South Africa – Gondwana Game Reserve – Mossel Bay – Big 5 Wildlife Safari

South Africa is clearly very famous for safari and wildlife watching.

During these experiences you can have very close encounters with the famous BIG 5. Just to remind you the BIG 5 animals are elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo.

However, safaris are also great to watch the entire African natural environment with its giraffes, hippos, amazing birds, floral beauties and much much more to discover.

More importantly, you can enjoy all this wildlife in its natural environment leveraging the super- amazing South African light and scenery as a background to compose your shots and to fill your soul and eyes with peace and joy.

We had an amazing time doing safari at Gondwana Private Game Reserve which is located not very far away from Mossel Bay – so it was fitting very well our overall itinerary. If you want to read more about our experiences in Mossel Bay you can follow this link.

Before reading more about Gondwana check the usual Random Odyssey map to check where Gondwana Game Reserve is compared to Mossel Bay, Cape Town and Kruger Park:

In this post you will find:

If you want to discover the full itinerary we took during our South Africa journey please follow the link to this blog post.

If you have any question at any time please reach us at info.randomodyssey@gmail.com.

Gondwana Game Reserve Experience

Gondwana Gamer Reserve is a stunning 11,000 hectares luxurious territory which is dedicated to game reserve.

If you have challenges about visualizing how extended the area is, I can probably help you by saying that from the reception of the lodges to some of the areas we visited it also took us 1 hour and half drive.

You will not only find a lot of wildlife at Gondwana. You will also experience the wonderful South African bush mostly made by the indigenous Fynbos vegetation. This will add a lot of color and background to your Big 5 “hunting” experience.

To convince you about the natural beauties you can see at Gondwana I will let you have a look at our Image Gallery.

One thing I particularly like about Gondwana is how much its staff loves nature. Just to give an example, in order to protect their wildlife against poaching, Gondwana team has established its own anti-poaching “military” guard. This is because poachers in South Africa are quite wide spread and they also target these game reserves as an unfortunate opportunity to hunt for their horrible trophies.

Gondwana – the facilities and services

What is also stunning at Gondwana is the overall level of service and the amazing facilities.

Gondwana Game Reserve offers different kind of accomodation. We stayed in Kwena Lodge. This post reviews the different facilities around this type of accomodation.

These are the facilities I would call out and describe in more details:

If you want to have more information about Gondwana Game Reserve, you can refer to their very well made website at this website where you can book your trip as well as ask for information. (https://www.gondwanagr.co.za)

The Reception

The reception of the park is almost at the hearth of the park. When you walk by the reception hut, you immediately get a snapshot about the beauty you will find inside.

The reception is located on the top of a hill overlooking a luxurious valley and also an amazing pool and it is surrounded by 12 huts. These huts are twelve double bed rooms where guest – typically couples – spend their nights. The reception area also hosts an incredibly amazing restaurant for all the meals and a safari bar.

The Pool

The pool is located where reception is – just at the bottom of the valley. The fun fact about the pool is that you need to watch out for elephants. In fact, elephants are used to go searching for water in the park and the pool is located also close to one of the ponds where elephants go having their refreshing drink and in some cases they also walk up to the pool level. This is why – if this happens – guests are invited to leave the pool and stop sun-bathing. For this reason, if you go enjoying the pool, make sure you always have your camera with you not to miss a great opportunity to shot pictures of elephants up close.

The wonderful pool at Kwena Lodge in Gondwana Game Reserve

The Villas

If you are a family instead – i.e. if you are more than two people sleeping at Gondwana – you will likely be assigned to a nearby villa. The villas are not located at the reception point but you need to take a car from reception to be accompanied to your villa. Guests staying in villas are not allowed to roam around the park without a ranger. As such, anytime you want to move from your villa you need to call reception to ask for a ranger to come to you and drive you around. This is mostly done for safety reasons and to avoid you get to meet a lion in the evening or at sunset.

Given we were four guests we had the pleasure to stay in one of these beautiful villas.

The majestic living room of our villa

These villas are bigger than any house you would probably ever live into. They are made by two incredible bedrooms with a super large private bathroom with all comfort. In between the two bedrooms, there is an amazing living space which is made by multiple sofas, the open kitchen (fully equipped for all needs) and a massive wooden dining table.

