On a recent visit to the magnificent Garden Route in the Southern Cape, we experienced Gondwana Game Reserve’s newest and sleekest accommodation offering, Ulubisi House. The owners of this stunning 11,000-hectare reserve put pen to paper and conceptualized their dream safari retreat. Set in the 1,000 hectares protected walking area, Ulubisi House acquired its name from the Black Harrier that frequents the grassland area in search of prey. This splendid home bears testament to style, sophistication and simplicity and a vision by the owners for something so spectacular that you secretly wish this was your abode.
Once the Rutherfoords took up residence at every given opportunity, they realized that this masterpiece was too good not to share and made the decision to add Ulubisi House as an Exclusive-use privately staffed Safari Villa to the Gondwana portfolio.
A leisurely four-hour drive from Cape Town takes us through the beautiful landscape where Gondwana Game Reserve’s Ulubisi House is to be ours for the weekend. Our ranger, Dwayne de Lange, meets us at the gate to lead us to our impressive residence. We are welcomed by our butler, Douglas Mutingwende, whose sole purpose is to make our stay as comfortable as possible. In the kitchen, whipping up our lunch is Executive Chef, Justin Kotzé.
Upon entering the house, I am awe-struck by the panoramas that unfold in front of me. Douglas asks which of the three bedrooms we would like to enjoy our slumber in, and we opt for the guest room, which is closest to where our daughter will be sleeping upstairs. With 180-degree views from each bedroom and the Outeniqua mountains in the distance, you will want to wake up like this for the rest of your life. The only rush-hour traffic you might encounter is some giraffe or zebras taking a walk through your front garden.
Douglas announces that lunch is ready, and the chef has prepared the most delectable spread of cold meats, a variety of freshly baked bread, a cheese platter, and white chocolate macaroons.
The time has arrived for our first game drive, and on our way to Bird Hide Dam, we spot a Steppe’s Buzzard looking at us from his elevated vantage point of a bare tree. At the dam, Marley, the Hippo pops his head out and shows off his impressive set of teeth. As we approach a group of Impala, we notice that they look very skittish, and it is evident that they have spotted the danger.
In the distance, we notice them – two lionesses making their way across the plains. Dwayne decides to follow them at a safe distance, and we careen down the embankment to Wendy’s Dam and are hugely disappointed when they disappear into the thicket. We wait a while, and suddenly ‘Daddy Daycare’ makes his way onto the lawn, looking very disheveled. The two lionesses join him, and suddenly we see squeaking little balls of fluff leaping out from behind their parents – five nine-week-old lion cubs! What an incredible sighting!
We head back to Ulubisi House, where dinner is waiting. Chef has prepared a feast of meat, consisting of a fillet, eland, skilpadjies and to compliment it, he has made roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and lemon meringue for dessert.
Sleep beckons, and before I climb into the luxurious comforts of my bed, a rain shower washes the remains of the day away. If you favor bathing, there is a beautiful deep tub in each room for your indulgence.
At Ulubisi House, you can tailor-make your schedule, so we elect to have a later game drive with brunch on our return. Dwayne has spotted some elephants, and we make our way to watch them feeding languidly on the surrounding shrubbery.
After our hearty brunch consisting of pastries and traditional English breakfast, we take a dip in the plunge pool and Jacuzzi on our deck. Water therapy proves to be very relaxing, and we have to be coaxed out as High Tea is served, a delicious array of red velvet cake, apple tart, and croutons coated with chicken-mayonnaise.
We ask Dwayne if we can depart earlier for our game drive to see if we can find the cubs again. We pass the area where they are and see nothing. “Can we perhaps wait”? I ask in a small and saddened voice. We drive down and see their silhouettes. We wait, and there they are – around the corner and out of sight, suddenly bounding into full view. The one mother has her hands full with her rambunctious offspring and keeps on bringing him back to safety. As we are about to leave the sighting, the curious onlookers come to within two meters of the vehicle to take a closer look at us. A tick off my bucket list!
The drive isn’t over yet, and we spot eland, giraffe having a tussle, waterbuck, and the most beautiful sunset.
Back at Ulubisi House, Chef has prepared the most delicious choice of plated food. Butternut soup with brie cheese croutons, Katafi Prawns, a choice of Lamb rack with seasonal vegetables or Kingklip with white rice and dessert is mouth-watering dark chocolate mousse.
Sated, our daughter heads for her room to watch television while my husband and I make the most of the superfluity that surrounds us.
After a good night’s sleep, we head out on our last game drive where we encounter a secretary bird on top of a tree and a journey of giraffe welcoming us back home. This really feels like home as Douglas hands me the most delicious cappuccino after a hearty breakfast. So if you want to escape the daily grind and come home, book a stay at Ulubisi House. You won’t regret it.