Watching the sun rise, while sipping on coffee and watching giraffes is the best way to start a day. South Africa is known for safaris and drinking coffee with giraffes (or elephants, antelope, etc.) is possible! Everyone has heard of Kruger National Park, but if you want to go somewhere where there are fewer people, personalized service, and a truly unique experience, it’s nice to head away from the big tourist spots. I went to a game reserve just four hours from Cape Town, along the Garden Route. Gondwana Game Reserve is a luxury safari lodge situated on 11,000 hectares and is perfect if you want to explore the African wilderness, see the Big 5, and come home each day to the comfiest bed you will ever sleep on.
Herds of wildlife including eland, antelope, giraffe, elephants, and zebra can be seen on the vast landscape. On my excursions, our vehicle was the only one out when we were searching for animals which made for a more personalized experience. The guides were beyond knowledgeable in their field and would go out of their way to make us feel comfortable.
The animals are aware of the vehicle approaching, but as soon as we stopped, it was like we had blended in to the background. The animals would look at us for a minute then continue eating…barely giving us a second thought. One encounter was a little bit nerve-wracking but amazing nonetheless. A herd of elephants were close by, munching away on trees when the mama became a bit curious of us. She had come over to our vehicle and started nudging the hood with her trunk, before walking around to the back of vehicle and standing right beside me. With my heart beating a little faster, I tried my best to get a picture of me with the elephant.
The lodges are constructed in a traditional Khoi-San style, but have a modern twist. The front of the lodges have massive windows, allowing for views of the landscape, sky lights for star-gazing, deep baths, and king sized beds. There was nothing better than coming in from a chilly evening game drive, hopping in a hot bubble bath, then laying in bed and watching the stars light up the sky. I could have spent weeks here relaxing in pure bliss.
Highlights of the trip?
Drinking coffee in the morning while watching giraffes munch on trees.
Having an elephant stand 1.5 feet behind me.
Watching lions laze on the hillside while the sun set behind the Outeniqua and Langeberg mountains.
Eating gourmet breakfast on a patio with 360 degree views of the landscape.
This is one of many safari experiences, but if you are along the Garden Route in South Africa, it’s definitely worth checking out.