Spotting Wildlife at the Gondwana Game Reserve, South Africa

Zebras at the Gondwana Game Reserve
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Many visitors to safari parks opt for large, well known reserves where they are almost guaranteed to see lions and other large animals. But I wanted a different experience: a smaller park where we could go off-road, enjoy the scenery and still have a good chance of seeing a whole range of wildlife. So the Gondwana Game Reserve, not far from Mossel Bay on South Africa’s Garden Route, seemed an obvious choice.

Zebras at the Gondwana Game Reserve
Zebras at the Gondwana Game Reserve, South Africa

Unique Fynbos Landscape

Gondwana is a private reserve in the Western Cape, named after the ancient landmass of Gondwanaland, whose remnants can still be seen in this area. The park is covered with the fynbos vegetation of the Western Cape, creating a unique environment in which a whole range of animals and birds can flourish. Most of the drives are off-road, taking you deep into the landscape: for me this was as much of an attraction as the wildlife.  

Gondwana Game Reserve
The landscape is part of Gondwana’s appeal

But there are plenty of animals to see. Our ranger, Eugene, was a mine of information about the animals, their behaviour and their habitat, and he was an expert in tracking them down. It wasn’t long before we came upon a trio of giraffes grazing peacefully beside a herd of zebra. And then there were hartebeest, wildebeest and Cape elands. I had never realised that there were so many different types of antelope!

Giraffes and zebras
Giraffes and zebras graze together
Cape eland
The Cape eland is just one of many types of antelope here

In Search of Big Game at the Gondwana Game Reserve

Gondwana’s boast is that it is the only fynbos reserve that is home to “free roaming Big Five” as well as to a number of endangered species. Although we didn’t manage all of the Big Five we did see elephants early on, and were then lucky enough to see two black rhinos (whose worldwide population is dwindling at an alarming rate).  

Elephants
We kept a safe distance from this mother and her calf
Black rhino
The endangered black rhino

Later we went on a lion hunt but our course was diverted when Eugene got a message that cheetahs had been spotted. This caused great excitement – one of our group had been on 17 previous safaris but never seen a cheetah before – and we turned round to drive furiously in the opposite direction until we reached the bush where the animals were hiding. We sat still, hardly daring to make a sound, and eventually our patience was rewarded when two young females emerged and crossed the road in front of us.

Cheetah
We were very lucky to see this cheetah

Birds and Other Wildlife at Gondwana

One of the many attractions of this type of landscape is that there are birds everywhere. My favourite was the colourful secretary bird but we also saw birds of prey (including the migrant steppe buzzard) and weaver birds. And, if you look carefully, you may spot small mammals, such as the Cape hare, and even the occasional snake or toad.  

Secretary bird
We spotted a secretary bird in the distance

And here’s a short video clip to whet your appetite some more…

Overall, this was a great experience, more about the animals and their environment than about “ticking boxes” on a list of animals to spot. But I’ve never been to one of the bigger reserves – if you have a view on which type of park is better to visit I’d love to read your comments.

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18 thoughts on “Spotting Wildlife at the Gondwana Game Reserve, South Africa”

  1. Going to Africa to see the animals in the wild is on my list of things to do. This sounds like just the type of park we would love to visit. I particularly agree with your closing statement about animals in their environment rather than ticking boxes. Thanks for introducing this park and for the absolutely beautiful photos.

  2. We were in South Africa in October. We drove the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, but we didn't go to any wild game reserves along the route—just an ostrich farm. We did, however, go on a wild animal viewing safari in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park. We saw the big five, but no cheetahs. Your photos are great and the fynbos is quite a different (and beautiful) looking terrain than where we were. I don't know if you saw it, but I have a blog post up about our experience at the Monwana Game Lodge.

  3. I love looking for birds in Africa's big game parks as much as I love the animals. The diversity, their songs and their sheer numbers always astound me.
    Looks like a beautiful park to visit.

  4. I haven't been to Africa (yet) so can't compare, but the Gondwana Game Reserve looks wonderful to me. Love your animal pics, especially the black rhino.

  5. Going to an African wildlife game reserve is high up on my dream list of places to go and your choice of a smaller tour and that combines wildlife and habitat is the kind of experience we look for too. You may not see all the fabled "Big Five" but it looks to me like you had a fabulous experience with plenty of exotic wildlife and spectacular scenery.

  6. Oh my goodness, each of your photos is more wonderful than the last! Particularly the cheetah. I've never noticed brown as well as black stripes on zebras before. Amazing experience.

  7. Page_Traveller

    Wow! These photos are incredible! Thanks for sharing. I totally agree about exploring thoroughly vs ticking things off as well – the former is always better!

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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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