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Pumba Private Game Reserve Review - South Africa Malaria Free Safari

Updated on February 20, 2013
King of the Jungle
King of the Jungle | Source

Malaria Free Safari in South Africa's East Cape

The final stop on our South African odyssey was a safari in Pumba Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, about 90km North of Port Elizabeth. The main draw of Safaris in the East Cape are that they are malaria free. This meant that we could drive there from Cape Town while enjoying the Garden Route Drive and also enjoy a safari without having to take Malaria tablets for our entire honeymoon. It was also considerably less hassle than flying north for a thousand km to visit Sun City or one of the other main safari areas. The combination of Cape Town, Garden Route and East Cape Safari is a classic and I would love to do it again.

Pumba Game Reserve

There are many different reserves in this area of South Africa ranging from 5000 to 25000 hectares of land. We chose Pumba Game Reserve because we wanted some luxury on our honeymoon and it was the only 5 star lodge we could find that had all of the big five Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard, that was not outrageously expensive. It was not the largest or the most established of the parks, Shamwari, Addo Elephant Park and Rippon Lodge probably take those accolades, but it was certainly one of the most amazing 4 days of my life.

Lake Kariega
Lake Kariega | Source
Elephants playing in the lake, how many elephants can you see?
Elephants playing in the lake, how many elephants can you see? | Source
Local Flora
Local Flora | Source

Pumba Game Reserve Lodges

There are 2 lodges at Pumba Game Reserve; the Water lodge and the Msenge Bush Lodge; we stayed at the Water Lodge which was simply stunning. The Water Lodge has 8 mini lodges where you stay, all of which look out over Lake Kariega. They are all at a very high spec, with mahogany and marble aplenty. We spent many hours relaxing on our balcony watching a family of elephants playing on the other side of the lake. The lodge provides binoculars so we could get a really good view. Each room also has a private plunge pool to cool off in when the heat gets a bit too much, which it regularly did.

The food at Pumba Lodge was simply magnificent, we were treated to fine dining every night. Each night we would be offered a different game meat, I tried Gemsbok, Springbok and Kudu all of which had their own unique flavours. There was a continual supply of wine, beer, juice and cocktails throughout the day and night. I didn’t take much advantage of the inclusive alcohol as I was generally too tired from the day’s activities. The lodge had a gym and a sauna, but again we were both too wiped out to take advantage.

Water Lodge
Water Lodge
Elephant | Source
Giraffes feeding
Giraffes feeding | Source
The jeep following a white lion mother
The jeep following a white lion mother | Source
A mother white lion with her cub
A mother white lion with her cub | Source
Elephants fighting...
Elephants fighting... | Source

The Wildlife and Big Five

All Game Reserves have to be kept in very fine balance, if there are too many predators the population of zebra, giraffe and game would quickly dwindle under the appetites of lions and cheetahs. The larger parks can hold more wildlife and ultimately more predators but are considerably more expensive, Pumba Lodge comes in at about 6000 hectares and has all of the big 5 and 22 other species of antelope and small game with over 200 species of bird. As a lodge with only 5 female lions and one male the reserve would swap lions around regularly to ensure that the gene pool kept fresh.

A real bonus of Pumba Lodge is that they have a mother and daughter of the almost extinct white lion which we were lucky enough to watch hunt.

The first game drive left at 7am and came back at about 10am, the second drive went out at 3 and returned at around 6, although one evening we stayed out and tracked the white lions while they were hunting. Simply amazing. Bush walks are available throughout the day where you go on foot with a ranger to explore the bush, you get to see some of the smaller animals much closer but generally the larger animals stay away.

During the drives you get incredibly close to the animals and I was always amazed at just how close the animals allow you to get to them. There were times when I could have literally reached out and stroked a lion, obviously I would never dream of doing so, but to be that close to such a powerful animal was pretty exhilarating. I was also impressed with just how docile the rhinos were, there was a family of three who allowed us to drive up and stop about 4 metres away from them while they ate. They hardly even seemed to notice us.

Family of Rhinos
Family of Rhinos | Source
Lion feeling sleepy
Lion feeling sleepy | Source

The Rangers at Pumba Lodge

The rangers at Pumba Lodge have an incredible amount of knowledge about every animal in the park and I was hugely impressed with the passion they all had for their jobs and the animals that they were protecting. They also treated us to star safaris at night when we would go out on to the jetty over the watering hole and the rangers would give us tour of the stars pointing out and giving us the background of many of the constellations in the sky.

We were always told that we had to be escorted back to our rooms as lions had been known to come onto the lodge in the dark, a story was told how a couple opened the door to their lodge in the morning to be greeted by a half eaten springbok, what a sight. We had our own close call when we had the fortune to see a hyena while eating dinner one night. One of the waiters asked us if we’d like to see a hyena, yes please I said, he pointed to the door and there about 3 metres away stood a 4 foot tall hyena. Luckily he clearly wasn’t hungry as he just loped off, but my heart did beat a little faster…


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    • dommcg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      safari in the east cape stunning, being able to see the big 5 so close to cape town is amazing and not having to take anti malaria tablets makes a huge difference. I might try Botswana next tho... many thanks fur stopping by.

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      6 years ago from Southern Spain

      Love this hub and the photos . We went to the Night Safari in Singapore and loved seeing the animals but would prefer the real thing !

    • dommcg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thanks Rain Defence, it was a truly magnificent sight for sure. I woke up to that every morning which was a pretty amazing feeling. At first i was a little nervous about being so close to animals that could kill you as soon as look at you, but they actually completely ignore you so after a while you l,earn to just enjoy it.

    • Rain Defence profile image

      Rain Defence 

      7 years ago from UK

      This is a great hub, I can only imagine being pretty scared to be honest if I was that close to a lion, or a hyena as I know they're pretty vicious creatures.

      What really makes this hub is the photos. The Lake Kariega photo in particular is absolutely awesome. You should write a hub about taking nature photos!

    • dommcg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thanks Eric, South Africa's East Cape is a beautiful place and Pumba in particular was stunning. I'm glad you enjoyed.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      7 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Cool piece, I liked, ok-- maybe I sailed away a bit in my mind. Thanks for the refuge for my soul.


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