Eastern Cape Safari: Amakhala Game Reserve

I have a serious case of post-holiday blues today. I’ve been back home for 2 weeks and everything is back to normal again. I have been glancing back at my photo’s from this last trip and I am reminded of the wonderful safari experience we had at Woodbury Tented Camp in Amakhala Game Reserve.

Enjoying the views over Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala (meaning ‘ place of many aloes’) is a private reserve in the Eastern Cape province which was founded in 1999 by 6 farming families who are direct descendants from the 1820 British settlers. The land was used to farm sheep and cattle but these families decided to re-introduce animals and re-establish flora that had once occurred here naturally. What I admire most about this reserve is their dedication to promote conservation and empower local communities.

Safari Tent

Amakhala Safari Tent

An authentic safari experience

Our arrival was a bit later than planned, but fortunately the folks at Woodbury are very accommodating. A delicious lunch was waiting for us before we were whisked off on our first game drive. The setting is just beautiful. It had been a rainy weekend but every now and then sunbursts would appear between the dissipating clouds. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by herds of graceful waterbucks and red hartebeests. There was great excitement in the vehicle when we spotted the first elephants of the trip! However, within minutes, they were gone. It is amazing how such large animals can simply vanish in the dense bush. By the time we got back to camp the sun had set and it was freezing! Hot chocolate with a dash of Amarula (a cream liqueur) was well received by the group of shivering ladies. After a feast of traditional ‘braaivleis’, we cosied up in our luxury tents, preparing for the adventure awaiting the following day.

Impalas in the mist

Mornings are the best time for a game drive

We woke up to a beautiful misty morning. Again, we saw many plains game and our guide, Seamus, pointed out various bird species (a budding twitcher). I love being out in an open game vehicle; the crisp fresh air, bumpy tracks and constant anticipation is so intoxicating. What a treat to see the rhinos in the mist! The elephants made their appearance again and this time they decided to entertain us for quite some time. We were also very fortunate to see two lions mating! By the end of the second day, we were all well settled into the safari-routine and getting accustomed to eating really delicious food! Dinner time is my favourite because everyone chats about the highlights of their day. With a belly full from butternut soup, sirloin steak and red wine and a happy heart, it was yet again time to get some much needed sleep.

Mornings on safari are always exciting; the air filled with promise. Our last morning was no exception. After about 2 hours of searching, finally, we had found the cheetah. Nobody had seen him in a couple of days and once we saw him, it was clear why. His belly was enormous. He had made a kill and gorged himself to the point that he could hardly walk. When we left him he was lying in the shade of a big tree, content with life and recovering from his feast. Cheetahs are South Africa’s second-most threatened carnivore after Wild Dogs. There are only about 1 000  left in South Africa so this was a very special sighting indeed!

 

Why is this place special?

I think it’s a combination of many factors; the breathtaking scenery, friendly staff, authentic safari tents (I LOVE the tents!) and delicious cuisine are major contributors. However, its all the little things like the hot chocolate waiting for you after a game drive on a cold afternoon, the glorious view from your tent when you get up in the morning, the crackling sound of the evening bonfire and the starlit sky that I love the most. I will definitely return to this magical place. A