Beyond Tradition: Unraveling the Enigma of an Eastern Cape Safari
By Angus Sholto-Douglas

Unlock the secrets of Africa’s historical wildlife areas and explore the captivating landscapes of the Eastern Cape. In this journey through time, discover the unique charm that sets this destination apart and understand why an Eastern Cape safari is an experience like no other.

The Origins of Wildlife Areas in Africa

Africa’s wildlife legacy is often associated with historical regions where nature thrived. Contrary to common belief, wildlife flourished across the continent, including unexpected corners like Johannesburg, once a thriving grassland biome that supported large herds of ungulates, megaherbivores and predators. However, what defines traditional wildlife areas like Kruger, Mfolozi Game Reserve, the Okavango Delta, and the Zambezi Valley? The answer lies in an unlikely hero—the tsetse fly.

The European settlement faced a barrier in these areas due to the tsetse fly, which caused cattle sleeping sickness. Indigenous animals had immunity, preventing them from the fly’s impact. Consequently, where the fly thrived, European settlers couldn’t establish themselves, leading to the preservation of vast tracts of intact wilderness as national parks and game reserves.  This is an over simplified explanation, but it does hold some truth.

Eastern Cape: A Sanctuary Unaffected by Tsetse Fly

The Eastern Cape, devoid of the tsetse fly or the anopheles mosquito since the 1700s, held a different historical narrative. Ox wagons from the Cape brought back harvested ivory from regions like Kei, Great Fish, Kariega, and Bushmans River Valleys. Lion, leopard, zebra and cheetah skins and plenty of hippo hides weighed these ox wagons down on their return to the closest market in Swellendam. If one looks at the title deeds that make up Kwandwe in the Great Fish River valley, the original title deeds have Dutch names dating back to the mid 1700’s. These Dutch named title deeds, such as “Hermanus Kraal” were named after the ivory hunters who set up their hunting camps.

The British Settlers arrived in the 1820’s to settle permanently on the land, but the Dutch names remained. The historical accounts found in Jack Skead’s “Historical Mammal Incidence of the Cape Province” tells us that the Great Fish River was a true wildlife area of Africa. Home to thousands of elephants, buffalo, rhinoceros, lions, leopards and enough hippo to form a raft.

Diverse Geology, Micro Climates, and Breathtaking Biodiversity

The Eastern Cape’s rivers, flowing into the Indian Ocean, have sculpted a diverse landscape of deep valleys, ridges, and undulating terrain. This varied geology creates microclimates with distinct soil types and rainfall patterns, fostering incredible biodiversity. With a backdrop resembling Jurassic landscapes, the region offers guests a rollercoaster-like safari experience, featuring far-reaching and spectacular views. The scenery is both rugged and paradisical, a testament to nature’s artistry.


“While I’ve cherished experiences in renowned areas like the Sabi Sands and Northern Botswana, the allure of the Great Fish River Valley now captivates me. Here, elusive leopards roam at their whim, while robust populations of black rhinos coexist with springbuck, oryx, and bat-eared foxes. Yet, it’s the shy buchbuck, the elusive forest weaver, the mysterious brown hyena, and the enigmatic aardvark that truly define this landscape. And those vistas? They’re simply unparalleled.”

Angus Sholto-Douglas, Managing Director of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

In choosing an Eastern Cape safari, you not only embark on an adventure through time but also immerse yourself in a sanctuary where nature’s secrets are revealed, and the echoes of Africa’s wildlife legacy resound. It is an experience like no other—a journey that transcends the ordinary and unlocks the extraordinary.

Book your stay and come experience the magic.