Reviews of Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge review
We arrived after a long journey and having been lulled into a false sense of security re the heat at PE to find temperatures in the mid 40sC – a bit of a shock to the system! A cold drink at main reception was most welcome.
After a short drive through the bush we arrived at the lodge where we were given a good briefing and shown to our beautiful room – quite stunning; our one quibble was that, while the air con kept the bathroom area lovely and cool it didn’t seem to have a lot of effect in the bedroom. Housekeeping was immaculate and it seemed as if the room was cleaned every time we left it. The plunge pool was most welcome on the hot afternoons.
Service overall was excellent with nothing being too much trouble; however we did notice that cleaning of the main area could have been better – drinks can from the afternoon was still there at breakfast and the decking was not cleaned of bird droppings regularly.
The food that we ate was very good but, despite both the management and chef having confirmed they knew of Jane’s allergy, we still had to return food when it came with cheese.
We chose not to go out on our first afternoon but still managed to see game from our deck – kudu, baboons, impala, bushbuck and scrub hare. As Jane wasn’t feeling too good, having picked up a cold on the plane, she didn’t feel like eating that evening but we went up to the main lodge where the staff were happy to keep offering drinks and we met our fellow travellers and guide, Ivan. The lodge has a small shop (more at main reception) which we thought offered very good value.
Our guide, Ivan and tracker, Sibo, were excellent. Very good with both us experienced safari-goers and the Danes we shared the vehicle with, some of whom had never been to Africa before. On our last morning we had them to ourselves when they became positively chatty. Yes, Ivan, we did pop into your Dad’s place in Swellendam – ideal for a visiting rugby club says Martin! He just needs to persuade them to pay for the flights!
The Expert Africa page for Kwandwe states that it is broadly on the flat; we didn’t find this to be the case. There is a significant flight of steps between the parking area and the main building, steps along the boardwalk and steps approaching each room.
Despite our minor quibbles we’ve already booked to go back next year! Find that aardvark Ivan, please!!!
Super safari and stunning setting at GFRL
We loved Great Fish River Lodge even more than Ecca. Raised on decking and terrace it was possible to see the wildlife on the slopes across the river.
The staff were excellent - great welcome from Chris on arrival - and breakfast waiters charming and helpful. Management clearly on the ball!
Our suite was superb.
Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge review
I can tell you that our trip was superb in every way.
As a non animal lover even I enjoyed this safari. In fact after 1 month in SA I would say it has been the highlight of our trip
5* Attention to detail would summarise our comments making us feel very special.
Food wonderful, plenty of it and dietary needs catered for in very creative ways. Nothing was too much trouble.
For improvement we would only suggest that the boardwalk extended to all the lodges as the shingle type surface beyond the boardwalk bridge is dusty and only suitable for flat shoes. Not to mention difficult for suitcases.
In summary: Fantastic trip, unforgettable, special. We saw 4 of big five in first 2 days. Leopard was more elusive.
Amazing at Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge
This was our first safari experience and we were very, very impressed with this Lodge. We liked the fact that it was a small lodge with an intimate atmosphere on a huge game reserve.
All staff without exception were excellent, particularly our ranger "Doc", tracker Siya and the two managers Ryan and Rosanne. Service could not have been better. Ryan was very helpful and caring when we had a minor health problem. You were made to feel not only very welcome but truly special.
The accommodation was in private, very well equipped and comfortable individual lodges with brilliant outlooks.
Food excellent quality and never ending!
Wonderful, varied game drives which never disappointed. Our ranger "Doc" was a mine of interesting knowledge.
Cannot recommend this game lodge enough.
Perfect start to the trip
Excellent all-round. Great location, access to the garden route.
First class service and guiding was expert, fantastic, couldn't have been better. Opportunities to fish, go on the lake along with game drives meant it was never dull. There was just 4 of us in the truck so very comfortable, also we never felt like there were many other vehicles so the experience felt very personal.
Food and drink is exceptional and bountiful. Everything was taken care of so it was a great start to a trip after a long flight. Plenty of lions, elephants, cheetahs, giraffes etc without it feeling like a small reserve - we had to find them.
A private reserve with a full range of game
We chose to stay at Kwandwe after having read on South African websites of Kwandwe's conservation and rehabilitation success over the past 15 years. How it's last owners bought the land and together with a team including game rangers, the local people and other wildlife experts are returning it to the wildlife wilderness it once was. People living and working the area were not displaced; a Charitable Trust was set up from which the community benefits; the reserve provides employment including posts as rangers and trackers.
Although Kwandwe does not offer the vast herds of game found in other parts of this continent, it is well represented by most major species and birding is good. Rare and endangered species are also to be found including the beautiful black wildebeest. Kwandwe boasts one of the few herds of TB free Cape Buffalo. Good sightings of Caracal and puff Adder compensated for not seeing aardvark and aardwolf during our stay.
We found the quality of guiding and tracking good. Both Ranger Doc and Tracker Si had lived all their lives in the immediate area and this was their 'backyard'. Doc not only possessed a great depth of knowledge and patience but was most engaging with a wicked sense of humour. We were fortunate to have the vehicle to ourselves on two occasions when my husband and Doc shared their love of birding.
Great Fish River Lodge comprises nine stone chalets. We shared our five days between No 4 and 8- 4 having very limited views whilst 8 provided a panoramic view of the surrounding bush and river gorge. The rooms were well appointed and tastefully furnished. The only downside for us was the feeling of being cocooned whilst in our room and therefore missing the sounds of the bush which tented camps offer.
We welcomed the two opportunities for communal dining which we prefer when staying in game lodges. Both offered the chance to share the game drive experiences of the day with fellow guests. All other meals were taken at our own table either in the pleasant dining room or outside veranda.
Having read of Kwandwe's Executive Chef Guy Nahman and being impressed by his dishes in the book '32 Inspirational Chefs', we were disappointed that such gastronomy was not reflected in the dining room during our stay. The meals were varied and appetising, especially lunches, however we have eaten equally as well at guest farms in SA.
The entire Kwandwe staff provided excellent customer service and spoke of being part of a happy team.
Best part of the trip
every aspect of this was great and so well thought out.
the staff were very attentive and helpful and the guides knowledgeable.
we were a liitle driving down their dirt road for 11km when the hire car people had given us stern warnings about NOT driving on dirt roads and the perils of invalidating the insurance.
as we did not need a car there I would suggest that you offer a driver to and from eg Port Elizabeth especially for anyone flying to and from PE
My only criticism is that there was not much physical activity available between 11am and 4pm . If like me you run or swim a lot, it was enjoyable reading, bird watching or animal spotting but two days was quite enough!
This is a beautiful place run by beautiful people.
Our thanks to Claire for recommending it. We would love to return
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve review
The highlight of our holiday. Everyone was very welcoming, and couldn't do enough for us. This was our first safari experience, but it's hard to see how anywhere else could better Kwandwe - even the animals co-operated! It took some self restraint to say no to the constant supply of great food.
The ranger and guide who took us out on each day were brilliant - very knowledgeable and informative, and easy to get on with. We were fortunate that when the party who shared the first couple of drives with us had left, they were not replaced with a further party, and we had the vehicle all to ourselves, which made it even more special for us.
Finally, the lodge manager and staff put on a candle-lit dinner for us, as we had let slip that the trip was a special celebration for us. When we left, it felt as if we'd become part of the furniture - quickly corrected by the staff to "part of the family"!