Pumba Private Game Reserve Review - South Africa Malaria Free Safari
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.
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.
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.
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…