covers an open-plan lounge, a dining and kitchen area and two to four bedrooms. Although all meals are included in the price of a stay at Gondwana, every villa features a fully equipped kitchen. Guests are also invited to fire up the barbecue on the veranda that spans the entire length of the impressive bush villa.
For the ultimate safari experience, Gondwana also offers a special five-night conservation experience that includes sleeping in an ecological tent camp and in which the guests actively participate in conservation work on the game reserve and contribute to the local community as a volunteer.
# One of the most stunning landscapes imaginable. Not only are you continually astounded by everything you see during the day, on clear evenings you will be enchanted by the countless stars twinkling overhead.
# Thanks to the ‘all inclusive’ concept, you don’t have to think about catering at all. Guests are assigned a ranger who will set up a programme with you. After that, all you have to do is kick back and relax! No stress trying to decide how to spend the next day. All you and your family need to do is enjoy all the adventures that have been planned for you.
# Stand eye to eye with the Big Five at a relatively short distance from Cape Town. The safaris here are a serious matter, even if children are welcome to participate. This makes them all the more adventurous.