Great Fish River Lodge

Hotel in Eastern Cape

Luxury Safari Lodge

Great Fish River Lodge is a Relais & Châteaux property on South Africa’s Eastern Cape and is nestled along the banks of the river on the expansive Kwandwe Private Game Reserve.

As the name suggests, the lodge is on the river bank, and overlooks the Great Fish River with views of the reserve. Kwandwe is not far from Grahamstown and a short transfer by road or light aircraft from Port Elizabeth. This property, and the three other lodges on the reserve all offer magnificent vistas of the pristine wilderness, home to a large variety of safari animals.

Private game reserves in South Africa are on the increase as more and more visitors seek out up close experiences with wildlife.  The purpose of these reserves is threefold: they serve an important conservation role by bringing wildlife populations back to their native territories; they employ local tribal people and, usually, will offer exceptional, luxury accommodation so guests can experience nature in comfort.

Though animals generally stay away during day light hours, monkeys, kudu and small antelope can all be viewed on the riverbank on the opposite side of lodge.  Great Fish River Lodge is a somewhat sprawling property which consists of: (1) the main premises which houses a restaurant, sitting areas, outside wooden deck plus offices, and (2) the guest accommodation which is nine private chalets.  Each ‘chalet’, for want of a better word, have sliding glass doors which lead onto a patio and private plunge pool.   These enclosed wooden lodges (not tents) have a stylish and comfortable sitting area, king size bed, bathroom with free standing bath and also indoor and outdoor showers.  Every amenity imaginable is provided including free wifi.  You can even have a massage therapist come to your chalet for a private treatment.

At night, all guests dine at the main lodge and then, afterwards, are escorted back to their private chalet by a security guard.  I would recommend bringing a torch though you will never be walking around at night on your own.

The main lodge was refurbished and redecorated last year and boasts a clean, spacious interior with natural colours, fabrics and design elements to enhance the décor.  The deck/platform outside is where breakfast is served and is also the perfect spot for relaxing after an early morning game drive. There is a small shop for incidentals and souvenirs.  There are also souvenirs by the bucket load for purchase at the main office where guests check in before making their way to the Great Fish River Lodge.

Of course, the piece de resistance, is the game drives which are included in the price of accommodation.  Our Game Warden/Driver and Tracker were an amazing team that could scout out wildlife and adventure or, equally, keep us safe when testosterone filled male elephants decided to block our path.  The reserve is known for its white and black rhino but all the big five are here; lions, leopards, water buffalo, ostrich, giraffe, hyenas, just to name a few.

At the end of a long hungry day of tracking, the lodge’s Boma BBQ offers some of the best food I have ever tasted.  Boma is the name given to a traditional stone or wood enclosure in this part of South Africa. On entering, you will find a roaring fire in the pit and a formal table laid out with tablecloth and linen napkins.  Everyone is served a fizzy drink before settling down to an awesome buffet meal.  I choose the melt-in-your mouth chicken curry with potato gnocchi, venison skewers and roasted veg.  The dessert of Cardamom and Yoghurt Panacotta, with berry consommé and a black pepper tulle is stunning and not to be missed.

Most guests only stay at Great Fish River Lodge for three nights as the cost is quite high.  But because of the level of luxury provided, fabulous food and with the game drives included, it is well worth the cost.

Lynn Houghton is a Travel Writer and Photographer based in London

Reviewer's Rating
Ambience Rustic
Outdoor / Adventure
Dress Code Casual
Cost Expensive
Number of Rooms 10 private lodges

Room and Suite Categories

All identical, private lodges with sleeping for two.

Additional Ambience Information

Incredibly friendly staff. Quiet, casual elegance describes the ambience.

Additional Price Comments

If you fancy a massage during your stay, a therapist will come to your room. The cost is 400 RAND per hour.

Last updated on 02-10-2015

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