In Xhosa, the word ‘Kwandwe’ means ‘Place of the Blue Crane’ – and sure enough, the reserve contains a population of these brilliant birds, a rare and endangered species. Kwandwe is home to loads of other birdlife too and the reserve boasts all Big Five animals and impressive numbers of other species. Due to the reserve’s status as non-malarial it is a fantastic option for families and there is accommodation to suit couples, honeymooners and groups as well! Kwandwe has much to recommend it as a safari destination. Once farmland, today its rolling plains are exceedingly well stocked with wildlife. The Great Fish River rushes through the reserve, its level varying according to the time of year. When the level is low, immense sand bars are visible – a truly spectacular sight!
Wildlife in Kwandwe Game Reserve
There is tons to see in Kwandwe. Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino (black and white!) roam the reserve and there are also abundant antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, hyena, hippo, plus predators such as cheetah. In addition to the beautiful blue crane, there are fish eagle, martial eagle, bokmakierie, Stanley’s bustards, kori, black harrier, South African shelduck, malachite sunbird, Knysa woodpecker, and many more! If you are a keen birdwatcher, you will not be disappointed.
Kwandwe contains four lodges, all luxurious and equipped with high-end facilities. Ecca Lodge is small and stylish and family-friendly, while Great Fish River Lodge is a more imposing property that does not accept children aged under 12 years. Uplands Homestead has a lovely homely feel, a real farmhouse flavour. This accommodation is booked exclusively for a small group or family – and the same is true of Melton Manor, which is slightly smaller yet just as welcoming.
We recommend Ecca Lodge for families with younger children, Great Fish River Lodge for couples, honeymooners and older families, and Melton Manor and Uplands Homestead for all families and small groups.
From all lodges, guests enjoy game drives and game walks. Guiding in Kwandwe is of an exceptionally high standard. Game drives take place by day and by night – and a tracker is present so that guests get to know the reserve really well in the process of following animals. Safari walks are also possible, in the knowledgeable company of an armed guide, and there are ‘safari specials’ too – rhino monitoring, rhino darting, big game walks and even private safaris!
However, please note that the safari specials are usually booked in advance and require extra payment. Other activities include nature walks, picnics, boat trips and fishing! There is also the opportunity for adults and children to engage in local community projects – for example, arts ‘n’ crafts and gardening.
Time of year to travel
Kwandwe’s lodges are open all year round. Winter temperatures range from 7°C to 20°C, while in summer the heat ranges from 16°C to over 36°C! The rainy season is September to March.
The Blue Crane Conservation Club! This is Kwandwe’s children’s club and it is pretty special. On arrival, children receive a conservation guide, stationery, a water bottle and a ‘Frolicking Rhino’ range of toiletries. Activities include eco-walks, game drives, tracking, fishing trips, sand art, baking – and the particularly popular ‘poo safari’!