Kwandwe Pri­vate Game Re­serve | TRAVEL

Eastern Cape, South Africa

Upscale Living Magazine - - Contents - | By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

Po­si­tioned in one of the most un­spoilt wilder­ness ar­eas in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Prov­ince, Kwandwe Pri­vate Game Re­serve spans over 54,000 acres of pris­tine land­scape. Add to that the most spec­tac­u­lar ac­com­mo­da­tion, food and game view­ing, and you re­al­ize you have dis­cov­ered pure bliss.

“Mom, look over there”, my daugh­ter in­structs me, hold­ing the pair of binoc­u­lars close to her face. I’m squint­ing, try­ing to look harder but I no­tice noth­ing. Our ranger hands me his binoc­u­lars and sud­denly, I spot them – one mother, and one, two, three, four, five chee­tah cubs! “Are we able to get closer”? I ask. This is re­ally a once-in-a-life­time sight­ing as a chee­tah mother with five cubs is not some­thing you see every day.

Our ranger, Bren­don Dredge has al­ready loaded tracker Den­nis Yoli into the pas­sen­ger seat and ac­cel­er­ates the Toy­ota Land Cruiser up the steep em­bank­ment. I won­der if we’re go­ing to make it over the un­even, rocky sur­face and as Bren­don stops the ve­hi­cle and turns the nose to where he thinks she might be, the most beau­ti­ful chee­tah el­e­gantly strides to­wards us, fol­lowed closely by her five cubs.

She looks hun­gry and is sniff­ing up­wind to see if there is any prey in the vicin­ity. Hav­ing to look af­ter five cubs and main­tain­ing enough sus­te­nance to feed them on a reg­u­lar ba­sis is no mean feat. The cubs are all sport­ing the adorable man­tle that young cubs have to cam­ou­flage them from other preda­tors. Mom try­ing to hunt turns into a game for the cubs and one by one, they run up to her, want­ing to play. She is hav­ing none of it and even­tu­ally set­tles in the shade of a tree for them to all rest col­lec­tively.

Back at Up­lands Homestead, our phe­nom­e­nal ac­com­mo­da­tion for two nights and three days, we are warmly wel­comed by host Somi Mng­congo. The homestead, orig­i­nally built in 1905 as a farm­house, was lov­ingly re­stored af­ter Kwandwe’s own­ers pur­chased the land. Dec­o­rated with an­tiques and col­lecta­bles evoca­tive of a set­tler home from the 1820’s, Up­lands Homestead is the ideal home for ex­clu­sive use by six peo­ple or fam­i­lies trav­el­ing to­gether.

My hus­band and I are stay­ing in the master suite while our daugh­ter is ac­com­mo­dated in the suite ad­ja­cent to ours. Each suite has a full en-suite bath­room with a mod­ern twist, tiled to per­fec­tion and our huge bath is known as the ‘ele­phant trough’, large enough for a herd of ele­phants to drink from.

The beau­ti­ful wooden floors re­mind me of my grand­par­ents’ home on the farm and so do the door­ways, even the door­knobs are rem­i­nis­cent of what was vogue in the 1900’s. Meals are best en­joyed in the din­ing room or out­side, al­fresco style. Re­spon­si­ble for the most mouth­wa­ter­ingly, de­li­cious food is chef Ntiski Jack­son.

Part of the well-oiled ma­chine that en­sures the smooth run­ning of Up­lands Homestead is Grace Thafeni, gar­dener Scura Mthana and house­keeper My­ina Kebe. What makes a stay at Up­lands Homestead even more per­fect is that you have your own pri­vate ranger and tracker as well as a whole staff com­pli­ment to look af­ter your every need.

It is early af­ter­noon as we em­bark on a game drive with Bren­don. We are driv­ing to­wards Fort Dam and as the golden light sets in, we no­tice the out­line of an an­i­mal in the dis­tance. As we edge closer, we see it’s a sub-adult lion, bask­ing in the late af­ter­noon glow. There is a rustling in the bushes be­hind him and bound­ing out are three more sub-adult cubs – one male and two fe­males.

