Situated at the heart of the malaria-free Eastern Cape province, Kwandwe is within easy reach of South Africa's spectacular coastline and provides the perfect beginning or ending to a journey along the famed Garden Route. The wide open spaces and tranquil scenery belie the area's turbulent history, and relics of the area's rich historical and cultural legacy can be found both on the reserve and nearby. Kwandwe itself consists of 22 000 hectares (54 400 acres) of a hauntingly beautiful but previously neglected part of the African continent where the area's natural wildlife has been painstakingly restored.
A conservation victory, Kwandwe is home to thousands of animals, including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo, elephant and cheetah, as well as Africa's famous Big Five. Meaning "Place of the Blue Crane" in Xhosa, Kwandwe is a haven for a population of these rare, vulnerable birds (South Africa's national bird). The Reserve also provides sanctuary for other threatened species, such as the Knysna woodpecker, black wildebeest, martial eagle, serval and brown hyena, critically endangered species such as the crowned eagle and black rhino and other vulnerable species such as the cheetah, black footed cat, elephant, lion, springhare and the black harrier. A biological melting pot of various vegetation types, the Reserve boasts a spectacular display of winter flowering aloes from June to August. Kwandwe flanks both the north and south banks of the Great Fish River, which meanders for 30 km (19 miles) through this pristine, private wilderness.
&Beyond Kwandwe is home to four magnificent lodges, each with its own individual charm and
character: Ecca Lodge, Great Fish River Lodge, Uplands Homestead and Melton Manor.
Great Fish River Lodge
&Beyond Kwandwe's magnificent Great Fish River Lodge is set along the lush green banks of the river after which the lodge is named.
From the Lodge's expansive viewing decks, guests can observe majestic kudu making their way down through the euphorbia and aloes
to a sandy cove to slake their thirst, or watch Cape clawless otters swimming in the river below. The guest area features a steeply
pitched thatched roof, soaring overhead and adorned with imposing chandeliers. Large fireplaces with massive stone chimneys cast
warmth and light over the richly woven rugs, yellowwood kists and wardrobes, handstitched damask linen and the antique china,
pewter, and silver typical of a Settler farmhouse from the 1820s. The nine luxurious suites boast overhead fans and air conditioning.
The ensuite bathrooms, complete with bath and indoor and outdoor showers, offer unmatched views over the wild landscape beyond.
Floor-to-ceiling doors fold back to reveal an uninterrupted wilderness. Each suite has a spacious thatched veranda, and private plunge
pool with terrace. Delicious Pan African meals are served on private decks, in the candlelit dining room, or in the boma under a
magnificent starlit sky. Friendly, attentive staff ensures a welcoming, memorable Kwandwe experience.
Innovative, stylish and intimate, Ecca Lodge at &Beyond Kwandwe embodies a "funk meets futuristic farmhouse" ambience.
Emblazoned with giant Warhol-like prints, retro light fittings, and shades of olive, rust and burnt orange, it is witty, welcoming and
skillfully appointed. Situated on rolling slopes overlooking a beautiful spekboom, acacia and aloe-studded valley with a backdrop of
steep shale cliffs, the views are breathtaking, particularly when the spekboom trees are in bloom. Six suites of inventive architecture
feature walls of wood panelling interspersed with mesh-covered stone gabion, and pagoda-style corrugated iron roofs. The suites are
extremely spacious, with generously proportioned living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. Glass doors slide back, leaving gauze doors
to admit the cool inviting breezes and fragrances of the bushveld. Wraparound wooden decks lead out from the sitting rooms and
bedrooms, to private plunge pools and outdoor showers. Highlights of the guest area are the open interactive kitchen, a gorgeous rimflow
lap pool lined with shaded decks and teak loungers, and the nearby interpretive library. Ecca Lodge is a 15-minute drive from the
historic Heatherton Towers, which houses the well-stocked Safari Shop.
The Uplands Homestead
The gracious Uplands Homestead at &Beyond Kwandwe offers an alternative safari experience. Available only for the sole use of a
group or family of up to six people, it is a sensitively restored 1905 farmhouse featuring three spacious ensuite bedrooms with private
balconies. This homestead is situated in a remote and tranquil valley festooned with hundreds of aloes and ringed by beautiful,
undulating hills. It is the perfect place for a private safari, with a romantic Out of Africa farmhouse ambience. Uplands Homestead is
furnished with antiques and memorabilia reminiscent of a Settler home from the 1820s. Rugs and fine damask linen, antique mirrors,
yellowwood kists and wardrobes, antique silver and porcelain dovetail effortlessly with stylish modern elements such as exquisitely
appointed bathrooms, air conditioning and a modernised farm kitchen. There is also a full size swimming pool and gazebo. Uplands
Homestead includes a dedicated ranger, tracker and chef team, as well as a private open 4x4 safari vehicle.
With sweeping views of the afromontane forests, Melton Manor at &Beyond Kwandwe is a sole-use safari villa with four ensuite
bedrooms. This spacious contemporary Frontier farmhouse is u-shaped and characterised by high ceilings and deep, cool verandas
overlooking the central courtyard and its large, inviting swimming pool. The interiors humorously combine traditional mid 20th century
furniture with the latest in South African design. Handmade clay chandeliers and Nguni cow hides sit comfortably with painted vintage
ball and claw armoires, all anchored with fabulous dry packed sandstone walls. The bedrooms each have their own spacious bathroom
with big tubs facing the pristine bush beyond, and innovative "butler hatches" for discreet room service. The gracious guest areas
feature fireplaces for evenings spent relaxing with a glass of wine or reading a good novel. The interactive, contemporary farm-style
kitchen is abuzz with chefs cooking up wholesome and always delicious farmhouse dishes with Eastern Cape flair.
All photos courtesy of andBeyond