Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, located in South Africa’s malaria-free Eastern Cape Province near East London, is more than just a wildlife sanctuary – it’s an experience! By Des Langkilde – Editor: Tourism Tattler Trade Journal.
Inkwenkwezi (meaning ‘Star’ in isiXhosa) is an eco-tourism experience dream that has been carefully planned and meticulously cultivated by the Stanton brothers, Keith and Graham, for years prior to opening the reserve in November 1999.
I visited the reserve while test driving the new VW Combi Tsi (read this review in the June edition), and travelled from Port Elizabeth, approaching the Chintsa turn-off to Inkwenkwezi from the N2 motorway some thirty kilometres North of East London.
What is immediately apparent on arrival is that this is no ordinary game reserve – the visual impression can best be described as “original Africa”. By that I mean that one gets the feeling of having arrived in a time warp − to a time when this region of the Eastern Cape was teeming with wildlife, and the biome unspoilt by western agriculture and industrialisation.
And that’s exactly what the brothers Stanton set out to achieve when they purchased a small farm near the Kei River and the border to the Wild Coast, and subsequently expanded this parcel of indigenous bush to the 4000 hectare reserve that is Inkwenkwezi today.
“We wanted to rehabilitate the land by eradicating alien vegetation and reintroducing wildlife species that were endemic to the area,” said Keith when I finally managed to pin him down for a brief interview. “Our aim has always been to facilitate an experience for guests that embraces the fundamental values of nature: solitude, timelessness, freedom from a world where man is in control, and a place where the sounds and ways of nature prevail.” And that aim has been superbly achieved.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – back to my arrival.
Guests are met at the main lodge reception and after check-in procedures, whisked off by game viewing vehicle to their allocated accommodation, which is either at the Bush Camp or at the Valley Camp, which is where I stayed in a luxury tented suite set within the dense valley bush.
After freshening up, your allocated safari guide (in my case the affable and verbose Brandon Young, whose enthusiasm and passion for Inkwenkwezi is infectious), collects you for a game drive transfer to the Sunset Lapa, which is where guests gather for meals and refreshments while overlooking the panoramic views afforded by the elevated venue. Alternately, guests can dine at the Emthombeni Restaurant in the main lodge, which serves both a la carte and buffet spreads. Apparently locals drive from near and far to gorge on their legendary 1.2kg giant hamburgers, which are served on Wednesday nights.
Besides the game drives, during which sightings of the reserves Big-5 and over 40 species of plains game, and 276 species of birds are almost guaranteed, there are a lot of other activities and experiences for guests to immerse themselves in.
A personal interaction with the reserves three cheetah is a rare and rewarding experience, as is the elephant interaction. These animals are all rescued orphans who have been habituated to humans and react to their caretakers as if they are part of the cheetah coalition or elephant herd.
The reserves lions, which include a breeding pride of white lions, are enclosed in 90 hectares of the reserve until such time as the reserves game numbers have sufficiently bred to absorb the hunting impact of these super predators.
A unique attribute to Inkwenkwezi is that it is one of the few game reserves in South Africa where guests can also view migrating Southern Right Whales in season and dolphins, as the reserve overlooks the Indian Ocean. So it really is a Big-6 reserve!
Additional activities include guided quad bike tours, hiking trails, eco trails (for plant and tree identification – there are six different biomes in the reserve), and canoeing along the Bulura River within the reserve.
In terms of Responsible Tourism, Inkwenkwezi creates jobs for over 80 staff members and actively promotes local crafters to provide their wares for the curio shop.
Overall, Inkwenkwezi is a truly unique and authentic experience, reminiscent of unspoilt Africa.
For more info visit Eastlondon-info.co.za