Gondwana Game Reserve is an Escape Society favourite in South Africa. Each year, RANDela's are saved up so we can book a night or two to get lost in the bush and stay at one of the top safari lodges in the country.
While the service, food and overall experience is usually phenomenal, our trip in October fell flat.
The Kwena Hut vs The Bush Villa
We booked the Kwena Hut (an Escape Society favourite out of all the accommodation options), but due to wind damage, Gondwana moved us to the bush villa.
Unfortunately, it didn't live up to what we had become accustomed to at Kwena.
- There was no turndown service.
- The bush villa rooms did not have any design consistency.
- The villa is 15-20 minute drive from the main lodge for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Unlike Kwena, there is no skylight above the beds to stargaze.
Staying at the bush villa left like a downgrade in some ways, although there were a few perks.
Due to its distance from the main lodge, you can't beat the privacy here, there is a gorgeous private plunge pool, and walking trails are easily accessible from the villa.
The food at Gondwana is always delicious, and we've always looked forward to everything the head chef whips up.
However, our most recent stay, the kitchen was a bit of a mess. With a full-house of guests, we waited over 1:30min for our starters.
The owner of Gondwana didn't do anything to check on the delay, which was disappointing.
Some of the waiters didn't know proper serving etiquette. We had a server leaning over us, and it took away from the five-star experience we expect from Gondwana.
That being said, on our second night, we were served by the fantastic Zandi. She was outstanding and gave us that world-class hospitality we missed on the first night.
Upon arrival, Gondwana took all the necessary COVID pre-cautions. Each guest had their temperatures scanned at the gate and on game drives we received sealed and sterilised blankets and ponchos.
After checking-in, the hostess welcomed us with drinks and scented wash clothes. Both were quite refreshing after our 6-hour drive from Cape Town.
During our stay, load shedding did strike, but Gondwana was prepared. We had torches with a backup battery and a two-plate stove.
The Game Drives
The game drives at Gondwana are legendary. It truly is one of the best places to go on safari along the Garden Route.
We explored the beautiful valleys which looked like the default Microsoft background in a new Ford Ranger. It comfortably fit our entire group of six, and we saw 4/5 of the Big 5.
The highlight for us was the privilege of spending time with Gondwana's rhinos. A special task force protects the herd, and it was wonderful to watch them graze in their natural habitat.
Our guide, Austin, set up sunrise coffee and rusks and sundowners with wine, gin and snacks in the evening. The views were incredible, and Austin brought all his National Geographic trivia knowledge to the table to make the drive memorable.
Overall, there was a bit of disappointment that the stay didn't match all the other times we've come to Gondwana.
While the game drives didn't disappoint, the general lack of 5-star service left a tad bit of a sour taste.
We love Gondwana, and hope the experience was a glitch in the Matrix and isn't the new norm for the lodge.