I was really impressed with Garden Route Game Lodge. It is of course ‘soft safari’, as are all the game reserves in the Western Cape. It is because this populated region doesn’t have tracts of spare land the size of small European countries – like Kruger Park – in which the largest African animals can roam in complete freedom.
Garden Route Game Lodge is within sight of a major highway, yet as you drive in and see some elephants and look over domed hills to distant mountains, the memory that you turned off a major road just minutes before, fades into insignificance.
The transformation is that quick.
I’d known of Garden Route Game Lodge for several years and had a notion that it was a bit of a cliché, with animals in nothing more than glorified cages. I was wrong. They offer game drives with the same sincerity of lodges in much widler places.
You are guaranteed to see the Big 5, because each of their large animals has its own designated area and each individual is well known to the rangers. OK, so this makes it a predictable and somewhat stage managed safari, but it is a unique experience for each visitor and if I enjoyed it, then I’m sure you will too.
The big game are kept separately for the reason that there isn’t enough food or space for them to roam free. The elephants for example, would trash all the trees very quickly, thus destroying the giraffe’s food. The male rhino and elephant have bad blood between them and another terrible fight would ensue if they were released without sufficient distance between them. The lions would simply eat all the assets.
The good news is that two cheetah were released to fend for themselves and are monitored through radio collars and seem to be doing well. The cheetah breeding centre is also a point of interest, since the gene pool of these beautiful cats is in a desperate plight due to their low numbers. While conservation pleases me, seeing them in pens doesn’t.
Our guide Jonathan kept me entertained, which is not easy to do, and he was a whizz on birds. He told me things about birdlife that I had never heard before, and if I’d been paying attention, I would able to enlighten you too. I was being a typical tourist and was captivated in the moment, but my mind was absent in the next.
I have noticed that tourists often leave their brains behind and the simplest common sense no longer applies. This is not necessarily a criticism, I too would like to do this on occassions. At Garden Route Game Lodge you can switch off because all you have to do is whatever your ranger tells you. Even when he instructs, “everyone please lean into the hill to stop the Land Rover toppling over.” We all lean and he starts sniggering, “Just kidding. Nothing can tip this Landy over.”
It was a pleasure to just get driven around then be dropped off at the lodge where piles of food were waiting. Deciding on which dishes to eat didn’t take much thought either, you just pile a bit of everything from the buffet into a pyramid and plough through it. Being a meat eater is advantageous at Garden Route Game lodge, as the supper buffet is fronted by the chef grilling venison fillets of springbok , eland, kudu and ostrich, and even plain old beef. Springbok was best; lovely and soft, with a hint of game, but not enough to make eating it a macho experience.
I had fun at Garden Route Game Lodge. I switched off because it was easy to do so and thought it was a couple of nights well spent at the beginning of a Garden Route tour.
Chalets are compact and comfortable, food is plentiful and very palatable and it left me with a warm feeling of having experienced something better than I had expected.
Take a look .