Going Beyond the Big Five with Conservation Safaris

Kwandwe giraffe herd
Kwandwe giraffe herd

Kwandwe’s Conservation First safaris put focus on sustaining ecosystems and species fraught by climate change and endangerment

With the illegal trade in wildlife products, habitat loss and increasing climate pressures, the allure of safari is extending far beyond the chance to spot Africa’s iconic Big Five, to spotting those animals that are facing the risk of extinction. Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape is founded on conservation and community development, and offers a choice of specialist and conservation-focused safaris including daytime and nocturnal game drives, Big Five game walking, fishing excursions, birding, wilderness walking, fly camping and rhino conservation safaris. Kwandwe’s 22,000-hectare wilderness is rich in biodiversity and offers exceptional game viewing and a high chance of viewing a number of African species that are on the IUCN Red List.

Through the wide choice of conservation-focused safari activities, guests have the chance to see the critically endangered Black Rhino as well as the endangered Mountain Reedbuck and Black Harrier. Threatened species such as the White Rhino, Brown Hyena, Crowned Eagle and the Knysna Woodpecker as well as the vulnerable Cheetah and Blue Crane are also regularly spotted thanks to the ongoing conservation work being carried out across Kwandwe’s vast landscape.

As South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane was the inspiration for Kwandwe’s name (Kwandwe means ‘place of the Blue Crane’). These birds use Kwandwe’s wilderness as a refuge and return each year to breed, so guests have a high chance of observing their unique rituals every September to April. Whether by 4×4, on foot or whilst on nocturnal drives, guests may also be lucky enough to spot the lesser known Black Footed Cat or get a glimpse of a Honey badger.

Kwandwe grew from the belief that, without the protection of all the components of an ecosystem, natural checks and balances fail and the extinction of species increases. A core element of Kwandwe’s guiding philosophy is to provide guests with an opportunity to not only see and learn about the wide variety of wildlife found there but also to understand the complexity of a fully functioning ecosystem where biodiversity conservation gives context to the entire experience.

The reserve boasts one of the highest land-to-guest ratios in South Africa, so the guiding team and guests are able to spend longer exploring the wild unhampered by other vehicular disturbances and rigid schedules.

Aside from those on the IUNC Red List,  other unusual and less common species such as the Aardwolf, Aardvark, Bat-eared Fox, Serval, Cape Clawless Otter, Caracal, Porcupine, Striped Polecat, Smith’s Red Rock Rabbit and even the African Hedgehog may be spotted.

Featuring six of South Africa’s eight biomes, Kwandwe’s landscape is also home to an array of antelope not commonly encountered in the more traditional South African safari areas. Steenbok, Mountain Reedbuck, Gemsbok (Oryx), Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Eland and Springbok abound while more common species such Kudu, Impala, Bushbuck, Nyala and Waterbuck are also present. The result is a diverse mammal population that provide guests with constant and varied interest between searches for the more elusive and increasingly rare species.

Safaris at Kwandwe include twice daily game drives, bush walks, big game walks and birding hosted by trained safari guides and trackers. Luxury accommodation, all meals and drinks are also included in safari packages.

Prices start at R10,370 per person per night (approx. AU$1040*) staying in either Great Fish River Lodge or Ecca Lodge.

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