I will put it straight out there and say the Amakhala Game Reserve is one of my favourite places in the world, so much so I have visited multiple times now. The Amakhala Game Private Game Reserve has certain magic which captures you, the stunning sweeping landscapes combined with the incredible wildlife which graces its land makes for a place which creates life long memories.
I have been fortunate enough to stay in various accommodation in and around the reserve, each one as special as the next, therefore I wanted to share my favourites and recommendations for where you should stay during your South African safari holiday.
The best safari lodges in Amakhala Game Reserve
Where is the Amakhala game reserve situated?
The Amakhala Game Reserve is situated on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, roughly a one hour drive outside of Port Elizabeth (The nearest airport). It is also located near the end of the popular Garden Route, with visitors often travelling to Amakhala Game Reserve from Plettenberg Bay.
Spread over an area of 8500 hectares, the malaria-free area offers a luxury safari experience for their guests with 10 different accommodations on site – ranging from country houses, luxury lodges to tented camps.
The game reserve is home to the Big 5 as well as a whole other host of wildlife, making it a very popular 2-3 day addition to any 2 week South Africa itinerary.
Alongside the wildlife, I also adore the scenery inside the reserve, set on many different natural levels this part of the Eastern Cape offers breathtaking views for sundowners (my favourite being the view from God’s Window) as well the Bushman’s River which flows through the centre and plays home to the two resident Hippos.
The majority of lodges inside the Amakhala Game Reserve will be able to arrange transfers to and from Port Elizabeth Airport, however, this will be at an additional charge. Renting a car in South Africa in relatively cheap, we hired from Avis car rental and collected the car on arrival into Port Elizabeth Airport. In my opinion, driving in this part of South Africa is safe and as they drive on the same side as us (the UK), we found it to be relatively easy as well.
The Amakhala Game Reserve is also in close proximity to the Addo Elephant National Park (Around 30-45 minutes drive), a great excursion to take during your visit if you would like to experience a self-drive safari experience.
Top tip when staying at the Amakhala Game Reserve: Remember to stop and look up at the stars. I wish I could explain how truly beautiful they are in this part of the world. The lack of light pollution makes for a magnificent display each evening there is a clear sky, where on some evenings you can even see the milky way. It is something which has to be seen to be believed.
Where to stay in Amakhala Game Reserve
Located in the Amakhala Game Reserve, Leeuwenbosch Country House offers luxurious country-style accommodation amidst extensive gardens with a chapel and outdoor pool. The rooms are located in a historic family farmhouse with high ceilings, verandas and original features such as a fireplace. Created from the gracious 1908 Settler home of the Fowlds family, there is plenty of history within the Leeuwenbosch Country House.
Fresh home cooked meals are included in your stay, I was extremely impressed with the vegetarian options provided here (meat eaters are also well catered for!). Also included in your stay are two games drives (early morning and late afternoon), in between drives relaxing by the outdoor pool is encouraged and in the evening, guests can spend time in ‘Bill’s pub’ which is located on site. There is also a small onsite gift store where you can buy various souvenirs including original hand drawn wildlife pieces.
There are various excursions you can book onto between drives, should you wish to, these include walking safaris and Big 5 by foot tours.
This is where I stayed during my first visit to the Amakhala Game Reserve and I have very fond memories of this place. Leeuwenbosch Country House offers a very family-orientated homely feel, I would recommend staying here if you enjoy the feeling of a home away from home. All staff are wonderfully attentive but at the same time make sure you feel like part of the Leewenbosch family.
You can book your stay at Leeuwenbosch Country House here.
Would it be too much to say Woodbury Tented Camp is one of my favourite places in the world? Because it is. This is where I stayed on my last visit to the Amakhala Game Reserve and I know I will be back to one day soon.
Located in the heart of the Amakhala Game Reserve, Woodbury Tented Camp offers an authentic outdoor experience in safari tents. The camp overlooks the ancient floodplain of the Bushmans River. The en suite canvas tents have a patio and offer views of the valley. Each has a full-size double bed, built-in shower, hot running water and electricity, I would describe the accommodation here as very high-end glamping pods. All tents are secluded from each other, each with its own private view over the reserve.
I would recommend Woodbury Tented Camp for anyone who has dreamed of going on safari from a young age and wants the authentic African safari feel.
