Uplands Homestead is a private safari villa in South Africa's Eastern Cape,...
Kwandwe Uplands Homestead: Our full report
Uplands Homestead is a sensitively restored 1905 farmhouse, which can be booked exclusively by a small group of up to six travellers. Situated in a remote and peaceful valley within the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, it gives a feel of a genuine home, which might remind you of Out of Africa. The house comes fully staffed with a private ranger, tracker and chef, and an open-topped 4WD vehicle for your private safaris.
The interior design at Kwandwe Uplands Homestead is based on 1820s settlers’ style. Expect antique mirrors, solid yellowwood chests and wardrobes, venerable rugs, antique silver and porcelain, fine damask linen and dark wood furniture. Glass and crystal lanterns, celadon ceramic lamps and silver candlestick holders add a luxurious, romantic touch. Although some of the individual pieces are lovely, and very authentic, it’s all sufficiently relaxed that you do feel as if you can treat it like home; so don’t expect to stand on ceremony here.
Also, despite the décor and the fabric of Uplands Homestead being very traditional and a bit country-like, you don’t have to do without the high levels of modern comfort you would expect at any lodge.
All of Uplands Homestead’s three suites sleep two people in a double or twin configuration and have a spacious en suite bathroom with an indoor shower each. Two of them additionally feature a Victorian-style ball-and claw bath, while the third one has got a massive, oval stone bath. All the suites possess hairdryers, personal bars and are air-conditioned. On each suite’s private balcony you can enjoy lovely views of the tranquil valley covered with hundreds of aloes and the undulating hills.
The main areas at Kwandwe Uplands Homestead include a sitting and dining room, a sensitively modernised farm kitchen and a veranda furnished with comfortable sofas overlooking the lawn on one side of the villa. From there, the large swimming pool stands at the far end of the ‘lawn’, beside which some sun loungers stand under a sun canopy – and there’s a shaded ‘sala’ area.
One point which families shouldn’t overlook here is that all the homestead, including the extensive ‘garden’ lawns and swimming pool, is enclosed within an electric fence; so here children really can play outside without fear of coming face-to-face with a lion or an elephant. This is a massive asset for families with children who can relax outside with only relatively laid-back parental supervision.
Having their private vehicle and guide, guests at Uplands Homestead can set their very own schedule. The most popular activities from Kwandwe Uplands are undoubtedly guided bush walks and open-topped 4WD game drives in the morning and the late afternoon or early evening. Night drives are also possible. Other activities include rhino darting, rhino monitoring, big game walking safaris, fishing and boat trips on the Galpin Dam.
Our viewUplands Homestead is a lovely country home which feels as old as it is. It’s recently been modernised sensitively, and made more comfortable, without relinquishing its character. Families and small groups will love having their own space, both inside and outside, as well as having the staff to organise activities and meals with complete flexibility.
Ideal length of stay: Most families and small grouns will want to stay for at least three or four nights … and even then probably won’t want to leave.
Directions: Thanks to very good roads the self-drive to Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, which takes 30 minutes from Grahamstown or one and a half to two hours from Port Elizabeth Airport (160km), is fairly easy. Arriving at Heatherton Towers, Kwandwe’s main reception, you leave your vehicle at the car park and will be transferred from there to your lodge in an open-topped 4WD.
Alternatively, daily scheduled flights from Port Elizabeth Airport to Kwandwe airstrip can be booked, or take a private 20-minute charter flight. On request, chauffeur-driven transfers can also be arranged.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: There isn’t a whole team in the kitchen here; they simply wouldn’t fit! However, one of your hosts here is a very capable chef, so expect high-quality, wholesome home cooking here – with the menu decided upon by discussion.
Needless to comment, there’s a selection of premier South African wines to hand, and with prior notice you chef will will take most special diet requests in his/her stride if notified well in advance. That said, if you require kosher food, then expect there to be an extra cost for this.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: House wines, beers, local spirits, soft drinks and bottled water are included.
Family holidays: The historic Uplands Homestead, which is always booked exclusively for family safari holidays in South Africa, comes with a private guide, vehicle and chef. Enjoy a relaxed and - for a wildlife area - relatively safe environment just like at home – but in a great reserve!See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa
Birdwatching: Kwandwe Game Reserve is a popular destination for birding, as it’s home to many endangered species like black stork, martial eagle and of course blue crane, South Africa’s national bird after which Kwandwe was named; it means place of the blue crane in Xhosa.See more ideas for Birdwatching in South Africa
Wildlife safaris: South Africa’s Kwandwe Reserve has good wildlife densities and excellent guiding. Here the historic Uplands Homestead is a private home which now includes modern amenities. A private 4WD and safari guide enables wildlife safaris to be tailored to your wishes.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Private villas & houses: Uplands Homestead is a private villa in South Africa’s Cape, which sleeps up to six guests on an ‘exclusive-use’ basis. It is - fully fenced - situated in Kwandwe Game Reserve and comes with a private chef, guide and 4WD safari vehicle.See more ideas for Private villas & houses in South Africa
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are very welcome at Kwandwe Uplands Homestead. The house can accommodate up to six guests plus one infant under two sharing with its parents.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: If you wish your guide to plan specially-designed children’s activities like “poo safaris", spoor tracking, Minno's fishing trip and treasure hunts then these are possible – although as there’s only one guide and vehicle at Uplands, these couldn’t be done at the same time that the adults go out on safari.
With the launch of the ‘Blue Crane Conservation Club’ on 1st December 2013 there have been more eco-themed activities introduced in the reserve to raise environmental awareness amongst even the youngest visitors. Some examples are planting spekboom, which are among the most carbon-storing plant species, and guided ‘Bugs & Bones’ walks to look out for insects, bugs, bones, skulls and the tracks and droppings of wildlife.
Kwandwe’s increased emphasis on ecological topics also finds expression in the backpack that all child visitors in the reserve receive. It contains animal check lists, eco-themed games and puzzles, crayons or pencils in recycled tubes, a reusable BPA-free water bottle, a ‘Frolicking Rhino’ range of bath products and a list of environmentally friendly activities. Children can also take a “Rangers in Training" certificate home with them at the end of their holidays at Uplands.
Equipment: A cot and a highchair are available.
Generally recommended for children: Uplands Homestead is a very relaxed place for children by the standards of any safari lodge. The homestead is fully fenced making the homestead’s lawns a viable playground with only fairly relaxed parental supervision required. Whilst small animals could get through, big dangerous animals shouldn’t. So children can have outdoor time here, and run around on the grass in front of the veranda. Note that the large swimming pool is unfenced, and some supervision is always necessary, as the electric fence won’t stop a scorpion or a snake.
Notes: After staying here for a few days, one very experienced ‘Africa hand’ and veteran safari-goer, who had only just started traveling with her four-year-old daughter, commented to us: “After having a private house at Kwandwe, we've realised that is the only way to do it when you have little ones. What a difference it made not having to constantly worry about messes and noise for fear of offending someone."
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: Telephone and wireless Internet access are available at Kwandwe Uplands.
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Medical care: If serious medical treatment became necessary, Grahamstown Hospital would be the nearest address. It is 40km, about an 40-minute drive, away from Kwandwe Game Reserve.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: The homestead is fully fenced.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry included.
Money: Each suite at Kwandwe Uplands Homestead possesses a safe.
Accepted payment on location: United Kingdom Pounds, US Dolars and South Africa Rand are all accepted as well as MasterCard, Visa, Diners and Amex.