We make our way to Heather­ton Tow­ers, where a lone chee­tah had been seen ear­lier in the day. Bren­don im­me­di­ately sees her as she is sit­ting up-

right, look­ing to­wards a herd of im­pala in the dis­tance. She is per­fectly po­si­tioned to stalk and pounce, but seems rather lethar­gic and as she lays down un­der a tree, we no­tice that she looks very preg­nant.

The sun has started set­ting and Bren­don sug­gests we see what the subadult li­ons are up to. As we get to where we have left them, they are up and about and on the move. They pause every few yards to lis­ten – their mother is call­ing in the dis­tance. We fol­low them un­til we get to an in­ac­ces­si­ble patch and hope that they will be re­united with their mom.

Back at Up­lands Homestead, the most de­lec­ta­ble din­ner is served, with cala­mari for starters, fol­lowed by de­li­cious kudu veni­son, mashed pota­toes and veg­eta­bles. For dessert, we all en­joy three dif­fer­ent types of cho­co­late mousse.

Tonight, I in­dulge in a bath, filled with bub­bles. The Ka­roo Laven­der prod­ucts are fra­grant and very re­lax­ing. Sparkly clean, I climb into the huge bed and as soon as my head touches the silky soft pil­low, I am off to dream­land.

Af­ter a won­der­ful break­fast con­sist­ing of crois­sants, pan­cakes and English break­fast and the most per­fect cap­puc­cino, ex­pertly made by Somi, Bren­don takes us on our morn­ing game drive. As we cross the Great Fish River, the white-fronted bee eaters are out in full force, warm­ing them­selves up in the sun­shine. With the in­cred­i­ble chee­tah sight­ing for­ever etched into our mem­o­ries, we stop for a de­light­ful early morn­ing bush cof­fee stop, fol­lowed a lit­tle while later by an out­door lunch at Up­lands Homestead.

Nt­siki has out­done her­self with a ta­ble laden with the tasti­est food – vegetable penne pasta, beef sir­loin, grilled baby chicken, ar­ti­choke salad and fruity pavlova for dessert. Be­fore our af­ter­noon game drive, we are treated to the most scrump­tious high tea.

On our af­ter­noon drive, Bren­don tries to find a leop­ard, but to no avail. In­stead, we spot bat eared foxes and the same chee­tah with five cubs we en­coun­tered ear­lier. The tiny fluff­balls are fast asleep, un­til mom gets up to hunt. Hop­ing they will stay be­hind and don’t ‘blow her cover’, she stalks un­suc­cess­fully while the cubs are run­ning amok.

We are in for a treat tonight and driven to a se­cret lo­ca­tion. Sun­down­ers in the bush! The ac­com­pa­ny­ing ‘snacks’ are to die for – imag­ine bar­be­qued lamb sausage, beef sausage, pork sausage, chicken sausage, veni­son sausage, washed down with your drink of choice.

I can’t even think of hav­ing din­ner as the ‘snacks’ were in­cred­i­bly fill­ing, but when I hear that we are din­ing on beef fil­let, hand-cut fries and veg­eta­bles tonight, I know re­sis­tance is fu­tile. I might just for­get about fit­ting into my al­ready tight clothes again.

The most as­tound­ing sun­rise her­alds our last day at Kwandwe. As we exit the gate at Up­lands Homestead for our morn­ing game drive, Bren­don finds lion tracks. I re­mem­ber him telling me the pre­vi­ous day that peo­ple (and it seems like an­i­mals too) fall in love with Kwandwe when they first set foot here and end up be­com­ing re­turn guests. That sounds like the most ge­nius idea ever! See you soon!

Thank you to Saskia Brown from Kwandwe and Lucinda La­con from Li­mosa Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for ar­rang­ing our stay.

Views ex­pressed are the au­thor’s own.

| Pho­to­graphs cour­tesy of Kwandwe and by Heléne Ra­mack­ers

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