– African Safari Review by Jonathan & Sophie Ellaby
We step apart from the Addo crowds and into the wilderness to discover a little-explored, yet hugely under-rated section of the Park, to see what Kuzuko has to offer.
Standing on the dining deck, or from your chalet and surveying the vast expanse of wilderness from this hilltop lookout, we feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere. Ridge after ridge of rocky Karoo scrubland merges into haze and then sky as far as the eye can see, and I can scarcely see a sign of human habitation in any direction. But look carefully and you’ll see the telltale movement far away on a rocky hillside – a troop of baboons perhaps, a kudu, or one of the reserves many elephant.
Kuzuko is a 5-star hotel transported into the middle of the bush, in its own private reserve, and part of Addo Elephant National Park. Getting here is not the easiest – more than 2 hours drive from Port Elizabeth, the last hour or so on gravel roads, but at least the drive is scenic and unlike some parts of Addo, this feels wild. Really wild.
Our chalet is hotel standard and feels like a hotel, not a safari lodge and this is part of its appeal to those who know what to expect from the Legacy Hotels. So expect OMG! And Dish magazine in your room, rather than Birding or Africa Geo.
Make no mistake though, you’ll still get a ‘real’ safari experience here, with a variety of optional activities available, from walks with Cheetah to star gazing. If you love birds, you won’t need to stray far beyond the beautifully kept indigenous gardens interspersing the chalets, and if you come in winter, as we did, the chances are you’ll have most of the place to yourself.
After ‘high tea’ at 2pm, we pile into an open-top land cruiser with head guide Freddie for the three-hour afternoon game drive. With the whole 15,000-hectare reserve for the exclusive use of Kuzuko guests, there’s no sharing sightings with other vehicles – it’s just you, the other guests and the wilderness.
A track winds down a ravine from the hotel – baboons shelter in craggy cliffs, Cape Mountain Zebra cling to the slopes and extraordinary numbers of kudu mingle among the Jacket Plums, Shepherd Trees and iconic Spekbooms. The constant bird chatter, especially the whistling cries of the bokmakierie, reverberates around the gorge. Down in the plain we soon spot a large herd of elephant and go to pay our respects. As we drink sundowners overlooking the expanse, the sky turns mauve, and thunder starts to crackle as a storm begins to move in. It’s a magical moment.
Dinner is a four-course a la carte affair; I have tomato soup, beef Carpaccio, lamb stew and malva pudding. Don’t expect levels of cuisine or service to match five star lodges in Sabi Sand, but as value for money goes, Kuzuko delivers.
There’s no crack-of-dawn wake-up call here – the morning game drive kicks off at the sociable time of 8am, leaving plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast as the sun rises spectacularly in front of the hotel. Remember to leave space for the post-drive brunch. You won’t go hungry at Kuzuko.
We spot the reserve’s two male lion on our three-hour morning drive but we’re unlucky with the rhino. No matter – for us this place is not about the Big Five, but a slice of solitude and beauty – though you’ll still be able to tick a few of those boxes. There’s a good chance of seeing amongst other things – lion, elephant, rhino, kudu, zebra, black wildebeest, red hartebeest and eland.
Kuzuko may not be the easiest place to get to, but those that make the effort are blown away by the beauty, the friendly staff and the feeling that you’ve done something – well – different.
Good for: Wild solitude, value-for-money safaris in a spectacular setting. Families, team-building groups. There are good conference facilities.
Not so good for: Accessibility, Big Five.
Our Verdict: Solid good-value choice if you’re up for a safari in the Addo area.
We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.
Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961