Kwandwe Private Reserve

Panoramic - Kwandwe 1

Covering a 16,000 Ha tranche of the broad Great Fish River valley, this excellent private reserve is quite unlike any other in Southern Africa, and has a unique Eastern Cape feel.  For starters, there are only 22 beds between Kwandwe’s four properties, making the guest density, and hence game-vehicle density one of the lowest in Southern Africa.  Formerly comprised of seven ostrich and cattle farms dating back to the early settler period, Kwandwe has gone to great lengths to return the land to its natural state, including the removal and burial of overhead power lines serving the original farms, and to reintroduce wildlife that last roamed this corner of South Africa over a century ago.  Thanks to its special situation in the deep Fish River valley, no made-made structures or lights are visible when you cast your eye through 360 degrees, save for the handful of historical homesteads which have been meticulously restored, and of course the discretely positioned lodges.  The original properties are architectural gems, including the wonderful Heatherton Towers, which was built in 1836 and now houses the main guest reception.

Flora and Fauna

Owing to its location, the topography, geology and flora of Kwandwe are also unique, being quite different from other reserves in South Africa, including Addo National Park and Shamwari Reserve located a few hours drive away, closer to the coastal strip.  Kwandwe lies someway inland, close to the southern fringes of the semi-arid Karoo, in an area of relatively low rainfall. However, the extensive “valley bushveld” present here is rich in succulents such as Euphorbia and Speckboom that sustain browsers, and the distinctive aloes which produce magnificent flower spikes of arrange, red and yellow during the dry winter months.  The presence of succulent plants, coupled with the Great Fish River and other water sources, supports high numbers of browsing herbivores, including African elephant, black rhino, greater kudu and other antelope.  The savannah elements also provide grazing for species such as zebra, wildebeest and white rhino.  Currently there are some 10 cheetahs and 20 Lions on the reserve, and good sightings are extremely likely.

The experience

There are four lodges on Kwandwe, each situated in a different part of the reserve, either fronting of located close to the Great Fish River. Two of these, Great Fish River Lodge and Ecca Lodge are up-market safari lodges with contrasting characters. The remaining two, Uplands and Melton Manor, are homesteads for private rental only – these magnificent properties come complete with staff and in-house chef.  Guiding and hosting standards across Kwandwe are exceptional – this is a place where you are looked after like special friends, as opposed to mere VIP guests. Highly recommended.   


It’s possible to undertake all-day walking itineraries at Kwandwe, with lunch set up for you out on the reserve.  Kwandwe currently employs 5 guides graded for walking with big game.  Note that predators are avoided on walking itineraries.

Local Historical Interest

A stay at Kwandwe ties in extremely well with a stay in historic Grahamstown.  We also recommend historical and cultural tours by a local historian; the area is rich in settler history, notably the nine frontier wars that commenced in 1779 and spanned a century. The area is also rich in bushman paintings.