Set in the heart of Amakhala Private Game Reserve, just an hour from Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, Amakhala Safari Lodge is an intimate thatched lodge that offers an impressive Big Five safari experience.
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Designed in a traditional African tribal design, this fair-trade-certified lodge offers an affordable safari experience with a touch of luxury. It’s the perfect stop to add to any Garden Route itinerary and a great alternative to the busy Kruger National Park.
We spent 2 nights at Amahkala Safari Lodge during our recent trip to South Africa and found it to be the perfect destination for a first-time safari experience.
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About Amakhala Game Reserve
Amakhala Game Reserve is located in the malaria-free Eastern Cape of South Africa. The reserve was founded in 1999 as a joint conservation venture between descendants of the original British settlers of 1820 who had farmed sheep and cattle on the land.
In 2011, an agreement among the original members of the Amakhala and the Lion Roars Group united individual safari properties in the area under the umbrella of Amakhala Game Reserve. This collaboration and conservation initiative created an 8,500-ha premier Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.
Today, Amakhala Game Reserve is home to the Big Five – lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhinos, as well as giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, plenty of other antelopes, and more elusive some inhabitants like hyenas or bat-eared foxes.
Conservation at Amakhala
Conservation initiatives are at the heart of the Amakhala Game Reserve. Between anti-poaching practices and wildlife reintroduction efforts, the conservation work at Amakhala Game Reserve has contributed to an increasing number of mammals and had a positive impact on the flora and fauna of the region.
In the last few years, new cheetahs, white rhinos and hippos have been born at the reserve – a huge accomplishment for the region – offering new hope for the continuous growth of biodiversity in the region.
Accommodation at Amakhala Game Reserve
Amakhala Game Reserve offers a choice of 10 different owner-managed safari lodges located inside the reserve, ranging from basic tented camps to more luxurious safari lodge options.
The 4-star rated Amakhala Safari Lodge is one of the premier lodges in the Game Reserve, offering air-conditioned accommodation in an intimate thatched lodge setup. It is here that we based ourselves during our stay in the reserve.
About Amakhala Safari Lodge
Located in a valley of indigenous bush at the northern boundary of Amakhala Game Reserve, Amakhala Safari Lodge consists of 11 spacious thatched roof suites that provide unobstructed views of the bushveld below.
Aside from the beautiful suites, the lodge also offers several other facilities on site. There are two separate lounge areas where guests can relax in between safari drives and exchange stories with fellow travelers. The main lodge features a bar where friendly staff serve up tea and coffee in the morning and other drinks throughout the day.
The dining area overlooks the bush and features a cozy communal firepit area where we enjoyed hanging out for pre and post-dinner drinks and chats. There is also a shared pool overlooking a watering hole.
Sustainability at Amakhala Safari Lodge
As a Fair-Trade Certified lodge, Amakhala Safari Lodge pays a lot of attention to sustainable initiatives at the lodge. Here are just a few practices that we noticed and learned about during our stay:
- Refillable water bottles are offered for the duration of the stay to help eliminate single-use plastic bottles from landfill. Other plastic and single-used items, like coffee pods have also been eliminated from use at the hotel.
- Biodegradable cleaning products and toiletries are used in the rooms, which helps the lodge recycle its grey water through a natural filtration system.
- Energy-saving LED lights are used throughout the property.
- Much of the food at Amakhala Safari Lodge is sourced within a 60km radius and some of it is produced locally.
Each suite at Amakhala Safari Lodge is furnished with a large bed draped with mosquito nets, a separate sitting area, an en suite bathroom with an outdoor shower and a luxurious double bath.
The suites are equipped with air conditioning, making them comfortable even on the hottest days in the bush. Their spacious design makes the rooms feel luxurious, and the thatched roofs and fine African beadwork add to that appeal. The private terrace and private plunge pools elevate the accommodation to the next level. We watched some incredible sunsets from our terrace during our stay at Amakhala Safari Lodge and often spotted animals in the bush just in front of our suites.
Those that need to stay connected during their holiday will be happy to learn that rooms at Amakhala Safari Lodge are also equipped with wifi.
Food & Drink
All stays at Amakhala Safari Lodge are on a full board basis, meaning that breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the daily rate. As with many other safari lodges, the food and drink experience contributes significantly to the quality and one’s experience at the lodge.
We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meals at the lodge and the presentation of the dishes. The menu varied daily and included fish, meat and vegetarian options to accommodate all dietary needs in our travel group.
The breakfast spread was the most impressive and included a cold spread of cereals, fruits and yogurt, followed by a hot breakfast option with a variety of egg choices.
Safari Game Drives
Safari game drives are included in the price of your stay and take place twice a day, rain or shine. We had plenty of opportunities to get out and see the wildlife.
The morning game drives leave at around 06:30 every day and last for four hours.
The evening drives leave at 16:00 in the summer and 15:00 in the winter. Both offer fantastic sights and the opportunity to enjoy the bush in the best light. Night safaris can also be arranged if requested ahead of time.
There are over 50 mammal species to be found on the Amakhala Game Reserve, including lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, monkeys, antelope, hyenas, bat-eared foxs and plenty of bird species.
As the reserve is quite small and fenced in, wildlife concentration, particularly of the bigger animals, isn’t particularly high at Amakhala Game Reserve. But the reserve boasts an impressive variety of antelopes that are tough to see in other parts of South Africa.
There are 7 different biomes on the reserve, offering refreshing changes in scenery and atmosphere as you drive through.
The Bottom Line
We really enjoyed our stay at the Safari Lodge in Amakhala Game Reserve. We found the traditional African tribe design of the lodge to be beautiful and quite unique.
Despite the fact that wildlife was, at times, challenging to spot and some animals, like lions and leopards, were quite elusive, we still enjoyed our game drives at Amakhala. We found the experience to be best suited for first-time safari goers or those looking for an affordable luxury retreat in the bush.
Sustainability practices and initiatives at Amakhala Safari Lodge definitely contribute to the lodge’s appeal and is just one more reason why we would recommend a stay here to anyone visiting the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Disclaimer: Our experience at Amakhala Game Reserve was provided courtesy of Amakhala Safari Lodge, but, as always, all opinions expressed in this article are our own.