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Eastern Cape Trip Report: Hitgeheim, Blaauwbosch, Samara, Kwandwe

Eastern Cape Trip Report: Hitgeheim, Blaauwbosch, Samara, Kwandwe

Mar 19th, 2009, 07:46 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 97
Eastern Cape Trip Report: Hitgeheim, Blaauwbosch, Samara, Kwandwe

Since there are not very many trip reports from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, I thought I’d briefly discuss my January, 2009 adventure!

3-nights - Hitgeheim Country Lodge – Near Addo Elephant National Park
1-night - Blaauwbosch Private Game Reserve
3-nights - Samara Private Game Reserve
4-nights – Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

We flew via Cape Town into Port Elizabeth and were met at the airport by Archie Hitge, the owner of Hitgeheim Country Lodge. He truly runs a family business, with his wife being the star of the kitchen, and his daughter managing the guest relations at the lodge. The rooms and food are outstanding, and the level of service and personal attention we received was tremendous. The location, a 25-minute drive from the entrance to Addo, is a bit of a drawback, and the grounds of Hitgeheim itself are nothing terribly special, but despite the lack of on-site activities, we enjoyed our three days here immensely. Archie and his daughter booked a variety of tours for us. A morning game drive into Addo gave us some spectacular elephant sightings. And a visit to the Daniell Cheetah Breeding Farm was amazing, where we spent lots of time interacting with an adult cheetah and playing with three tiny lion cubs.

This is a small and very different reserve. The landscape is quite dramatic, and covered with cactus. It has the big five, plus several cheetah. It’s rooms are impressive. The pool looks very posh, but up close it’s not that great. Overall, we weren’t too thrilled with this reserve. The staff here seemed a bit uninterested in their guests, and they were all adjusting to new ownership, after the reserve was recently purchased by an investor from the Middle East. There was nothing terribly bad about this lodge – in fact we had some rather nice sightings of cheetah and elephant – but we were glad we only had one night here.

This is where you come to see Sibella, one of the most prolific cheetahs ever in South Africa. She is known to have mothered at least 17 cubs after being relocated to this reserved in the Great Karoo. Samara is near the fascinating town of Graaf-Reinet, in a very arid and remote part of the Eastern Cape. The lodge has an old-fashioned ambience in the classic safari mold, but it has none of the pretentiousness we’ve experienced elsewhere. Samara is a delight, especially if you enjoy a stark environment, with challenging game drives that are memorable even when you don’t find what you’re looking for. After some arduous driving in our Land Cruiser game vehicle, our guide (Dave) took us on-foot to within a few feet of Sibella as well as a young pair of male cheetah. This “walk & stalk” activity is a great bonus, and most guests have the opportunity to do it at least once.

At this &Beyond reserve, we stayed at the Great Fish River Lodge. From the moment we checked in we were in love with this place. Amazing room, tremendous location, and highly experienced guides. Things got off to a heart-pounding start when we discovered a deadly boomslang in our room shortly after our arrival. A quick phone call to the lodge brought three rangers to the rescue. Using a stick and a bucket, the head ranger managed to coax the disoriented snake outside and back into the bush. Every game drive here was fantastic, with sightings that included cheetah, lion, giraffe, elephant, and numerous black and white rhinos. The best sighting involved a bloody hour-long battle between two male white rhinos. The loser, covered in blood, eventually ran away exhausted, but alive. During the hot afternoons, we enjoyed the plunge pool. Our guide (Alfie) was one of the best we’ve ever had. Kwandwe has inspired us to look at Phinda for our next journey to South Africa. All of our transfers during the trip were by ground, and pre-arranged by the various lodges. Most travelers we encountered were driving themselves throughout the Eastern Cape, which, despite the long distances, is very easy to navigate.
MisterAviator is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 10:22 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Thanks for the interesting report. We don't hear much on this forum about the Eastern Cape. I just checked the MTBeds.com website and they offer Kwandwe for 2560R per night, if you book 30 days in advance....so tempting!
cruisinred is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 12:40 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Thanks for the report. Like Cruisin says, info on the Eastern Cape is rare. Especially interesting to read about Kwandwe as I'm headed that way next month.
Femi is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 01:05 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4,215
Very informative report!
Glad you liked Samara - I admire them for their cheetah program.

Regarding the Danielle Cheetah breeding......which I have not heart of before I am puzzled regarding the lion cubs. Their website is extremely limited in view to information.
Have they given you some information on their mother(s) whereabouts and where they are going to when they get too old to be petted?

spassvogel is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 02:53 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 97

I wish I had more information for you about the lion cubs at Daniell Cheetah Breeding Farm, but most of our time was spent hearing about the cheetah program. The lion cubs were so playful and entertaining, I don't remember too much except that they had already been sold to a game reserve which would get them once the cubs got bigger.

MisterAviator is offline  
Mar 24th, 2009, 03:42 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 22
I agree with your assessment of Kwandwe. The food, service and game drives were all fabulous. The staff were all very friendly and courteous, but without the fawning obsequiousness found at other lodges. My "hut" at the Great Fish River Lodge was elegant and luxurious and so private that I felt I was the only guest there. Kwandwe is a wonderful experience, go.
tamtalb is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 03:47 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1
Thanks for the detailed report. Actually, I'm very interested as we'll be visiting the Eastern Cape in September.
In our plan there is Samara (2 nights), Addo (2 nights) and then one extra night that we have not yet choosen where to stay. The two options right now are Shamwari or Blaauwbosch but, after looking at some forum and reviews, we're wondering if Kwandwe may be a better option. We have three children (3,5 and 8 yrs. old) and some of these reserves have restrictions on taking kids to game viewing.
Shamwari sounds pretty expensive, but don't know if Kwandwe will be any cheaper.
We were, anyhow, very happy with another CCA game reserve a few years ago (Matetsi in Zimbabwe) and then had the chance to experience the unique Okavango delta (but that was years back, with no kids).
So, quite difficult to choose now...Any suggestion?
Thanks all
francescosala is offline  
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