The Eastern Cape is well known as an area of wide-open spaces, friendly people and no crowds. It is also home to various malaria free Game Reserves and I was lucky enough to visit Hopewell Private Game Reserve this past weekend.
Hopewell Lodge is located just 40 minutes from Port Elizabeth, however you feel a million miles away from civilization in this special coastal-valley bushveld reserve. The Reserve is fully focused on conservation and during the game drives, Hopewell’s Reserve Manager Niall, chatted at length about the success that Hopewell has achieved in converting underutilized farm land into a thriving game reserve. It was fascinating to hear about the challenges a game reserve faces in managing its wildlife when not part of a huge natural eco-system like the Greater Kruger. For example, I asked Niall “Do you have any warthog?” Niall replied that the staff claim they have seen one before but in the two years that he has been at Hopewell he has not! And he is not upset about that; as apparently warthog are notorious for digging holes under the boundary fences and therefore creating escape routes for the cheetah to neighboring farms!
Not that they would want to escape! Hopewell is truly breathtakingly beautiful and on the two game drives that I experienced, the scenery was always interesting and I felt privileged to be driven around in open 4×4 in this uniquely preserved landscape.
The reserve is home to a plethora of wildlife, including elephant, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, hippo, bushbuck and a whole host of other plains game. In addition guests can view & interact with cheetah, as well as stand a chance of seeing the elusive caracal – which I did – a fleeting glimpse as it shyly snuck away into the bush. My first sighting of a caracal in probably 300 game drives! And in such a beautifully balanced eco-system I am certain that there are leopard around!
As regards the accommodation – I was blown away! Being in the industry, I am lucky enough to have stayed at some of the “Big Name” safari lodges throughout Southern Africa. Lets just say that my suite at Hopewell was probably the most luxurious and tastefully decorated one that I have ever stayed at! You could almost do laps in your private plunge pool (in fact you could!) and the private deck overlooked a waterhole where elephant often come to quench their thirst. Inside was a huge King Size bed, cosy fireplace, freestanding bathtub as well as shower and outdoor shower. In addition a dressing room, separate toilet & basin and a comfortable sitting area.
There are 3 of these luxurious super suites, each tastefully decorated in a different contemporary theme. There is also another huge suite but without a plunge pool. In addition to the suites the Main Lodge building has two standard rooms, which are also very well appointed.
The main lodge also had beautiful views of the waterhole and a fireplace between the dining room and lounge keeps warm in winter. Upstairs there is a meeting room and lounge area with a TV – perfect for business owners looking to brainstorm ideas or meet with potential clients in a relaxed environment. I will be honest; I was thrilled to be able to watch the Test Match rugby after the game drive as well!
The quality of the food was fantastic and the friendliness of the staff superb. Niall was a terrific host and his knowledge and passion for conservation clearly apparent.
Hopewell Lodge is not a Big Five safari experience and not for those guests seeking a typical Kruger Safari. It is suited to guests who have “done” the Big Five and are interested in being part of a huge conservation effort. Guests who would like to “escape from it all” or for guests who would like to combine the Kruger with a totally different wildlife area. Hopewell can also be used as a luxurious base to explore the nearby beaches and the rich diversity of the Eastern Cape and the Sunshine Coast. Close by are the Indian Ocean beaches of Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea, the Royal Port Alfred and Gary Player-designed Fish River Sun golf courses, and endless options from hiking to horse-riding.
I would not hesitate to recommend this beautifully appointed safari lodge located on a private piece of African heaven!
If you would like to visit Hopewell or learn more about the Lodge please email Brett via the Contact Us Page.
By Brett Thomson