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Eastern Cape: Hitgeheim, Blaauwbosch, Samara, Kwandwe


MisterAviator
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Since there are not very many trip reports from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, I thought I’d briefly discuss my January, 2009 adventure!

 

3-nights - Hitgeheim Country Lodge – Near Addo Elephant National Park

1-night - Blaauwbosch Private Game Reserve

3-nights - Samara Private Game Reserve

4-nights – Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

 

Hitgeheim:

We flew via Cape Town into Port Elizabeth and were met at the airport by Archie Hitge, the owner of Hitgeheim Country Lodge. He truly runs a family business, with his wife being the star of the kitchen, and his daughter managing the guest relations at the lodge. The rooms and food are outstanding, and the level of service and personal attention we received was tremendous. The location, a 25-minute drive from the entrance to Addo, is a bit of a drawback, and the grounds of Hitgeheim itself are nothing terribly special, but despite the lack of on-site activities, we enjoyed our three days here immensely. Archie and his daughter booked a variety of tours for us. A morning game drive into Addo gave us some spectacular elephant sightings. And a visit to the Daniell Cheetah Breeding Farm was amazing, where we spent lots of time interacting with an adult cheetah and playing with three tiny lion cubs.

 

Blaauwbosch:

This is a small and very different reserve. The landscape is quite dramatic, and covered with cactus. It has the big five, plus several cheetah. It’s rooms are impressive. The pool looks very posh, but up close it’s not that great. Overall, we weren’t too thrilled with this reserve. The staff here seemed a bit uninterested in their guests, and they were all adjusting to new ownership, after the reserve was recently purchased by an investor from the Middle East. There was nothing horribly bad about this lodge – in fact we had some rather nice sightings of cheetah and elephant – but we were glad we only had one night here.

 

Samara:

This is where you come to see Sibella, one of the most prolific cheetahs ever in South Africa. She is known to have mothered at least 17 cubs after being relocated to this reserved in the Great Karoo. Samara is near the fascinating town of Graaf-Reinet, in a very arid and remote part of the Eastern Cape. The lodge has an old-fashioned ambience in the classic safari mold, but it has none of the pretentiousness we’ve experienced elsewhere. Samara is a delight, especially if you enjoy a stark environment, with challenging game drives that are memorable even when you don’t find what you’re looking for. After some arduous driving in our Land Cruiser game vehicle, our guide (Dave) took us on-foot to within a few feet of Sibella as well as a young pair of male cheetah. This “walk & stalk” activity is a great bonus, and most guests have the opportunity to do it at least once.

 

Kwandwe:

At this &Beyond reserve, we stayed at the Great Fish River Lodge. From the moment we checked in we were in love with this place. Amazing room, tremendous location, and highly experienced guides. Things got off to a heart-pounding start when we discovered a deadly boomslang in our room shortly after our arrival. A quick phone call to the lodge brought three rangers to the rescue. Using a stick and a bucket, the head ranger managed to coax the disoriented snake outside and back into the bush. Every game drive here was fantastic, with sightings that included cheetah, lion, giraffe, elephant, and numerous black and white rhinos. The best sighting involved a bloody hour-long battle between two male white rhinos. The loser, covered in blood, eventually ran away exhausted, but alive. During the hot afternoons, we enjoyed the plunge pool. Our guide (Alfie) was one of the best we’ve ever had. Kwandwe has inspired us to look at Phinda for our next journey to South Africa. All of our transfers during the trip were by ground, and pre-arranged by the various lodges. Most travelers we encountered were driving themselves throughout the Eastern Cape, which, despite the long distances, is very easy to navigate.

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Thankyou for this informative first post MisterAviator, and a belated welcome to Safaritalk. Did you get photos of the boomslang in your room?

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Game Warden,

 

Thanks for the welcome to Safaritalk! I got some great HD video of the boomslang... she was deep green with big eyes and bright yellow under his head. She moved incredibly fast. If I hadn't seen her scurry across the floor and up the wall, she might have hidden in the room for quite some time before we noticed her. I'll try to post the video on youTube in the weeks ahead.

 

-MisterAviator

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Welcome to Safaritalk. Interesting report. Another lucky person to see a GREEN boomslang. I am green with envy.

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I done a few trips into the eastern Cape. There is so much to offer there, and such varied habitat. I was there in December and January, and the rains were a little late. What struck me is how many private big five game reserves there are there.

 

Thanks for the report, and I wish more people would visit this area, including the Karoo.

 

OH and good to see a boomslang. Perhaps you can freeze one frame of HD and post a picture.

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The Karoo seems to get a bit of coverage in Africa Geographic, but that is the only time I ever read about it. Is it not a favoured tourist destination? It always sounds interesting.

 

I would love to see a picture of your boomslang, MisterAviator.

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Here's a still image from the video (click on the snake to see full size image). I'll post more once I figure out how to capture some better quality shots from the 3-minutes worth of video I recorded.

 

post-5288-1237789333_thumb.jpg

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Great picture.

 

WOW a 1.3MB photo from HD video camera. That is impressive. Who needs a still camera??

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Guest nyama

Never have seen a boomslang so far. Doesn't look so dangerous, does it? That's a male one, if I trust my guidebook. Great picture.

 

 

PS: Nice kingfisher, MisterAviator. :(

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Thanks for the picture. I don't know whether it is the name which first interested me, or the distinctive look of the snake, or perhaps the first time I noticed a documentary on them which was one of Austin Stevens, but it, along with the black mamba is the sort of snake which anyone would hope to see one day (albeit NOT in your tent, vehicle or dining area! :( ). I have seen black mambas, but never a boomslang. And you obviously felt steady enough to film it, well done.

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Thanks MisterAviator for the report on the Eastern Cape. Welcome to safaritalk.

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Amazing eyes and markings on the face. It looks longer than I imagined. I hope you find a way to show us the video some time.

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  • 3 months later...

Sorry it took so long, but as promised, here is the video of our Boomslang encounter at Kwandwe:

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!

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Just embedded the video for you here, MisterAviator - good stuff and very dramatic music: was it piped into your room? :D Did the guide chap know his hat was out of date?

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Nice video.

 

We had a boomslang in the electrical panel near the common area in a camp near Kruger a few years ago. Not as big as yours though. We just kept an eye on it and it eventually left. In your room is a different story.

 

They are quite beautiful.

 

I also enjoyed the music and the special effects!

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Thanks for posting the video. A beautiful snake but so much better off in the bush! Still, I bet it provides lots of stories for dinner parties.

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  • 3 weeks later...

And now, here's a video I put together of the most exciting moment (other than the boomslang) we had at Kwandwe. Two gigantic male white rhinos fighting! At the end, you'll see a female black rhino and her calf at a nearby water hole. Enjoy!

 

 

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What a fantastic sight, you are so lucky. I felt a bit sorry for the smaller rhino, he was fighting a real bruiser!

And the charging black rhino at the end was a nice touch.

Excellent presentation … thanks for sharing it with us.

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From your opening "lion roar" to the bold melodramatic background music, you have a great clip. Really makes an impact. I'll have to check out the boomslang, which I missed earlier.

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