All meals and drinks (including alcohol) are included in the rates at Woodbury as well as two game drives each day. Guests can relax in the thatched entertainment area, which is located in the centre of the camp or sit by the campfire with the resident camp Kudu ‘Nibbles. The site also offers two outdoor swimming pools, one of which looks out onto the reserve.
The staff here are extremely friendly and attentive, the guides are extremely knowledgeable and great fun – we had Hank for the duration of our stay.
Extra activities are much the same as the Leeuwenbosch Country House, here we also booked onto a night drive, which I fully recommend as you will hopefully have a chance to see the nocturnal animals.
Book your stay at Woodbury Tented Camp here.
While I have not yet had the opportunity to stay at Bukela Game Lodge, I have had many good things and if I ever get married this would be where I would want to stay for my honeymoon.
Bukela Game Lodge offers a luxury 5-star safari experience. Situated in the Amakhala Game Reserve, Bukela Game Lodge features an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and panoramic views of the African bush. The air-conditioned suites include African-style décor, a fireplace and a private deck with outdoor seating. They also come with an outdoor shower.
Bukela Lodge offers all-inclusive dining, and guests can enjoy drinks at the onsite bar. The lodge also offers wildlife viewing opportunities, and 2 game drives per day are included in the rates.
The Bukela Game Lodge looks nothing short of incredible and I can imagine the staff completely excel in order to keep the wonderful reputation of this lodge. I would recommend the Bukela Game Lodge for anyone who is one honeymoon and looking for something extra special.
Book your stay at the Bukela Game Lodge here.
There are many other fantastic places to stay inside the Amakhala Game Reserve, however, these are the one I have personally stayed on or know people who have, and therefore am happy to recommend.
Please be aware that you will be charged a compulsory conservation levy when staying on the Amakhala Game Reserve. The Conservation Levy will primarily fund the anti-poaching units and a dedicated rhino monitoring program to preserve and protect the rhinos of Amakhala Game Reserve. In addition, a percentage of the levy will be administered by the Amakhala Foundation to continue with and expand their award-winning Conservation Education Programs. Where to stay near Amakhala Game Reserve. More information regarding this, as well as the rates, can be found here.
Where to stay near the Amakhala Game Reserve
There are various other private game reserves situated in the same area while staying at these will mean you will not get to visit the Amakhala Game Reserve, they each offer something different and many are also Big 5 Game Reserves.
I was incredibly fortunate enough to stay at Lalibela Game Reserve for a few nights during my time on Vets Go Wild. Lalibela is a conservation project that currently consists of 10,500 hectares (approximately 26,000 acres) and is home to the Big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo & leopard) as well as other predators like cheetah, hyena, jackal & lynx.
The lodges feature African-inspired décor and classic furnishings, each with its own private viewing deck. Meals and selected drinks at Lalibela Game Reserve are inclusive with both South African and international cuisine served (They also serve the best bread I have ever tried in my life!). There is an outdoor pool overlooking the reserve for during the day and in the evenings there is a welcoming indoor fireplace, perfect for snuggling up next to with an Amarula.
Guests can enjoy 2 game drives per day which are included. Other activities such as game walks can be arranged at an additional fee.
Again I would recommend Lalibela Game Reserve for couples who are on their honeymoon and who are looking for ultimate luxury.
Book your stay at Lalibela here.
Long Lee Manor is situated within the malaria-free Shamwari Private Game Reserve, home to the Big 5. The Edwardian-styled manor boasts manicured gardens and overlooks the African plains. The spacious and elegant rooms and suites at Shamwari Long Lee Manor feature satellite TV and air conditioning.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included as well as two daily game drives (Early morning and late afternoon). For relaxation in between drives. Long Lee Manor features 3 treatment rooms, a fitness centre, and a rim-flow pool overlooking a watering hole.
Long Lee Manor also has 1 Family Suite with 2 bedrooms, a living room and private plunge pool sleeping a maximum of 4 adults and 2 children, therefore I would recommend here if you are looking for a luxury trip with children.
Guests of the Shamwari Game Reserve are also invited to visit the Rhino Orphanage and Born Free Centre during there stay as well, this is included in the price of your stay.
Please note: If you are planning on taking children on your trip, it is important to speak to all accommodation beforehand, many will not allow children under a certain age on game drives and some do not allow children to stay on site.
Wherever you stay in this beautiful area of Eastern Cape I can assure you will have a magical time surrounded by an abundance of wildlife. The main benefit of this area of South Africa is that it is a malaria free area at present meaning you will not have the additional cost of antimalarial drugs which you will have in other parts of the country.