Tented Eco Camp Safari
Gondwana Eco Camp
Gondwana Game Reserve, an 11 000 hectare private Big 5 reserve on the Garden Route launched a 3 and 5 night conservation experience for individuals, families or groups who want to get more involved in Africa and conservation on their safari. Participants get involved in wildlife and veld management, learn important bush skills and interpretation. The research and findings from the program are fed back to Gondwana’s conservation department to assist in decision making enhancing the reserve management plan.
Our experience at Gondwana Eco Camp:
Gondwana Eco Camp not only caters for the avid bush baby and nature lover, but also for the average city slicker, like us. If you’re in need of some time out away from the city hustle and the never-ending sound of your annoying ring tone then we might just have the answer. We’re talking no phone reception, no Wi-Fi and limited electricity – just you and the stars surrounded by mountains in the middle of a secluded valley away from all luxuries and civilization. You can’t get more off the grid than this. So if you’re keen to channel your inner wild child and get your hands dirty, this is the perfect city break for you.
If it’s been your life long dream to be in conservation or to become a game ranger then this is the perfect getaway to get the low down on what it takes to run a game farm and the endless effort to conserve the animals and their natural habitat. From game counting and lion tracking to capturing fish and monitoring cameras – just a day in the life of an eco camp guide.
Image by: garylupton.com
Brendan was our guide/game ranger as well as the manager at the Eco Camp. He was a master at multitasking and if he wasn’t in the kitchen cooking up our breakfast, lunch and dinner he was preparing our bonfire, taking us on game drives and seeing to every guests requests – all this with a smile on his face. He was super knowledgeable and one of the most informative guides we’ve ever had on safari.
The landscape offers a unique African experience – instead of dry desolate grasslands this reserve boasts thousands of hectares of lush green vegetation and fynbos. Your Instagram account will resemble epic images from National Geographic. We were spoilt on every game drive; from hanging with ellies, chilling with giraffes, watching zebras flick their tales to and fro before cantering off into the distance, to rhinos so close you could see the ticks on their backs and hippos sunbathing in the long grass (a rare sighting according to Brendan). We tracked the lion pride and found the biggest male lion we have ever seen, playing with his cubs and putting on a typical Lion King show for us. We just couldn’t believe our luck – this was truly an unforgettable experience.
We’d recommend visiting this lodge during the summer months as temperatures can drop quite a bit and if you’re not fully prepared, this peaceful bush break could turn into an unpleasant arctic experience. In the warmer months you can take full advantage of all they have to offer, from lazy afternoon naps in the hammock to a quick dip in the swimming pool to cool off. There are only 5 tents, which makes the experience even more intimate. We’d recommend roping in a few of your mates for a more festive weekend. Leave the romance for another time ladies – you’ll be roughing it here.
Here’s a run down of what a typical day at the Eco Lodge consists of:
6:30 – Woken up by the pleasant sound of the kudu horn
7:00 – Coffee is served at the dining area
7:15 – A very casual breakfast is served along with fried/scrambled eggs
8:15 – 1st game drive of the day (tracking lions/game counting etc.)
12:00 – Lunch is served at base camp
13:00 – Chill time – usually with a beer or G&T in hand
15:00 – Sunset game drive. Be sure to pack a few snacks and a flask of hot chocolate or something a bit stronger – it will help with the frozen toes
19:00 – Dinner is served just after arrival, which is usually a braai, a hearty stew or a steak on the grill
20:30 – Drinks around the camp fire with a glass of red is how we ended off every evening
Image by: garylupton.com
We got treated to a full body Swedish massage at the Gondwana Spa. Beautiful thatched bungalows that open up onto a verandah with views across the entire reserve. We could see giraffe moseying along in the background as the sun sank behind the mountains – the rolling landscape sunkissed gold by the afternoon sun. It was the perfect surrounding to be pampered to an hour long treatment of complete luxury – it was heaven!
Image by: garylupton.com
We decided to put together a killer ‘what to pack’ list, especially over the winter months, so you’ll be well prepared for those icy evenings. The game drives are extremely cold as they are scheduled for early in the morning and then later on in the evenings. Don’t let the sunny African climate fool you – winter in these parts can yield temperatures that drop to zero, especially as this eco camp is situated in the heart of the valley.
- Thermal gear
- Warm thick socks
- Fleece and jacket
- Boots, closed shoes
- Scarf & beanie
- Head torch (used for walking back to tent)
- Warm sleeping clothes
- Sunscreen (during the game drive)
- Dry shampoo (it’s too cold to wash your hair and a hairdryer can’t be used)
It was a truly unique experience, and although it was a little chilly at times, our evening bonfires, great company and endless supply of red wine kept us warm and in good spirits.
Thank you to the Gondwana team for this awesome opportunity!
Drone: DJI Spark courtesy of WeFix
Drone Pilot: Phillip van der Spuy | Video editing: Wellness in the City