“Awesome landscapes and great lodging in one of the largest privately owned game reserves in South Africa, 3 hrs north of Port Elizabeth”
Stay at the Karoo Lodge for a homestead feel with typically old colonial decor: living rooms with fireplaces, animal prints and maps on walls, a wrap-around veranda gazing out to the Karoo. Choose between Lodge Suites in the main house, Karoo Suites set down a path in the garden, and Sibella Suites further away by a waterhole. Lodge Suites are spacious, comfortable and open out onto the veranda; you're close to the creature comforts of the homestead bar and living room. Karoo Suites feel closer to the bush; each time we walked along the path, we felt a tinge of excitement at what wildlife we might see. These are self contained houses with corrugated roofs and covered patios with outdoor seating. Bedrooms are large - expect earthy colours, polished concrete floors, netted windows, sofas, fireplace and plenty of wardrobe space. Limestone bathrooms have walk-in showers and roll top baths, double sinks as well as bathrobes and slippers; but if you want to wash alfresco, there's an outside shower too. 100m from the house, Sibella Suites are the most recent addition: slightly more basic, less spacious than other rooms (shower only) but with a waterhole right in front which no doubt attracts its share of wildlife. All rooms have air-conditioning, crisp white sheets and toiletries from Charlotte Rhys. Not all rooms have mosquito nets, but we didn't see any mossies and they can provide repellent and nets on request.
For somewhere in the heart of the Great Karoo, the Manor House provides oodles of style and luxury. If you didn't look out of the window, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in any boutique city hotel. But here you get personal ranger, chef and butler. Rates are based on exclusive use (min 4 guests) but for a group this works out not much more per person than any other option which makes it good value. South African designer John Zwiegelaar has created an impressive home with high ceilings, swanky bar area and 2 living rooms and lounges. Its 4 double ensuite bedrooms provide a notch up in comfort, while the 21m infinity pool and watering hole are enough to attract animals and fashion shoots in equal measure.
There's a restaurant in the Karoo Lodge where you can either cosy up inside next to an open fire in winter or cool down in summer along the wrap around veranda. A full breakfast spread followed our morning game drive, including fresh fruits, yoghurt, muesli, pancakes, muffins, cheeses, peeled plums and passion fruit. And they'll take orders for cooked dishes: the English breakfast was bang on.
Their menu was reassuringly balanced with delicious dishes. For lunch we chose some tasty pasta carbonara, but failed to leave space for afternoon tea and cakes. Sundowners will be brought out on your evening drive. At dinner we kicked off with tomato and red pepper soup and a decent salad (blue cheese, walnut and smoked salmon), then venison or chicken in sherry sauce with roasted veg. We loved their filling apple crumble with ice cream and custard.
In The Manor meals are flexible as to where and when you take them as you have your own staff. They can arrange for sample menus and discuss specific requirements prior to arrival for each individual group. The picnics in the river and up on the mountains looked awe inspiring. Inside, we liked the funky bar area and throught the setting by the long infinity pool was a beautiful spot for alfresco dining.
i-escape's Best for Kids Awards 2014
Winner: Best For Wildlife Spotting
A great option for families, with an understanding of hungry minds and energetic bodies, there are lots of children's activities on offer, babysitters, and separate game drives for under 8s - look out for the Funny Five (giraffe, warthog, wildebeest, monkey and aardvark). And the reserve, although now well-stocked with wildlife, isn't teeming with predators (only cheetahs currently and they don't attack humans). And there's the excitement of getting to see the many creatures which wander into the camp from large shiny millipedes to vervet monkeys, buffalo and baboons.
They also put together a personalised pack for children on arrival, containing drawing materials and spotter books; and every night there was a story placed on our daughter's bed ("How the Zebra got its stripes" was a favourite).
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Karoo Suites can take up to 2 kids, whilst Lodge Suites can take 1. Sibella Suites have interconnecting rooms, but for younger children we'd opt to stay in the Lodge Suites (main building).
Babysitting is available by arrangement
Their AardvARK childrens programme specially caters for children of all ages, taking them on adventure safaris, providing private dinners and hosting young children at the Lodge - which allows parents to enjoy stress-free game drives. There's a reed enclosure where children can play amongst giant and miniature wrought-iron cut-outs of animals found on the reserve. There’s a sandpit and an outside play area as well as an indoor playroom where kids can paint and make things
A children's menu is available
Children (and parents!) will need good and constant sun protection. Malaria is not present here.