Kwandwe is part of the &Beyond portfolio, one of their values being 'Care of the people' and this came across loud and clear. Kwandwe came into existence as a game reserve eleven years ago following the purchase of nine (ostrich) farms in the district. Our tracker Andy who lived in the area, told us how it used to take him three and a half hours to walk to school, crossing farmland and navigating rivers on the way. Bongi told us how they used to stop on the way home and do their homework under a tree. Bongi is now the manager of Ecca Lodge and explained how much the local community now benefits from Kwandwe, not just in the form of jobs but through sport and health.
Arriving at Kwandwe is certainly an experience I’ll never forget. With self drive instructions in hand, it is slightly unnerving reading ‘DO NOT LEAVE YOU CAR UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES’ even more so when you are in a small hire car on a gravel road. On arrival at the main house, it’s a pleasure to be greeted with homemade lemonade and biscuits and exactly what you’re looking for after a couple of hours in the car. Whisked away from the homestead in a trusty 4x4, it was then onto our new home for four nights, Ecca Lodge.
Greeted by Bongi and her team, it soon became apparent we were the only guests for the evening so for one night we were treated to a private safari experience. Lunch appeared at a table set under the shade of a tree and set the standard for the exceptional food enjoyed during our stay. The pricing policy means that all food and drink, including the ‘minibar’ in your room is included in the nightly rate.
The rooms at Ecca Lodge are spacious, contemporary and have a beautiful outside space with private plunge pool. Relaxing on a sun lounger with glass of wine in hand and giraffes walking in the distance is a memory etched on my mind forever. Our stay at Kwandwe was filled with magic moments, one being the sound of the lodge choir filtering through as we were eating brunch, something I will never forget. The game drives are superb and our rangers, Ryan and Andy (aka the dream team) made every drive both informative and enjoyable. There are no more than six people in a vehicle and we enjoyed excellent game viewing including a cheetah kill.
The time came to leave and it was with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Ryan, Andy, Bongi and the team at Ecca Lodge. Kwandwe was my first taste of safari life and has definitely left me wanting more. I can't praise the &Beyond staff highly enough and would return in a heartbeat.