The villa also extends on the outside where you can find an amazing veranda with a barbecue and garden table and chairs where you can relax and enjoy the amazing view of the valley underneath. Sometimes – if you are particularly lucky – there could be zebra or elephants strolling around your veranda. They clearly cannot come directly on your veranda because it is elevated vs. ground to offer more safety to guests.

The Restaurant

The restaurant is another key strength of Gondwana Game Reserve.

It is simply delicious and all dishes cooked are made with extreme care to ensure balanced tastes and delicious ingredients. The restaurant is also a very good experience to taste new and unusual food. For example we had the crocodile nuggets and also the zebra filet (please note that Zebras in South Africa are both preserved but also handled in farms similar to what we do with cows in Europe).

In addition, they bake their own bread and they offer also additional experiences – such as the bonfire cooking which is a barbecue dinner where chef cooks around a camp fire. Very romantic.

The restaurant is where you will have all meals during the day: breakfast, lunch and dinners.

The service in the restaurant is also extremely premium. The staff is not only extremely kind but very professional.

The Safari Bar

The Safari Bar offers the pre-breakfast in the morning, the afternoon tea and the post-dinner drinks.

Many times, you will be leaving the reception for safari very early in the morning. At that point the breakfast is still not ready but, here is where Gondwana goes top – you will meet your ranger into the Safari Bar where a pre-breakfast is offered just to give you the initial energies to go out in the early morning.

It is also amazing to stop by the Safari Bar also after dinner where you can have a whisky and review the amazing memories of your day.

Postcards from Gondwana

Enjoy our pictures from Gondwana Game Reserve

What Safari Options in South Africa

As far as we could research and on top of the experience we had ourselves, there are mainly two ways of having a nice safari experience in South Africa:

  • you can opt for one of the famous National Parks (i.e. the Kruger being the most famous) or
  • you can go for a Private Game Reserves.

The biggest set-up difference between the two options is that the National Parks are normally run by Government or other publicly led authorities while the private Game Reserves are huge natural area owned and run by private citizens who take care of the overall.

There are clearly pros and cons for going for either option (as always in life). As we did not visit Kruger and we did not visit other National Parks in South Africa, we are reporting here only things we learnt about it from other travelers.

  • One of the positives of Kruger is that it covers a very large area and you can enter it with your own car. You can travel through to see different corners of the park. However, not traveling with a guide or a ranger might be difficult because you might not be experienced enough to follow the marks of animals. In such huge area, it is not always easy to spot animals although the animal density is fortunately quite high and there are boards disseminated in the various hotels and lodges in the parks advising visitors where animals where last seen the day before so you can orientate yourself.
  • One of the positives of the private game reserves is that they cover smaller areas, the sight of animals is potentially higher (however, we did not see any leopard :-(() and you are normally not allowed to go visiting the reserve on your complete own but there will always be a ranger with you. Normally, the game reserves are much more luxurious when it comes to the overall infrastructure, facilities and services vs. the hotels and lodges you can find within the Kruger (though you might argue you do not go for a Safari in the wild to be in a 5 star hotel).

Ultimately, both options are great and i think the choice between which safari experience to go – national park Kruger vs. private Game Reserve – for depends on few factors to be considered as part of the broader travel you are making to South Africa:

  • Which part of South Africa you are visiting. South Africa is a relatively big country. If you are in the Cape Town area (South West of the country) it is not very easy to visit the Kruger park (i.e. the main
    National Park) as it is located in the opposite north east part of the country.
  • How much time you have available for your total vacation. If you have significant time to spend in South Africa, then of course you can reach Kruger from wherever you are in the country and can avoid stopping by any private reserve.
  • How much time you have allocated to safari as part of your total vacation time. If you wish to spend only few days for safari as part of your total travel time to South Africa, then maybe it is advisable you go for private game reserve because spotting animals could be easier in shorter period of time. In addition, Kruger Park is a very, very big area. As such it is a journey in the journey….in the sense that once you are there you move around depending on where animals have been spotted and you can also run many kilometers within the park.

Despite we absolutely loved Gondwana Game Reserve for a number of factors that we will outline in this article, it goes without saying that we will surely go back to South Africa to go only to Kruger Park – which is – in my view – a super top destination and definitively a place to visit, especially for taking stunning pictures of wildlife.

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