Kwandwe Ecca Lodge
$ 694 (Pps)
Kwandwe Game Reserve offers 22,000ha of pristine malaria-free wilderness with a magnificent, ecologically varied landscape in the Karoo region of the Eastern Cape. This results in a diverse range of game including elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo as well as aardvark, aardwolf and cheetah. Kwandwe actually means ‘place of the blue crane’ in the local Xhosa language and it's home to this highly endangered bird (also South Africa's national bird). The Great Fish River runs through the reserve for approx 30km and offers a valuable source of water for Kwandwe’s wildlife.
Activities at Kwandwe include morning, afternoon and night game drives in open 4x4s, as well as short interpretative bush walks (usually after breakfast). Kwandwe's night drives are renowned with aardvark and aardwolf regularly spotted. Alternatively you can enjoy longer big game walking safaris which take the place of a morning game drive, or join the rhino monitoring team for a few hours to learn more about these magnificent endangered creatures. (Both activities are offered at an additional charge.) Given the size of the reserve, your game-viewing is very exclusive and is personalized to your needs as much as is possible.
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge offers six spacious suites with funky and stylish contemporary interiors and a laid back vibe. Minimalist décor with retro lighting is eclectically mixed with venerable old collectibles. The owners describe the décor as “funk meets futuristic farmhouse”! Emblazoned with giant Warhol-like prints, retro light fittings and shades of olive, rust and burnt orange, you could almost forget you were on safari - until you step outside.
Ecca Lodge is situated on a ridge overlooking a beautiful spekboom, acacia and aloe-filled valley so the views are breathtaking. The main guest areas include a sitting room with fireplace, cosy dining room for the winter months with an interactive kitchen. Outside there’s a deep veranda and viewing deck overlooking thick bush or the rolling valleys with a stylish rimflow lap pool surrounded by teak sun loungers.
Each spacious suite has a mix of wooden paneling and stone walls with a bedroom, separate sitting area with two day beds, en suite bathroom with an impressive shower. Glass doors slide back to admit the cooling breezes and open onto an extensive wooden deck with good-sized plunge pool.
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge welcomes children with one or two children utilizing the days bed in the sitting room. There’s an interpretative centre and a special children’s programme which goes down well with children and adults alike.
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge on the map
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge Couple Suite(s)
Set in thick vegetation overlooking a dense valley, Ecca Lodge offers breathtaking views onto an escarpment of steep shale cliffs. Six spacious and private suites are located a short distance away from the main lodge area, each in its own position away from the other suites. Each suite features a bedroom with en-suite bathroom, indoor and outdoor shower, separate w.c, twin hand basin and a private deck with plunge pool. Interior design reflects the vibrant colours and textures of Africa. Main guest areas feature a spacious sitting room with fireplace, dining room and bar area as well as a deep veranda with expansive wooden viewing deck overlooking rolling spekboom valleys.
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge Family Suite(s)
Family Suites accommodate 2 adults and 2 children and includes a private vehicle and ranger. Each suite features a bedroom with en-suite bathroom,a lounge with two day beds which are turned into beds for the kids, indoor and outdoor shower, separate w.c, twin hand basin and a private deck with plunge pool. Interior design reflects the vibrant colours and textures of Africa. Main guest areas feature a spacious sitting room with fireplace, dining room and bar area as well as a deep veranda with expansive wooden viewing deck overlooking rolling spekboom valleys.
Kwandwe Game Reserve review by Kate
I recently stayed at Kwandwe again and was reminded why Kwandwe is my first choice for game-viewing in the Eastern Cape... if your budget allows.
In an ideal world you would combine a few days at Kwandwe with a Kruger private lodge as the style of safari and animals seen differs considerably. Here you are much more likely to see cheetah, (but highly unlikely to see leopard.) Similarly your chances of seeing aardvark and aardwolf are probably second to none and we even saw meerkats (though this is not guaranteed!). Elephant, lion and buffalo are also plentiful as well as black rhino which are less commonly seen (and rarely seen in the Kruger).
At Kwandwe the focus is on spotting the animals on the open plains from high vantage points rather than tracking animals in thick bush as you would in the private game reserves of the Kruger
Kwandwe in Summer and Winter
Kwandwe’s climate changes dramatically from Summer to Winter with very hot days in high summer and very cold nights in winter. This leads to a very different summer and winter game viewing schedule. In summer, you wake up at 5am out 5.45am and return at the latest by 9am when it is already hot. You have plenty of time to catch up on missed sleep during the day with the afternoon drive only starting at 4.30-5pm and back at 8pm or later. However in mid winter, you sleep in, have breakfast first then out for game drive at 8-8.30am, staying out until 11am In the afternoon you meet at around 2.30-3pm for the game drive and you’re back by 6pm. Autumn and spring schedules straddle the middle.
Ecca is ideal for those preferring a modern contemporary look, which is not too minimalistic. I really liked the décor. The showers were amazing, massive with a stone backdrop and waterfall showerhead. The pleasant main rooms comprise a sitting room, cosy dining room for the winter months, summer dining on the expansive deck and a separate TV room slightly away. The food was exceptional, some of the best on the trip.
Our guide, Chase, was excellent - just the right mix of deep knowledge, enthusiasm and relaxed informality. He was clearly passionate about Kwandwe which became infectious.
Great Fish River Lodge
I actually preferred this lodge though its all a matter of personal taste. I loved the setting overlooking the impressive Fish River, the suites which were airy and light, modern yet romantic. I also loved the main building.
This is the larger of the two Kwandwe villas and is ideal for larger family parties, two families travelling together or even a party of friends. Its a modern take on an old settler homestead and I loved the decor. The setting was magnificent overlooking the mountains with a rimflow pool. Bedrooms had a slightly strange layout as you came into the room to face the back of the bed (which faced the view) but that was my only (small gripe). The bathrooms were filled with light with either a bath with a view and shower or massive shower but bath with no view.
Uplands Manor is the real McCoy, an original 19th settler homestead filled with period pieces and artefacts. As such its a bit like marmite. You will either love it or hate it. Personally I love historic homes so I loved it. But its only suited to a family rather than friends as the rooms vary in size and luxury. The fenced lawns mean that its ideal for kids who like to let off steam but I preferred the overall setting of Melton. (My comments are from a previous visit but I am assurred that the lodge hasn't changed!)