A safari was at the top of our to-do list for our South Africa vacation. The Amakhala Game Reserve was the perfect place to enjoy this in 2 days. A unique landscape, excellent guides, and a cozy lodge made the Amakhala Game Reserve one of our South Africa trip highlights.
The story behind Amakhala Game Reserve
The Amakhala Game Reserve is a conservation initiative formed from 5 farms. The farmers had decided about 20 years ago to reintroduce animals to the area where they once roamed free, thus contributing to the conservation of our natural heritage. The Bushman River meanders through the reserve, named after the Xhosa word meaning aloes, the fertile indigenous plant found in the unique Eastern Cape province.
The Amakhala Game Reserve is about 7000 hectares in size and now has 11 hotels that can be booked individually.
Why did we choose Amakhala Game Reserve?
It was clear from the beginning that we wanted to go on safari. However, we only had 14 days in February, and you can avoid malaria prophylaxis. The Amakhala Game Reserve was therefore ideal for us because
- it is only about 35km from Port Elizabeth (PE) and our return trip started from PE,
- it is sufficiently large and the chance to see the Big Five are given,
- it is malaria free.
Our stay at Amakhala Game Reserve
We spent two full days in the game reserve. The arrival is via the highway from Port Elizabeth, and the Amakhala Game Reserve starts directly at the road and is separated from it by a fence, and access is gained through several gates. We had booked Woodbury Lodge for our stay, located about 3km from the road on a hill and can be reached via a very bumpy dirt road.
Woodbury Lodge is located on a cliff overlooking the valley and Bushman’s River. We had our own lodge with our own terrace and a great view over the valley. The Woodbury Lodge is an all-inclusive accommodation. Offered are breakfast, afternoon tea with pastries, and dinner. All meals are taken either on the terrace or in the main house. The problem was the aggressive bees that forced us to cancel a meal on the terrace two times. The super friendly staff accommodates all meal requests. In the evenings, you can drink around the campfire and talk about your safari experiences. The guests are international. Overall, the atmosphere is very family-like.
Both the rooms and meals were impeccable and made our stay at Woodbury Lodge very pleasant.
Woodbury Lodge – the safari
Two safaris are offered per day. The morning safari starts around 5:30, the afternoon safari around 16:00. All safaris last about 3 – 4 hours. The safaris are conducted by local guides, who drive the guests in open jeeps over partly adventurous paths through the reserve. Even though there is no guarantee to see all animals – the guides of all lodges exchange information via radio and therefore know relatively precisely where the animals are located.
However, access and the length of stay are strictly regulated. For example, you may stay as a group maximum of 15 – 30 minutes and then move on. Also, there are never more than two jeeps together simultaneously. We had the luck to observe all animals except hippos, partly from close range. It is a unique experience when an elephant stands within 5 meters distance in front of you.
Although the time flies by, the tours are long and strenuous due to the temperatures and poor road conditions. It is nice that catering is also offered during the terms. The guides have led us confidently through the reserve and impressed us with their knowledge and expertise. In total, we participated in 4 tours, and we saw most of the animals on the morning tours. The bottom line is that it was a hell of an experience.
Amakhala Game Reserve – Conclusion
For us, the Amakhala Game Reserve was one of the highlights during our South Africa vacation. Incredible landscapes, excellent guides, and great safari tours gave us an unforgettable experience.
South Africa tips
We take our pictures with the Canon G7X Mark II ( read our review )
The best South Africa travel guides for the Garden Route
For optimal connection in South Africa, we used the Skross World Travel Adapter in combination with a Skross World to South Africa Country Travel adapter and were very satisfied. ( test report ).