Vivez Luxe is taking you on a journey to one of South Africa’s best kept secrets – a luxurious safari hideaway surrounded by the pristine beauty of a natural reserve that allows you to witness the magnificent wildlife of Africa. We are taking you with us on this incredible journey by sharing the personal notes of our editor to get a glimpse of what a visit to the Gondwana Game Reserve looks, feels and tastes like and discover why you should plan your next trip very soon. Are you ready to escape?
Monday 8 am
So happy, again to be back on the road, and what a scenic one it is, we are on the magnificent garden route on the way to the Gondwana Game Reserve. We left our hotel in Cape Town under the beautiful South African sunshine, but as we travel around 4 hours to the game reserve, we see some darker clouds appearing, framing the scenery into a dramatic painting of mountains and endless skies.
Monday 12 am
After a bumpy drive through the dusty roads, you soon realize that you are about to start a true adventure. And this is it – passing through the security gates – Gondwana Game Reserve. Now there is no more fence, no boundary, nothing – this is real wildlife and protected nature in its purest form.
I feel like Indiana jones, we continue driving in the middles of extensive hills, only nature to be seen, it is already quite incredible. You know next to you are the wildest animals… such an exciting and thrilling feeling – the unknown.
The jeep glides through wild tree branches that hide what’s in front but slowly the view is getting clearer… we finally discover the outstanding property that will be ours for the next 2 days. A private villa appointed with the finest details and the upmost attention to detail: We are warmly greeted by the house butler, the private chef and of course a driver who will take care of all safaris and other experiences we wish for. One thing is already clear: It’s all about your rhythm and how you imagine your perfect escape.
The villa, known as the Ulubisi House, has been built to maximize natural light and that incredible view over the mountains, that leaves you in pure admiration from every angle of the estate. Materials have been carefully chosen and the interiors tastefully appointed, making every room lavish, yet intimate and extremely cosy. I fell like I just arrived to the home I never knew I had!
The full sliding doors opening towards the private pool and heated jacuzzi make the Ulubisi House the true definition of indoor-outdoor-living. But it’s the view that will truly take your breath away. No roads, no cars, no construction, no noise – only the the gentle hills and mountains, the endless African sky and the beauty of wild animals roaming just outside your villa. There seems only one word suitable to describe such a rare sight: Paradise.
Monday 2 PM
Time to enjoy a home-cooked meal to fuel ourselves before heading for the first safari. Our driver is in time and after giving us some general instructions, we are finally off to discover the wildlife – we are passing through the electric gate and fence only few hundred meters away from the house that protects it from Lions and other dangerous animals, the adventure begins.
I am so excited, it feels like I’m a kid all over again. The sky is still cloudy, but somehow this only adds to the beauty of the reserve giving the safari a slightly mysterious backdrop. The beginning is a slow one, we drive but hardly see anything… still excited but almost like the knowledgeable driver knows how to tease his guests – the enchantment will come crescendo…
Shortly after, we are crossing zebras, buffalos, rhinoceros, like they just came out of a children drawing book – absolutely dreamy. Then we gently approached the gigantic and incredibly serene elephants moving majestically through the beautiful landscape. After a few more minutes of driving the car is stopped just on the edge of a hill and our guide starts setting up a table for the sunset aperitif in the most unusual setting. No, this is not just a fantasy from an old movie, but actual reality – a safari is an experience not to be missed and actually just the opposite of how some might think it is to be so close to wild animals – there is an actual sense of peace and breathtaking tranquility.
As predicted, the first safari ends on a high note. As sunset has passed, it is time to go back home to the Ulubisi House, where we are welcomed back at the front door with hot towels and upon entering the living room feel the warmth and comfort of the beautiful fireplaces – the lights are dimmed, candles everywhere. Many hotels often forget the little details that make a stay truly magical, but the Ulubisi House is certainly not one of them, as here it’s all about personalized luxury.
Monday 8 pm
Dinner is served: the long table in the dining room is set and our order is being taken, while we are eagerly excited to try some of the signature culinary creations of the in-house chef, who can actually cook anything you desire. We decided to leave it up to him to surprise us with what he does best – a warm delicious mussel soup to start, followed by a filet mignon, and a sublime chocolate desert. Of course every dinner is accompanied by matching wines to make it even more fabulous (if that is even possible).
Monday 10 pm
The Ulubisi House is tranquil, exactly what I need after weeks of traveling the globe. The staff of the house have quietly excused themselves and I take a moment to absorb my surroundings and relive everything I have seen today in just a few hours – it makes me emotional being immersed into so much natural beauty.
With the fireplace next to me and my cup of hot chocolate, I suddenly feel very warm. Despite the fact that zebras and other animal can freely roam around the house, I decided – brave me as you live only once – to venture into the outdoor Jacuzzi and take some fresh air. What a moment: Alone, relaxing, just the soft wind and some far away animal sounds – it is truly surreal. I look at the immense sky above me and feel so small – out of a sudden the sky has magically cleared and the spectacle I have only for myself is one of a kind with the sheer endless amount of stars shining high above me.
Tuesday 5.30 am
After a short but restful night it is time to wake up and head for the first safari of the day. A cup of coffee prepared by the butler and off we go: We are all wrapped up as its still fairly cold at 6 am in the open jeep. Same animals, same excitement, some joy, especially when you are still waking up in the car as the sun rises. We are lucky as today the sky is incredibly clear with full sunshine and not a single cloud in sight. How can this be? All this for us?
The true highlight is seeing a group of six giraffes coming down from the hills straight towards our car. They are oh-so gracious and it’s hard to describe how it feels to see these exotic animals in their natural habitat totally free without any human intervention. And of course, a nice stop for tea and coffee overlooking the hills makes this experience even more spectacular.
I can’t believe this journey already comes to an end, as so many incredible moments have happened in such a short 48 hours. Yes it was intense but most certainly worth it. I recall the trill of discovering the Ulubisi house for the first time, my heartbeat rushing as the lions were passing just a few meters from me, the fun of the cycle tour we did yesterday under the sun to this morning as I woke up and opened the curtains, walked barefoot on the terrace, looked up to the mountains and just enjoyed hearing the peaceful sound of nature. I never get spiritual, but as I leave this incredible place, I already know that these memories will never fade.
Was it a dream, did I just wake up? No, it was definitely real. I was here. These are the moments we live for.
Vivez Luxe decided to leave these Notes of our Senior Editor in their raw form, to truly showcase the emotions and feelings of staying and experiencing the magical Gondwana Game Reserve. If you are planning your next trip to South Africa, make sure to include the Ulubisi House or one of the other available accommodations that are suitable for every type of traveller and budget. Click here to find out more and book your next stay. In the meantime, should you wish to see another glimpse of what a day at Gondwana looks like, make sure to check out the Vivez Luxe Travel Series on Instagram: