It’s dusk when we arrive at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve in the Garden Route, the sun beginning to set beyond the distant purple mountains, the cool air descending. Our welcome at the lodge is warm and comforting and the walk to the reception area full of promise. I’m immediately distracted by the appealing décor, which effortlessly combines colonial grandeur with shabby chic to give a perfect Out of Africa feel.
The beautiful Baroness Luxury Safari Lodge was built in 1822 by Baron von Pletten, an early South African pioneer and conservationist, who used the original, smaller Lodge as his base to explore the then untamed African landscapes.
Built from local stone, the 10-suite lodge has lost little of its original style and is both romantic and luxurious with spectacular views across rolling lawns where zebra and antelope roam freely, to the indigenous forests and majestic Tsitsikamma Mountains in the distance …
We are led through reception, past the library, open-hearth kitchen and diningroom along a polished veranda to our suite, one of two in this wing which is part of the original building. Inside it is cool and dark, with exposed roof rafters and brickwork and screeded cement floors. There is a vast four poster bed draped with a mosquito net and richly textured faux-fur throw, colourful rugs, an interesting day-bed from another era and, the focal point of the room, an antique copper slipper bath. I immediately turn on the taps.
Our spacious room opens onto the picturesque gardens with their indigenous plants, cool verandas, courtyards and quaint plunge pool.
There is no tea-making facility in the room or bar fridge, but the charming attendant who has accompanied us offers room service, and a tray of tea and a beer are promptly delivered. I sip my tea as I luxuriate in the deep bath while my husband drinks his Heineken on the veranda before plucking up the courage to try the outdoor shower in the cool, brisk evening air.
Bathed and refreshed we walk down to the Boma where a bonfire is burning in the fenced off area. Sitting on the elevated deck at the bar, we watch the resident hippo wallowing in the dam and listen to the sounds of tree frogs and crickets. We’re just 14 km outside Plett, yet this is an authentic safari experience. We are truly in the heart of Africa.
Dinner is a cosy, casual affair in the semi enclosed diningroom which tonight is warmed by a roaring fire. The food is simple but delicious, a three-course meal consisting of a tuna salad starter followed by roast chicken and vegetables with roast potatoes and hash browns, and ending on a high note with malva pudding and custard.
The fresh air has made us sleepy and we turn in before coffee is served.
I love waking up in the bush, and this experience does not disappoint. Our wakeup call is a tray of tea delivered to the door which I open onto the still, crisp morning air. Beyond the reserve the mountains are still covered in mist. The sounds of morning birds and lodge activities mingle enticingly and we are soon dressed and ready for a leisurely breakfast in front of the re-stoked fire.
Over breakfast we chat to a family of four from Italy who have come to the end of their three-day stay. They are experienced safari goers and rate the accommodation and game experience at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve excellent value for money.
We are booked on a game drive and at 08h30 we are collected by our ranger and taken through to the day visitors’ reception area from where we will depart on our two hour outing.
The building is a huge, renovated barn and tractor shed, decorated in the same style as the lodge. We kill some time browsing in the curio shop. There is also a coffee shop and well stocked bar which serves an all-day menu of light meals and snacks. Day visitors can eat outside next to the children’s play area or on cooler days in front of two roaring fireplaces.
All visitors to the reserve can choose either a game drive in a 4×4 vehicle or a horseback safari. We’ve chosen the less adventurous option, and our friendly ranger turns out to be experienced and passionate about his job. His enthusiasm is infectious and we find ourselves asking lots of questions, stopping regularly to look at spoor or to watch a dung beetle, and sitting for endless moments at the dam where the hippos surface and disappear in a fascinating, peaceful rhythm.
We learn that Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is the biggest game reserve in the Southern Cape, with more than 2200 ha, a diversity of biomes and an abundance of wildlife. Previously known as Rhino Base Camp, it is still the largest sanctuary for white rhino in the area with five adults on the property. We are lucky to see two of them, and get up close as, unlike the black rhino, they are not aggressive. We also see a herd of buffalo, some rare black impala, zebra and an impressive list of buck including kudu, mountain reedbuck, waterbuck, nyala, red hartebeest, eland and dozens of springbok which leap and bound at the appearance of our Land Rover in deference to their name.
The highlight is a visit to the separate 40 ha enclosure which houses an adult male lion and three lionesses. They are resting in the shade together, panting and flicking their tails, and eye us warily, their beautiful blonde coats thick and healthy, a tribute to their complete acclimatisation to the reserve after just five years.
By 11am we are back at the lodge and reluctantly check out. Driving to the main gate we stop to watch some giraffe lazily chewing on the leaves of the acacia trees next to the road. They seem unthreatened and unhurried.
We ourselves are totally relaxed and rejuvenated, but agree that one night is not enough to fully appreciate the experience.
Plett Game Reserve is ideally situated for visitors to or residents of nearby Plettenberg Bay and Knysna. It is child-friendly and offers an exciting safari experience in a non malaria area. Baroness Luxury Safari Lodge has 10 suites.
Rates, Specials and Contact:
For rates and specials visit Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve.
- Plettenberg Bay Attractions
- Things to Do in Plettenberg Bay
- Plettenberg Bay Accommodation
- Garden Route Game & Nature Reserves
- South Africa Game Reserves