South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province has a number of world-class wildlife reserves, and leading the pack is Shamwari. Home to all of Africa’s Big 5, this award-winning reserve has healthy numbers of lion, elephant and cheetah; herds of zebra graze the grassy plains, and shy black rhino graze in the dense thickets.
With so much wildlife about, it’s hard to believe that 25 years ago much of the current reserve was overgrazed, drought-damaged farmland. The turning point came when businessman Adrian Gardiner bought a small farm as a bushveld retreat for him and his family.
His farm had a few scattered antelope and baboons; no big game. But when Adrian learned that the Eastern Cape had once stood amongst the richest wildlife areas in Africa, it became his vision to restore the land to its former glory. Over the years that vision grew to become the 25,000-hactre conservation success story that Shamwari Game Reserve is today
A Warm Welcome to Founders Lodge
Founders Lodge lies in a private 400-hectare reserve, right next to Shamwari. For around 20 years the Gardiner family, friends and celebrities came to this beautiful holiday home, looking out across the bush-covered hills of the Eastern Cape. And now, after extensive renovations, Founders has opened its doors to guests.
Giltedge senior consultant Monique Dean and training manager Robyn-Lea Meyer were invited up to the Eastern Cape to experience Founders Lodge for themselves. In Monique’s words the lodge still “feels like a home: warm, welcoming yet with all the luxurious touches of a 5-star property”.
Founders private reserve has plenty of plains game – giraffe, antelope, zebra and warthog – but no dangerous animals. This gives you the best of both worlds as you can enjoy guided walks and picnics in the predator-free reserve, along with the thrill of tracking big cats, elephant and buffalo in neighbouring Shamwari.
Exclusive Safari Escape
The lodge has just six suites so it’s great for family groups or friends travelling together. Robyn-Lea stayed in one of the Contemporary Suites, while Monique was in the more traditional Master Suite with its grand four-poster bed. The style of these suites is quite different, but they all have the same level of luxury and their own private veranda with lovely Eastern Cape views.
Service is excellent! And the management couple, Vicky and Wayne, really know how to look after their guests. Days are shaped around you: get up early for a dawn game drive or sleep in and catch up with the wildlife later. Have dinner family-style at one big table, or opt for a private dining experience. This flexibility really adds to the feeling of staying in your own safari home.
Bush Breakfast and a Game Drive
During their stay, Monique and Robyn-Lea were treated to a bush breakfast in a spectacular ravine on the Founders Lodge reserve, as well as a game drive in Shamwari. The entrance to Shamwari is just 50 meters from the lodge, and their drive certainly did not disappoint with highlights including sightings of both cheetah and rhino.
Monique noted that their game drive vehicle was brand new and top-of-the-range. As for their guide, Philip: “He was fantastic! Philip’s been on Shamwari for 15 years and is incredibly knowledgeable, with a brilliant sense of humour.”
Founders Lodge lies a few hours’ drive from the world-famous Garden Route, and can easily be combined with a beach holiday on the coast. What’s more, the entire Eastern Cape is malaria-free so no hassling with malaria prophylaxis.
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