THE BACKGROUND: It took nearly seven years for Mark and Wendy Rutherford to turn 11,000 hectares of farmland into a prime game reserve and luxury lodge experience. Open since late 2008, Gondwana provides visitors to the Western Cape a genuine big-five and five-star lodge experience. Sell it to clients driving up the Garden Route after a stay in Cape Town, or clients who don’t want to stray too far from the attractions of Cape Town and the Winelands but are still looking for an overnight safari and bush experience.
WHERE IS IT? About 400km (or a 3.5 hour drive) from Cape Town and 45-minute drive from George (SA Airlink operates the 45-minute flight from Cape Town).
THE ROOM: We stayed in one of 20 large Fynbos Camp Villas, which are set a couple of kilometres into the reserve away from the main lodge. The term villa doesn’t do justice to our deluxe suite, which is 200sqm in size, with double bedrooms either side of a huge open-plan dining and relaxation area, with a kitchen and open fire. A wraparound deck gives great views of the reserve, which plunged into the fynbos valley below. Modern and contemporary, African touches were provided by a high thatched roof, Zulu baskets, ebony trays and wooden giraffes. Gondwana opened Fynbos Camp’s 14 Kwena Huts this month (June). Built like Zulu rondavels, these luxury suites with skylights have 180-degree valley and mountain views.
THE RESTAURANT: Lehele Lodge's restaurant serves up a fine selection of African cuisine – kudu anyone? – and SA wines and there’s a cosy bar that looks out onto an infinity pool that seems to overflow into the valley below. Or you can choose to dine in your own villa: a 'private' chef quietly prepares and serves up a meal you will long remember.
FACILITIES & ACTIVITIES: Gondwana has been stocked with the Big Five, so expect to see lions, rhino, elephant and, if you are lucky, the elusive leopard. What makes the location unique for game viewing is that animals are sighted not against a backdrop of thick bush or open plains but among the unique fynbos (flowers) that makes the Western Cape one of the world’s true floral kingdoms. There’s also bush walks, fishing, horseback safaris, fynbos walks and a junior ranger programme.
RECOMMEND TO: Couples, honeymooners, families – anyone looking to add a bush trip to a Cape Town/Garden Route stay.
THE COST: From £350pppn, including meals and game drives. Ask about the pay for-two-stay-for-three nights offer in 2010.
THE DETAILS: Tel: (+27) 44 6977 002; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gondwana fills a gap that has existed on the Garden Route: a top-class lodge offering a private, quality and genuine safari break. It's worth a visit alone for the private in-villa meal – I had kingklip fish cakes and superb SA Chenin Blanc.
Editor, Selling Long Haul