SLURP: Water on tap at Pumba Private Game Reserve.
SLURP: Water on tap at Pumba Private Game Reserve.
FAMOUS RESIDENTS: White lion cubs take in the view.
FAMOUS RESIDENTS: White lion cubs take in the view.
DOWN-TIME: One of the luxurious rooms at Msenge Lodge.
DOWN-TIME: One of the luxurious rooms at Msenge Lodge.

Originally the farm of Piet Retief, the Pumba Private Game Reserve remains home almost two centuries later to famous residents – a free-roaming population of rare white lions.

In addition to these striking animals, the reserve, which is an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, boasts all the other giants of the Big Five, as well as hyena, cheetah, various species of antelope and, of course, large populations of its namesake, warthog.

This means guests at Pumba have the opportunity for some of the best game-viewing in the country.

While it is tempting to cocoon oneself in the comfort of your room at the Msenge Lodge or Pumba Water Lodge, the most memorable part of any trip to Pumba is to listen to the call of the wild and make the most of the game-viewing opportunities.

Game rangers take you in an open-top Land Rover past a range of sights, from majestic giraffes nibbling on trees, herds of elephants pausing to drink at a waterhole, to a group of adolescent cheetahs trying their hand at hunting while being shadowed by opportunistic jackals.

Bird-lovers will also find much to hold their attention, as will those who love sightings of the wild’s smaller inhabitants, such as tortoises, lizards and spiders.

On a lucky day, guests may see an elusive leopard (a subject of the reserve’s leopard monitoring and rehabilitation programme).

Nothing quite compares, however, to seeing a white lion cub (a sign that Pumba’s white lion breeding programme is a success), or ending an evening’s game viewing by coming upon a magnificent white lion, his brilliant pale coat shining even in the failing light of dusk.

At the end of a long day, Pumba Private Game Reserve follows through with the warmest of hospitality. The two luxury lodges complete the getaway package (if your budget allows, try sleepovers in each).

Msenge Lodge is a bush lodge nestled in indigenous bush, while Pumba Water Lodge offers spectacular views over Lake Cariega.

Msenge’s 11 glass-enclosed chalets allow you to soak up the sights and sounds of the surrounding bush. You may have a dip in your own personal plunge pool with antelope grazing nearby.

Muslin-decked four-poster beds complete Msenge’s classic Out of Africa aesthetic.

Air-conditioning, mood lighting and a large bathtub add to the allure.

Guests staying in one of Water Lodge’s 12 thatched chalets can look forward to king-sized beds and luxurious bathrooms, but are likely to spend most of their time reclining on their private decks listening to the cry of the fish eagles, or cooling off in their outside showers or plunge pools as the hippos down below do the same.

Evenings at Msenge often find guests seated around a fire in the main lodge, swopping accounts of the day’s game sightings or gazing from the main deck at an African sky choked with stars – the same deck where just that morning they might have spent breakfast watching a solitary white lioness stalking impala on the plain below.

At Water Lodge, evenings may be spent enjoying the view from the Main Lodge’s terraced deck, or at the water’s edge enjoying a sundowner at the Bush Bar while listening to the hippos harrumphing just beyond the pier.

In addition to the laid-back routine of life in the bush, guests at Msenge Bush Lodge and Water Lodge have the option of pampering at an onsite “soul” spa, or sweating it out as a well-equipped gym. Water lodge also boasts a fully equipped conference room, ideal for groups looking for a picturesque location.

The cuisine at both lodges more than lives up to the reserve’s five-star tourism rating and guests can expect to feast like kings. Breakfast is a substantial affair, with hearty hot dishes complemented by steaming cappuccinos.

Lunch consists of light soups, salads and platters of gourmet goodies, while dinner is an elegant experience where each course is perfectly conceptualised.

There is an emphasis on locally grown and sourced produce, simple dishes orchestrated with gourmet flair and attractive plating.

The lodge staff can recommend a selection of wines from the reserve’s extensive collection, and cheese boards and nightcaps around the fire are the perfect end to a memorable meal.

Pumba Private Game Reserve is a member of African Pride Hotels and The Port Elizabeth Hotel Group. It is associated with African Hacklewood Hill Country House and African Pride The Sands @ St Francis. The venue is also a participant in the Green Leaf environmental initiative, and takes part in a number of ecological and community upliftment programmes. - Cape Times

l To book, or for more information, call 046 603 2000, or e-mail [email protected], or see www.pumbagamereserve.co.za or www.portfoliocollection.com