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  • Ela at The Jet Set Lifestyle Group

South African Safari: Kariega Game Reserve

We have reviewed some of the best properties all over the world, but Kariega Game Reserve takes the top spot. This was such an incredible experience we think all of our readers, and clients, should experience and if you keep reading, we think you’ll be booking your flight in no time!

Settlers Drift

Kariega Game Resvere is made up of 4 stunning lodges, all catering to specific needs such as families and honeymooners. To get to the reserve, it’s about an hours drive from Port Elizabeth airport which is an hours flight from Johannesburg.

We had the opportunity to stay in the most luxury lodge which is Settlers Drift. Set up of 6 luxury tented lodges all with patios overlooking the reserve, bathtubs with doors opening up to that very same view and an emperor size bed - the perfect place for a romantic stay.

The lodge itself has an intimate dining space, library, bar with stunning views, outdoor firepit perfect for any love islander to sit round, spa, outdoor pool and gift shop.

The Food

The food and drink was all included in our stay. A huge shoutout to the talented chefs who created delicious fresh meals daily & home made pastries. For breakfast, you can probably guess that my go to was Eggs Benedict & a roibos tea which was the perfect meal for after 4 hours out on a game drive from 6am.

Lunch was always buffet style, prepared delicately like a picnic. My favourite was the homemade carrot cake & ostrich taco’s which I’m now determined to find in the UK as it’s such a delicious meat.

We usually arrived back to the lodge at 8pm after our evening drive. Greeted by Aurelie and the team with a refreshing cocktail shot before heading to our room to quickly get ready for dinner. Dinner was a beautiful fine dining set up & I wish we had got to enjoy this set up a little more but after a day full of animals & activities you’re very tired. Everyday, the menu at dinner changed. Some of my highlights included the carrot soup & filet of beef paired with delicious South African Pinotage.

Incredible Staff & Service

I had never been to South Africa, so I didn’t know what to expect in terms of culture and the people. But everyone is so happy, so kind & couldn’t do enough for you. It’s so lovely to see everyone so proud of their hometowns. Such as our taxi drivers sharing their family stories and tales & history of Port Elizabeth, and the pretty smile of Tobbs when serving us our meals & drinks in Settlers Lodge.

Our ranger, Michael really made the trip. I love how you stay with the same ranger and other guests throughout your drives so you can really form a bond with the group and the special memories you’re making on safari. Michael would also often sit with us for breakfast too and at the BOMA dinner to discuss the amazing things we’d seen on our drives through the day.

I also want to mention Aurelie and Amber, both extremely helpful prior and during our stay at Settlers. Everything was handled seamlessly (including the spiders in our room) and I couldn’t fault a thing.

What does a typical day look like on Safari with Kariega?

So what does a typical day look like on Safari with Kariega Game Reserve? You wake up from a courtesy call from your ranger just after 5am, to meet in the guest area for a snack and coffee (which is much needed) at 5:30am, to head of on your morning drive as sunrises at 6am. Now it’s a mission to find the big 5! Luckily, we saw most of them in our first day, thanks to Michael and his safari skills!

Top tip: layer up! Your drive can start off very cold in the morning but then an hour later be very warm, and vice Versa for the afternoon trip. Thankfully, Michael had blankets in the car for us :)

The morning drive lasts about 4 hours, including a coffee stop overlooking the river. Expect to see many giraffes, zebra’s, water hogs and springboks. And then it’s about searching for the elephants, lions, buffalo, leopards and rhinos.

You get back to the lodge about 9:30am and head straight to the dining area for breakfast. And then you have until 2pm (lunch time) to do as you please. One day I spent my morning by the pool which overlooked the reserve, another having a relaxing massage & another catching up on sleep!

You’d then have lunch by the firepit and maybe a glass of champagne or rosé in the sun (alcohol seemed to be my savour with the sleep deprivation).

The afternoon drive set off at 4pm, again, we’d stop for a drink halfway through (vodka or wine instead of coffee this time) and would get back to Settlers Drift around 8pm, greeted by a refreshing cocktail before a delicious dinner and to bed around 10:30pm.

Additional Accommodation

Settlers Lodge is by far the most exclusive lodge within Kariega properties. But despite the lodge you choose to stay, the drives are always very similar, within the same reserve and an incredible experience.

We did have the chance to visit 2 out of the other 4 lodges to choose from and below are the highlights:

Ukhozi Lodge

  • suitable for ages 12 over

  • Similar to Settlers Drift in terms of facilities and service

  • Each lodge has a private pool

  • The space is very open, so you’re bound to run into a monkey or two while enjoying lunch!

  • Rooms are smaller than settlers drift and feels quieter

Main Lodge

  • largest of the 4 lodges

  • Most suitable for families

  • Great facilities, including gym, pool and kids club

  • All meals are buffet style

  • Rooms are spacious, offering up to 3 bedrooms in each

Kariega does truly cater to every need, you can even hire out Homestead which is ideal for large families wanting a private vacation. Your stay includes a private chef and ranger. Giving you full control of timings throughout your stay (although early mornings will be advices to see the big 5 🙌🏼).

Whether your looking to create special family moments in South Africa, travelling the golden mile or planning a honeymoon, for more information on booking this once in a lifetime adventure - email:


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