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“Wonderful game viewing and fabulous service and accommodation” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge

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Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge
Heatherton Towers, Fort Brown District | Grahamstown, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve 6140, South Africa   |  
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London
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“Wonderful game viewing and fabulous service and accommodation”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 14, 2010

We were at Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge for 4 nights in October and had a truly wonderful and memorable time. We had an excellent ranger, Phil, who was extremely knowledgeable and who managed to transmit his enthusiasm to everyone around him. He was ably assisted by his tracker, Bongani, who had an amazing ability to spot animals at incredible distances - on one occasion, he pointed at two dots in the far distance and informed us that they were two cheetahs - only when we looked through our binoculars, could we see that he was correct. During our time at Kwandwe, we saw a whole variety of wild animals at very close quarters which was just amazing - including elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, cheetahs, lions, giraffes, zebras, baboons and, most excitingly for everyone at the Lodge, a leopard.

Our accommodation was fabulous - each suite was an individual thatched building with a very large, attractively-furnished bedroom, an area with 'his and her' basins, a bath which looked out at the bush beyond, and both inside and outside showers. Outside was a private and secluded decked area with very comfortable loungers, armchairs and our own plunge pool. The staff at the lodge were all extremely friendly, helpful and accommodating and we were treated like royalty - hot towels offered when we came back from game drives and tables set up by our ranger and tracker and laden with snacks and drinks (and sometimes champagne) in the middle of the bush.

Overall a really wonderful experience.

  • Stayed October 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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135 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (25)
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English first
Gennes, France
Senior Contributor
42 reviews 42 reviews
29 hotel reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 3, 2010

We had a great time during our three days at Great Fish River Lodge. From the moment we arrived and checked in at the picturesque reception lodge and souvenir shop until we left, it was sheer luxury, excellent service, great food and wines but more importantly perfectly trained and professional rangers and trackers. We were 6 on day one and 4 on day 2, which meant that we did pretty much what we wanted to do during the numerous game drives. We managed to see all big fives. Please note that if you are elephants mad and looking for large herds, Kwandwe is not your place. But apart from that, I could not recommend it enough. As a great touch and surprise and on our last night, the hotel organised a surprise in suite dinner. The staff had decorated the suite in our absence with rose petals and candles everywhere. We had a beautiful dinner served with fine wines and local champagne. All this created for a very memorable experience and this is what you want when you are on your honeymoon. Like all upscale safari lodges in South Africa, Kwandwe is not cheap but frankly it deserves every penny you pay because you do get a lot for what you pay and clearly, you would be hard pressed to find a reason to complain. Well done to the team and we cannot wait to return back.

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Oxford
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 10, 2010

The last few reviews below are so accurate and comprehensive there is little to add, except to keep the flow of positive comments coming, as I know we always check to see what the most recent reviews say! We would particularly like to thank our ranger, Doc, and tracker, Siza, for five memorable game drives - great care was taken to ensure close sightings of the animals, with Doc able to go off road (but not in a fast, bumpy way!) to find different angles to see them. Their enjoyment of the animals in the landscape they have lived in all their lives was infectious and informative. As novices at game drives, we found the experience of the drives thrilling, as well as thoroughly enjoying the main lodge, the individual suites, the food etc. Three nights was a good length of time, we thought, as naturally you can't go for unguided walks, or in fact swim (as each individual suite has a plunge pool, and there is not one main pool, although there is a big pool at Ecca lodge on the reserve, popular with families). We came just after Easter on a superb 'stay three nights for the price of two' deal - so do look out for things like this to help with the cost!

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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London
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 5, 2010

As others have pointed out here, the lodge is lovely and has old school safari charms with lots of little artifacts about and the central fire place which the rangers happily join you around before & after the game drives to chat and swap tales. Enjoyable game drives that last 3-4hrs so with x2 per dp you spend ages out an about. Food was great and lots of it. All I'd say is that more than 4 nights and with the eating, boozing (there were liquour coffees on the go from8.30am!!) and lack of activity due to sitting in thejeep and you'd pile on the weight!! A great experience I'd fully recommend.

