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It was with great excitement that we arrived at the Garden Route Game Lodge just outside Albertinia for a quick one-night stay with our two girls, ages 4 and 6. We'd hardly made it through the gate when they spotted springbuck and zebra - so levels of enthusiasm were high right from the start.
We were warmly greeted at reception and the girls were both given a pink Garden Route Game Lodge peak-cap which quickly became the new favourite, and then we were shown to our spacious and well-appointed room overlooking the garden, swimming pool and the Langeberg mountain range in the distance.
Seeing as it was 35 degrees, our girls headed straight to the swimming pool to enjoy a few hours of cooling off before the late afternoon game drive. At 5pm we were all assembled, ready and waiting to head off on our first game drive as a family. We were well suited to our fellow passengers - another family with two girls slightly older than ours. After a run-down of the Do's and Don'ts of the game drive – we set off in the beautiful late afternoon sun to explore the reserve.
Our girls were enthralled, and all of their questions were patiently answered by our friendly and very competent guide. We stopped off to take a closer look at a male ostrich sitting on some eggs which were in the process of starting to hatch - and further along the track at an old abandoned nest the girls got to hold an egg. Wildebeest, buffalo, springbuck, zebra, kudu and eland were amongst the wildlife we came across, along with a great diversity of birdlife.
A rather lazy male lion and his female companion are in a separate enclosed camp and we managed a (fairly) close encounter - they were enjoying an afternoon doze, superbly camouflaged within the long grass. Then it was on to the white rhino - a mother and her daughter who were more than happy for us to idle nearby and get a really good look.
One of the truly fantastic elements of a game drive is the sense of the unexpected - and it was on our return to camp that we witnessed the lion and lioness pacing along their stretch of fence showing great interest in the herd of buffalo, including calves, who were grazing just outside. This was something that our guide said he had not seen happen before.
After two-hours, and by now getting a little chilly - we headed back to camp for dinner at the buffet style Serengeti restaurant. Once again the staff we very friendly and helpful and the girls were quickly settled with their favourite cooldrink and a selection from the buffet. Our younger daughter, an extremely fussy eater, was very content with the wonderful fresh breads, while our older daughter declared tomato soup her new favourite. And of course, there was plenty of space afterwards for the decadent selection of desserts on offer.
After a long day of sunshine and activity we were all off early to bed - perfectly comfortable - for a good nights' rest.
The following morning's breakfast buffet proved to be just as good as dinner. A strong, freshly brewed cup of coffee was a great start to the day - with fresh orange juice and pancakes for the girls. The elevated deck of the Serengeti restaurant is the ideal spot from which to gaze across the reserve spread out below and to soak up the morning sun while listening to the birds.
Another 30 degree day meant that the girls were keen to hit the swimming pool again, where they spent a few hours playing and splashing before the scheduled visit to the Cheetah Conservation Centre. The centre aims to raise awareness about this endangered species - the fastest land animal in the world - and visitors get an up-close look at these majestic cats.
Sadly our visit was all too short - but it was a wonderful first safari experience for our girls who thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Ideally located - it made for a great stop-off on our trip along the Garden Route towards Plettenberg Bay. On our return trip to Cape Town we all waved fondly at the fluttering Garden Route Game Lodge flags at the entrance to the lodge on the N2. Hopefully, we will be able to visit again soon.
Have you been to the Garden Route Game Lodge? Let us know how it was.