Kwandwe Game Reserve, South Africa

Kwandwe Ecca Lodge

Price per night from$1,217.20

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (ZAR22,469.57), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Game is afoot

Setting

Bush-blanketed Eastern Cape

Cradled within rolling spekboom hills on a remote private game reserve, Kwandwe Ecca Lodge almost hides in plain sight. Take notes from the down-to-earth interiors for your twice-daily game drive dress code – the natural materials and sandy palette are a luxurious lesson in camouflage. With wraparound terraces, plunge pools, and outdoor showers, the standalone suites are a welcome refuge for weary wildlife-watchers. Further post-safari revival techniques include Marula fruit massages and stiff G&Ts, best enjoyed from wilderness-admiring teakwood loungers.

Smith Extra

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Binoculars to borrow and a bottle of fizz in your suite

Facilities

Photos Kwandwe Ecca Lodge facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Six standalone suites.

Check–Out

11am and check-in is at noon. Both are flexible, on request and subject to availability.

Prices

Double rooms from £1098.67 (ZAR25,840), including tax at 15 per cent.

More details

Rates are full board (including game drive refreshments) and cover two safari excursions a day.

Also

The dispersed layout of the suites and lack of specially-adapted features sadly make Ecca Lodge unsuitable for wheelchair users. At sister stay Great Fish River Lodge, there are two suites that are suitable for guests with limited mobility.

At the hotel

Wildlife viewing platforms, lounge, games room, safari boutique, laundry service and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: plunge pool, air-conditioning, minibar, coffee machine, tea-making kit, and Karoo Lavender bath products.

Our favourite rooms

Scattered across the subtropical thicket, the six standalone suites are cleverly positioned so as not to overlook one another – guaranteeing full nature-immersed seclusion. Three of the suites are configured for couples, the other three are kitted out with two extra beds for families. Private plunge pools, outdoor showers, and deep soaking tubs come as standard, as do earthy, African bush-inspired interiors.

Poolside

Most guests tend to slope off for secluded swims in their suites, but the main infinity pool is a sociable (and sun-soaked) spot to decamp to. There’s a large terrace overlooking rolling spekboom hills to lounge on, as well as shaded sunbeds for afternoon kips.

Spa

Roaming for relaxation isn’t required, as all-natural treatments from African wellness brand TheraNaka come to you – or more specifically, your suite’s wilderness-cocooned terrace. The shea butter pedicure and foot massage is particularly welcome after trekking the plains.

Packing tips

Safari essentials are stocked in the Kwandwe boutique, and the cheetah-fast laundry service allows for lighter luggage (plus wearing your favourite pair of khakis almost on repeat).

Also

Although there are three private villa stays at Kwandwe, you can also book Ecca Lodge for exclusive use if you prefer to keep its six pool-dotted suites and restaurant to yourselves.

Children

Adventurers of all ages are welcome and well looked after, with three Family Suites to spread out across and on-reserve activities which immerse little ones in nature.

Best for

The whole herd, though confident walkers and swimmers will really be in their element.

Recommended rooms

The Family Suites sleep four, and come with a private safari guide and vehicle for fully flexible excursions. Little ones are also given an animal checklist and activity book on arrival.

Crèche

The lodge’s Kids’ Den finds endless ways to keep mini explorers entertained, and every evening ends with a traditional African bedtime story.

Activities

Budding naturalists can spend all day outdoors on scavenger hunts, fishing trips, and playing eco-educational games on the lawn, then get creative during cooking classes, beading workshops, and sand art sessions.

Swimming pool

The main pool is child-friendly but unsupervised, and you’ll need to keep an eye on tots around your plunge pool. Pool nets are fitted as standard in Family Suites, but can be removed as your children’s needs dictate.

Meals

The dedicated kids’ menu features nutritious, easy eats, with a make-your-own-pizza station to amp up mealtime fun. High chairs can be added to any table, too.

Babysitting

he lodge’s experienced babysitters are available at no extra cost, but must be booked in advance.

No need to pack

Car seats are provided for game drives, though it’s best to bring any baby essentials.