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Sydney, Australia
Top Contributor
84 reviews 84 reviews
54 hotel reviews
Reviews in 50 cities Reviews in 50 cities
125 helpful votes 125 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 4, 2010

My 4 day safari staying at the Great Fish River Lodge was excellent. I was given a very warm welcome on arrival, followed by some lunch. My room (Suite 3) was beautifully appointed and situated. I loved the wonderful outdoor terrace, private plunge pool and outdoor shower. Every comfort you would need was thought of. The food from breakfast to high tea, through to dinner was uniformly excellent. Many different and surprising meal choices: I ate Grilled Kudu and Warthog Carpaccio - delicious! The managers were wonderful and friendly. They could not do enough to assist me. The rangers were a good bunch - I have to single out the expert knowledge of our ranger, Brendon. Young, enthusiastic and with true passion and knowledge. The morning and afternonn game drives all delivered new surprises. We saw the Big 5 - including the elusive Leopard (being chased up a tree by two angry lionesses - fantastic!). I met wonderful people from all over the world at the lodge. I travelled to Botswana 2 years ago (the most amazing trip of my life) and the main difference at mealtimes was that at Kwandwe there was no communal dining. Now, I know that may not be for everyone, but in my experience, it is the best way for communication to take place and for all to share their different safari highlights. It felt a little segregated and a bit hushed at mealtimes, and that seemed a bit detrimental to the whole safari experience. But, other than that, Kwandwe was a great safari experience - a great alternative to Kruger in the North. Plenty of game, great meals, lovely staff, a warm and inviting lodge and great rooms. The property is expertly run by the &Beyond group, and I do not hesitate to recommend it. It would certainly make a great first safari experience.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Home Counties
Senior Contributor
41 reviews 41 reviews
38 hotel reviews
Reviews in 38 cities Reviews in 38 cities
55 helpful votes 55 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 5, 2009

We are a couple of early UK retirees liking to travel and stay in unostentatious interesting luxury and this was the final 2 night stop on our holiday. And it was a very fine finish. We liked it very much. We drove up from Tsitikamma arriving about 13.00, just in time to be (rather slowly) registered, eat lunch, unpack and go on the evening drive at 16.00. Our room/bungalow (number 9), patio & plunge pool were beautiful with views over the gorge although not into it. Fellow guests were interesting and came from various parts of the world. Service was excellent and food very good indeed. We went to another game reserve – Tswalu – earlier in this holiday because we thought it would be interesting to compare Tswalu in the Kalahari with Kwandwe in the bush. And it was. Both are similar in quality aspirations and price and Kwandwe had elephant and river with hippos which were very exciting whilst Tswalu did not. On the other hand, at Tswalu we saw more and varied animals because there was less vegetation and, because the jeep could go off track much more easily, we had better on-jeep viewing much nearer to them.

  • Stayed October 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Huddersfield, UK
Top Contributor
77 reviews 77 reviews
73 hotel reviews
Reviews in 63 cities Reviews in 63 cities
96 helpful votes 96 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 23, 2009

We turned left off the regional road onto a dirt road, which definitely rattled the hire car's suspension on the hilly bits. A slow trundle for a few km until reaching the imposing entrance security gate where we were signed into the reserve. The road surface improves a but after this, but it is still a few km more before one reaches the reception area at Heatherton Towers. Wildlife viewing can start now (seriously - we saw 4 lions, and a female cheetah with her cubs in this very area on our way out 4 days later). We were welcomed on the patio with real lemonade and cookies, our car was parked away and luggage transferred into a Toyota Land Cruiser, and off we set into the bush to Great Fish River Lodge, several more km away.

The staff were lined up to welcome us on our arrival and introduced themselves, we were offered lunch but we chose to go straight to our individual lodges. The layout of the property is that of a central public area, with an entrance hall, small shop, library, sitting area and dining area with indoor and outdoor seating options. The high-ceilinged sitting area and dining area are either side of a huge cylindrical central chimney with burning log fires on both sides in the evenings. Lush sofas, and a colonial style decor which works very well. There was a bar area with a large selection of complimentary drinks served by the butlers, who enthusiastically anticipated all needs. Nibbles aplenty, constantly changing. The individual lodges were gorgeous wood chalets, spacious, clean, fantastic patios with views of the river and valley. Indoor and outdoor showers (tastefully hidden from public eyes), and a bath next to full length glass windows looking out onto the view. There was a small minibar in the room with red, white and sparkling wine and water provided but the butlers were happy to customise this as necessary and bring tea / coffee to the room. Our plunge pool was down a little wooden staircase lower on the bank and had its own table, chairs and two loungers in the shade, other lodges' pools were closer to their balconies. We enjoyed using the pools on two days when August daytime temperatures hit 30C. Very refreshing. The individual lodges are linked to the main area by a wooden walkway, and were further apart than we expected, up to 50m apart. This whole area is unfenced to wildlife, quite safe during the day but being accompanied by a guard with a torch is mandatory for walking to and fro at night. We saw warthogs close to our balcony in the day, and lions had roamed the lodge area at night only a few days before our stay. Free wifi, not only in the main lodge but even in our remote individual lodges.

