Driving from Cape Town all the way to Port Elizabeth along the scenic Garden Route, we stopped for a sip of Merlot at beautiful vineyards, for an adventurous quad tour in the forrest, for a spa treatment at the picturesque Tsitsikamma Lodge in the Tsisikamma National Park – and even did the world famous Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jump (still can’t quite believe that last one).
The only thing that could round off all those experiences was a stay at a luxury safari lodge. With the abundant choice of safaris and game reserves in South Africa, it was difficult to settle on just one place to visit during our road trip. We also weren’t sure whether we should fly to Kruger National Park to have the full experience, as that is what we had heard was a must-do so far. But may we just say – we found the perfect place: Settlers Drift at Kariega Game Reserve (definitely worth the use of bold font there). It’s a stunning 8 hour drive from Cape Town and worth every minute of the trip – and you can even take a short plane ride to Port Elizabeth if you’re not too keen on the road trip vibe!
So if you’re planning a similar trip – or just staying in Cape Town – you absolutely must take a trip to stay at Kariega Game Reserve. And here’s why:
Passing the first two security gates at the reserve, we were slowly making our way to the Settler’s Drift lodge, where we would be spending the next few nights. The anticipation was high (we had, after all, chosen the place based solely on their website and Instagram page). All of a sudden, a massive giraffe walked past our car. Right there, in front of us. Seeing such a majestic animal so close to your own car – when not expecting it at all! – was absolutely thrilling. That experience set the tone for the rest of our stay.
Upon arrival at the main building of Settlers Drift, the images we had previously seen online came to life – and much beyond. No pictures could do the magical atmosphere of this place any justice, but have a look at some of them below to get an idea.
At the entrance, we were greeted with welcome drinks and hot towels. The staff parked our car and our luggage was already waiting at our private tented suite when we got there. And what a suite it was – the room was beyond spacious and the open-plan design made you feel at one with nature. With stunning views and a secluded viewing decks, we were ready for the ultimate safari experience. The tented style gave the whole space an authentic safari vibe. While the bathroom area was all windows, the nature outside made sure privacy was guaranteed at all times. The pocket windows allow the room to blend with nature completely, and a fireplace by the bed invites you to spend cozy nights in.
We enjoyed our first evening with a quick swim in the dark-tiled pool that flows effortlessly into its surroundings (we’re pretty sure we saw another giraffe while doing our laps) and an outdoor shower in our en-suite bathroom, followed by a glass of Pinotage by the outdoor fireplace in the main building and a magical candle lit dinner. The large wooden tables and overall aesthetic of the dining room area are just as beautiful as the view.
A little bit exhausted from the car ride (we might take the plane next time) we retreated to our beautiful room and turned in for the night – not before setting the alarm for 6 am for the morning game drive though!
6 a.m., Friday – wow, it’s early. But so worth it! We take a moment to enjoy the bright pink sunrise, gazing down from our deck overlooking the Bushman’s River. After a much needed coffee, we get our safari gear on and head to the main building where our guide is waiting for us. Also waiting for us: a personalized reusable water bottle with our names on it! Thoughtful details are what makes any stay a five star stay in our opinion.
Today’s safari mission? Finding the lion cubs! After a short drive through the extensive game reserve, we already come across countless zebras, impala, nyala, kudus, blue wildebeest and even a group of baby warthogs (hi Phumba!). Continuing further on, we find white rhinos enjoying their favorite activity – mud baths! Immersed in nature and surrounded by these wonderful creatures, we can’t imagine that anyone would ever harm or endanger them. We listen to our guide with great sadness, learning that poachers still pose an immense threat. We feel deep gratitude towards those that dedicate their lives to protect wildlife from these unnatural threats and hope that someday, this will be a thing of the past. Click here to find out more about the International Anti-Poaching Foundation and how to support them.
Continuing on further into the depths of the reserve, we don’t forget our mission – finding the lion cubs! We nearly give up hope when suddenly, our guide spots a giraffe running forwards, but always looking back – as if something was wrong. We follow the giraffe and, sure enough, we find two proud lions roaming through the bushes. Our guide was sure that the females – and with them the cubs – couldn’t be far away. Sure enough, a few minutes drive further away, we finally spot them. Two females and three cubs, watching a gathering of kudus from afar. We couldn’t believe our luck!! Baby lions, finally! Our dream had come true, even when we thought this trip couldn’t become any more perfect.
Moving slowly back to the game reserve after an action-packed day, we let the days’ events settle in. The warm evening breeze was a nice change from the crisp wind back in Cape Town, and the stars were so bright you could make out the shape of the milky way. In that moment, the world seemed to be in perfect order.
Back at the lodge, we are again greeted with hot towels and warm greetings. We quickly freshen up at our suite and head to dinner. The setting is just as dreamy as it was the night before, and the food absolutely exquisite. What a wonderful way to start a series of perfect days, immersed in nature and luxury.
Thank you Kariega Game Reserve for this wonderful experience. We will be back with friends & family to share the magic!
In collaboration with Kariega Game Reserve