Sustainability efforts

Ecca Lodge guests pay a nightly levy which contributes towards ongoing conservation and community-based projects both on and off the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, including extensive spekboom planting (native carbon-storing vegetation), and reintroducing rare and endangered species to roam all 54,000 acres of reclaimed farmland. The resident black rhino population is closely monitored by the reserve’s anti-poaching and veterinary units alongside the Kwandwe Rhino Conservation Trust, which welcomes volunteering guests to join rhino-darting and notching expeditions from May to September. The reserve also runs various social impact projects at the nearby Mgcamabele Community Centre and in partnership with the Ubunye Foundation – a local development trust which supports the Eastern Cape’s marginalised rural communities. Back at your solar-powered base, you can freshen up with eco-friendly South African Karoo Lavender products in the water-saving bathrooms.

Food and Drink

Photos Kwandwe Ecca Lodge food and drink

Top Table

One of the tables under the lantern-lit acacia tree for maximum nature immersion.

Dress Code

It’s khaki-casual here – whatever you wear on the game drives, goes.

Hotel restaurant

Located in the main lodge, the indoor-outdoor restaurant plates up garden-to-table dishes from its open kitchen, with rustic seating that spills out onto a wraparound terrace. Punchy South African flavours are really brought to the fore at dinner, especially on braai nights overlooking the wildlife-filled thicket. You can also dine in secluded spots around the reserve – simply ask for brunch to be set up in the boma, or opt for a gourmet picnic by the river.

Hotel bar

Set next to the restaurant, the lodge’s bar (open all day until 11pm) is a cosy gathering place for pre- and post-game drive socialising. Swap stories with fellow safari-goers about the day’s sightings, grab a beer with the rangers, and pore (paw?) over the many wildlife books spread across the dark wood coffee tables. The wine list is extensive, and the selection from South African vineyards is, unsurprisingly, exceptional.

Last orders

Kwandwe has a relaxed approach to dining times, but in loose terms, breakfast is from 9am, lunch from noon, afternoon tea from 4pm, and dinner from 7pm.

Room service

Duvet dining can be enjoyed during restaurant hours.

Location

Photos Kwandwe Ecca Lodge location
Address
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge
Eastern Cape
Grahamstown
6140
South Africa

Blending into the surrounding acacia-dotted bushland, Ecca Lodge lies within the remote Kwandwe Private Game Reserve on the edge of the Karoo Basin.

Planes

The closest airport is in Port Elizabeth, a two-hour drive from the lodge. First, you’ll need to fly into Cape Town or Johannesburg, then connect directly to Chief Dawid Stuurman International (both hubs are under two hours’ away by air). Ask the lodge about private transfers ahead of time.

Automobiles

Given the twice-daily game drives with experienced rangers at the wheel, there’s little need to bring your own vehicle – though there’s private parking at the reserve’s main reception for road-trippers.

Other

Radio ahead for charter flight details and GPS coordinates to make use of the reserve’s private airstrip.

Worth getting out of bed for

All 54,000 acres of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve are yours to explore, venturing across rugged plains and river-carved valleys led by Ecca Lodge’s experienced rangers and wildlife trackers. The daily game drives depart at dawn, and again during late afternoon, with optional night drives offering the chance to witness predators on their nocturnal hunts. Private guides and 4x4 vehicles are included in the Family Suite rates, tailoring the safari timetable (and animals of interest) to suit the whole gang (even child car seats can be provided). Three-hour walking safaris and fishing trips to the Galphin Dam or Great Fish River also come at no extra cost, with the opportunity to track black rhinos, buffalos, and elephants through the dense euphorbia. Bespoke excursions including birding, canoeing, and photographic safaris can also be arranged on request.

Reviews

Photos Kwandwe Ecca Lodge reviews

Anonymous review

 

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this wilderness-wrapped hotel on the Kwandwe Game Reserve and unpacked their broken-in boots and binoculars, a full account of their luxury safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Kwandwe Ecca Lodge in South Africa…

Taking its name from the Xhosa word for South Africa’s national bird, Kwandwe Ecca Lodge is one of the best places in the country to spot blue cranes – among other wild and wonderful things – as nine pairs nest year after year in Kwandwe Game Reserve’s restful valleys. Other returning guests include the endangered black rhino, which is growing in numbers thanks to the reserve’s ongoing conservation efforts. Dense euphorbia thickets surround the standalone suites, which means every outing to the main lodge is in effect, a nature walk, passing by succulents, moss, ferns, and nesting birds up in the spiny canopy. And although you’re very much out in the wilderness, sundowners are a civilised affair (candlelit tables, appear-like-clockwork G&Ts), while creature comforts such as soaking tubs, personal pools, and crackling fireplaces keep even the most outdoorsy types grounded in luxury. 

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Price per night from $1,217.20