The day began 30 minutes before sunrise with a wake-up phone call from the ranger. Everyone met 30 minutes later for pre-drive coffee, tea, toast, and porridge or similar. The it was off to the Land Cruisers where the tracker was waiting. Each vehicle seats up to 6 guests and is open-topped. Be prepared for all weathers, ranging from biting cold wind to baking sun. When it was cold, blankets, hand warmers and hot water bottles were provided. We put on wind/rain-proof trousers which helped a lot in keeping the chill out. Towards the end of each 3-4 hour morning drive, there was a stop for hot chocolate (+/- fortifier) and cookies, though on one day we had surprise communal champagne and pancake elevenses with the other vehicles out in the bush, with the Lodge chef cooking out in the open. On arrival back at Fish River we were welcomed with hot towels to wipe the dust away and brunch awaited. Brunch was anything you wanted to make of it. You could start with yoghurt, granola, fruits, ham and cheeses, but then work onto the hot breakfast special followed by light lunch options such as soup, spring rolls or minute steak. The menu varied daily. The brunch could be taken whenever required. At 3pm everyone reconvened for tea: some hot options were always available as well as dessert. Then the evening game drive began, with a stop for a sundowner with choice of four nibbles at sunset. The evening return always included a fortifying drink at the entrance door as well as the towels. Dinner was taken at the time of our choosing - but varied daily. A couple of times we ate as a family, but on one night everyone ate in a group with the rangers and on one very special night we were surprised by a romantic anniversary dinner a deux in the library, lit by a hundred candles. The menus were varied with a choice of two starters and two main courses, and we were most impressed with the talents of our 20 year old chef. Kudu, beef, lamb, ostrich, springbok all featured on the menu at some stage. And then off for an early night before the wake-up call the next day.

The reserve landscape varies from river valley, low hills with dense bush, open plains and a dammed large lake. The scenery was beautiful and sunsets were gorgeous. The game viewing exceeded our expectations, we "got" the Big 5 by our third drive (though we were lucky - leopard sightings are not frequent in Kwandwe) and also saw cheetah (with cubs), caracal (!), jackal, black-backed jackal, porcupine, giraffe, zebra, elland, oryx, springbok, red hartebeest, bush buck, impala, kudu, wildebeest, warthog, leopard tortoise (which charged the vehicle, to our amusement), baboon, vervet monkey, and lots of birds including hoopoe, african fish-eagle, secretary bird and too many others to remember. We were thrilled with the closeness of the encounters, and took well over 1000 photographs. A bush walk with the ranger across the plain to giraffe was thrilling, more so as we found we were being carefully watched by a male cheetah a few hundred meters distant.

Which leaves us only to describe the staff. And I have run out of words. Friendly, knowledgeable, keen, eager to please, enthusiastic. Just for starters. Incomparable service, to which extent we have never experienced before. 7 stars. We came as guests, we left as friends.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge

Address: Heatherton Towers, Fort Brown District | Grahamstown, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve 6140, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Eastern Cape > Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Number of rooms: 9
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This founding lodge with only 9 privately situated suites features a classic-contemporary style of simple elegance that embraces the lodge's splendid setting high up on a steep bank overlooking the Great Fish River. The colour scheme comprises a calm and natural palette of earthy tones, from khaki browns to charcoal greys.Pewter and glass add an effortless yet understated glamour to the furnishings; artefacts such as ostrich eggshells, hides and horns create subtle points of interest and relevance to the lodge's surrounds, whilst natural linens and plenty of texture preserve its simple but sophisticated atmosphere.Watch majestic kudu meander down to the river from the Lodge's expansive viewing decks, or observe playful Cape clawless otters swimming in the cool waters below from the comfort of your private balcony. Suites are spacious and feature en-suite bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, personal in-room bars and private decks with plunge pools overlooking the vast reserve. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Kwandwe Great Fish River Hotel Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

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