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Guests’ Corner SPECIAL: Garden Route Game Lodge

As part of this instalment in Guests’ Corner, I chatted to Natasha Doherty, owner of the Garden Route Game Lodge, who shares exciting news about the lodge’s free roaming cheetahs and other inspiring developments.

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Garden Route Game Lodge, a place of natural wonder, wildness and beauty in the Garden Route, is a glorious place for both locals and international travellers to visit.

Here, near the town of Albertinia, guests have the unique opportunity to see the Big 5 in a safe, spacious paradise.

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Photo credits: Garden Route Game Lodge

While there, visitors can also savour a range of luxurious creature comforts too. Everything from amazing spa treatments and special dining experiences to incredible kid-friendly activities.

This malaria-free game reserve is home to an abundance of bird- and animal-life. In addition to its array of on-site facilities and offerings, of course.

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Thanks to its location, the Garden Route Game Lodge also gives visitors easy access to South Africa’s world-famous Garden Route destination. 

Their story (so far):

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Opened in 1999, the Garden Route Game Lodge has since successfully grown from strength to strength.
Since 2002, this unique, award-winning South African game lodge has been privately owned and run by the Doherty and Apteker families.

Today, this lodge is a staunch champion for wildlife conservation and protection. Their property provides a rare safe haven for free roaming game and birds.

The owners’ passion for this incredible Big 5 game reserve and lodge and its service offerings is immediately apparent. Especially when you chat to them. As I was fortunate enough to do recently for this interview, when I spoke to Natasha Doherty.

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Photo credits: Garden Route Game Lodge

To date, Garden Route Game Lodge has raked in numerous awards. These include a Lilizela Tourism Award and a slew of TripAdvisor and Afristay certificates of excellence, to name a few.

They are also a key member of the The Endangered Wildlife Trust. Their involvement sees them assisting with the management of South Africa’s metapopulation of cheetah. 

1. Natasha, you have been running the Garden Route Game Lodge for 19 wonderful years now. What can you tell us about your journey so far? Standout highlights and milestones you have enjoyed over the years?

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It’s been a dream come true seeing the business evolve to what it is today; we are so proud! We have built a great brand name – and the product and service we offer is amazing value for money!

In 2019, we won the Lilizela Tourism Award for the Best Game Lodge in the Western Cape.

All the exciting refurbishments over the years are also highlights. Especially the new pool area, the stunning spa and the Sunset Ridge suites, as well as increasing the size of our land and reaching the Gouritz River to create a wildlife corridor.

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2. COVID-19 has affected tourism and travel in so many devastating ways. But what stories of hope (or kindness) have you seen under the pandemic? (Either among guests, surrounding local businesses or staff.)

It has been devastating for the local town of Albertinia, as we were supporting 120 staff mainly from the town.

At one stage, we were back to where we started 19 years ago with only 15 staff.

But we have been blessed with support from locals and the domestic market and we are back up to 80 staff. We are so happy to be able to give our staff an opportunity to earn an income again.

3. Garden Route Game Lodge has an amazing history of successfully birthing free roaming eight cheetah litters over the past few years.

Your eighth litter was recently born. This time with a record six adorable cubs! What can you tell us about your cheetah conservation efforts/programme?

Our first cheetahs were released into the reserve in 2007 and fitted with tracking collars for conservation. We have become key member of The Endangered Wildlife Trust, which is responsible for the management of the metapopulation of cheetah in Southern Africa.

4. What does this special achievement mean for our country/continent – where much of our incredible wildlife, including cheetahs – are now either classified as vulnerable or worse, endangered as a species?

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We have been able to contribute towards the diversity of the gene pool of the metapopulation of cheetah, thereby ensuring the sustainability of cheetah in the wild.

5. Aside from your amazing free roaming cheetahs – what other birdlife and wildlife can guests look forward to when visiting for day game drives or extended stays at the lodge?

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We have an abundance of animal- and bird-life, including the Big 5.

You will see great sightings of lion, elephants, buffalo and white rhino – as well as huge herds of gemsbok, waterbuck, springbok and many other antelope species.

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6. Are there any of the lodge’s other projects or on-site experiences in particular that you would like to highlight or tell us about?

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We have recently started doing picnics, as well as game walks or hikes in the kloof.

Mountain biking has also become popular and of course, our kids’ Bushwise Activity Programme.

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Photo credits: Garden Route Game Lodge

7. Garden Route Game Lodge is extremely family-friendly. Please can you share a bit more about the experiences and offerings families with kids can enjoy when visiting or staying?

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Families will go on their own sunset and sunrise safaris and children under 12 stay free.

The stunning new pool area offers a heated pool for the children and a hot tub and cold pool for the adults.

The children’s activity programme includes guided tours of the Reptile Centre, skull garden, a bird walk to visit the bird hide, a bush walk with the ranger, fishing in the dam and rock art painting. And even a night walk with torches to discover the nocturnal creatures.

8. What unique lodge activities or experiences can guests enjoy when staying or visiting here? What are your most sought-after offerings among your guests?

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Photo credit: Garden Route Game Lodge

Private dining under the stars, the Luxury Sunset Ridge suites with a plunge pool, couple or family picnics, the beautiful Ayana Spa, couples’ massages, the Honeymooner Package, private dining in our wine cellar and of course, all the area’s unique fynbos and beauty.

9. With so many travel restrictions and ever-changing lockdown levels and general restrictions since March 2020 due to COVID-19 – there have been so many negatives and difficulties for local businesses, especially in the tourism sector.

But are there any positive changes or developments that you can share with us?

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Photo credits: Garden Route Game Lodge

It is wonderful to see locals enjoying their own country and we now get return guests. Some have returned five times in the last year!

We give guests peace of mind with our commitment to safety, as the property is so spacious and we have a huge restaurant, so tables are spread out and guests feel comfortable.

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10. With luxury accommodation, incredible wildlife experiences, spa treatments and your very own African-style restaurant to name only a few highlights, Garden Route Game Lodge offers so much for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

What are going to be the stand-out offerings guests can look forward to in 2021. I see you are running some great specials and offerings, can you tell us a bit about those?

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There are a few long weekends coming up in March and April so we are running a Stay 4 Pay 3 special, also Stay 3 Pay 2.

As well as Kids under 12 Stay Free, our Spa and Safari, Love Safari Package, Value Vacation, more family fun and the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure etc.!

11. In closing, what inspires or motivates you and the team at the lodge? What are you most passionate about as an award-winning South African business and travel destination?

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To be the custodians of fauna and flora in the Garden Route. It is a privilege to showcase the natural beauty to our visitors.

And that we offer excellent hospitality and world-class accommodation, as well as great value for money for our guests.

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Photo credits: Garden Route Game Lodge

To read about and see all of Garden Route Game Lodge’s offerings and travel experiences, you can visit their amazing website. Or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

To book a stay, please click here or contact the Garden Route Game Lodge directly via: + 27 (028) 735 1200 or reservations@grgamelodge.co.za.

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Note: All photos were supplied by Garden Route Game Lodge and were used with their express permission.

A very special thanks to Natasha Doherty, owner of the Garden Route Game Lodge, for taking the time to do this interview with me.

Author: Tamlyn Ryan

Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.

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