Sibuya Game Reserve, situated on the beautiful Kariega Estuary near Kenton-on-Sea in the Eastern Cape, is the perfect place to escape to if you’re looking for the best in the game for Big 5 viewing and all-round ultimate South African bush experience.
I have been trying to write this post for a while now (no jokes, probably have opened this page up 25 times in a month? I literally started writing this on the flight home 5 weeks ago), and honestly & truly – the visit was so incredible from start to finish, I have been battling to find the words to describe what we experienced on our quick stay. Having travelled a fair amount around our country, and being very blessed to have visited other safari and game parks before, I can really say this was a once in a life time adventure. I decided to review this in the first person, as it was a very personal experience, rather than the ‘run of the mill’ site visit. Also, tried to sum-up my 30 hours there as best as possible, but there was so much to talk about. So bear with me, okay.
Grab a hot cup of tea, get into safari loving mode and enjoy.
The Cool Arrival
We arrived at the Kenton-on-Sea office around midday to board our little ferry-like boat that would take us to the reserve, and our accommodation. The reserve (and Sibuya as a whole) can only be accessed by boat on the Kariega River, so all guests start their Sibuya experience with a beautiful 45 minute, 11 km boat ride (including 2 rounds of ice-cold local drinks, of course) up the smooth, winding river into the reserve. Some guests are lucky enough to get their first sightings of some of the Big Five or even smaller buck along the river banks as the cruise by – we were treated to a good couple of awesome rare water bird sightings (first time for me for a lot of them) along the way, as well as seeing some of my favourite little birds, Pied Kingfishers, on the waters edge.
The Divine Food
We arrived at Forest Camp (where I was staying for the night, more on that later in the article) to a spread of a beautiful buffet lunch, which had such a great African feel to it! Fresh Fish Cakes and a creamy Beef Pasta where the options for the meat-eaters and I was treated to one of the nicest (least-eggy) Butternut & Feta Quiches I’ve ever had! There was also a great array of salads and homemade breads for us to add to create a wonderful plate of lunch to start our Sibuya adventure. We sat and enjoyed our lunch over looking the the river and it was just perfect!
With that Eastern Cape heat and humidity (and where we were having lunch was completely sheltered from the wind), I was very grateful when I had heard that the bar had opened too (it’s always wine’o’clock in the bush), so we were all sipping merrily on chilled local wines by the time we had sat down with our meals and feel that relaxing wave of relaxation of the African bush settling in.
After our sunset game drive (all the guests arrive back to camp around the time to enjoy dinner together – which is great if you’re traveling alone or looking for friends on adventure), we arrived to a roaring bonfire and a stunning GnT. Dinner was served right off the braai – and Lisette and the team had specially prepared a Charred Roast Lentil-Stuffed Red-Pepper for me to enjoy with the gorgeous potato bake and salads. I was stuffed full by the time I headed back to my room with my kettle of water for an evening cup of tea.
In the morning, all the guests wake up at the crack of dawn to head out for a sunrise game drive and get back to camp at 8 on the dot for a traditionally English style breakfast with all the trimmings. I was really impressed as the chefs had not only made sure there was a fair few choices for me to enjoy with my ‘fry up’ of onions, mushrooms and baked beans, they had prepared me my favourite Fry’s Vegetarian Sausages. It’s that extra bit of effort that sticks in your mind.
The food was definitely a highlight – but isn’t it always with me…
The Wildlife, The Game Drive and The Magnificent Viewing Decks
Sibuya Game Reserve is home to Africa’s famous (and majestic) Big 5, as well as around 400 species of birds and a huge amount of other smaller creatures in the nearly 30 square kilometers of varied terrain and vegetation.
There are a couple of incredible viewing decks dotted around the reserve, which are perfect for those sun-downer drinks over looking the valley, or that 6:30 am Amarula Coffee up on the mountain side, watching the giraffe and elephants walking down to the river for their morning drink.
On our two game drives (one sunset and one sunrise), we saw a nice herd of Elephants, all of the Lions on the property, beautiful magical White Rhinos and lots of Giraffe, Buffalo, Wildebeest (lots!) and even a wild Bush Pig – which was a first for me.
While on our trip, I added 15 new birds to my Birding List List – which is an awesome amount for me to see (when my Life List is currently on 179 in total now). And that is all thanks to our incredibly talented field guide, Chris Ovens, who is a trained Eco-Conservationist and avid Bird-Specialist.
If you’re a keen birder yourself, or have a specific creature or plant you’d like to see, remember to tell them when you’re booking you what you’d like to see to ensure they slot you in with the perfect guide for you – because you want to see the good stuff. And before your trip, do yourself a favour and make a ‘sightings-list’. It actually helps to have an exact list of what you’d like to see so the field guides can try and help you by finding those birds and animals for you and making sure you have the best safari possible for you.
The Luxury Accommodation
Sibuya is divided up in three parts for their accommodation (which gives you a feeling of each area being super exclusive), each offering it’s own special experience.
Forest Camp, which is where I stayed, is nestled in the middle of a lush, indigenous forest, full of happy, chirping birds. The meandering boardwalk to my room wound around the sub-tropical forest, taking me to my beautiful, luxury tented camp bed room on the edge of the river. There rooms are spacious, the beds are HUGE and just so perfectly decorated to make you feel as though you are staying right in the bush! (Well, technically you are as there are no fences between you and the big guys, so keep that in mind). Each of the permanent tents have their own fireplaces to heat up the room. It’s pretty cool actually – the staff light the fires and tuck a hot water bottle into your bed while you’re at dinner so when you return back to your room, the tents are cosy and toasty against that nippy Eastern Cape night-time chill! How clever? Everything is about going the extra mile here!
The person I was traveling with stayed at the homey, family oriented River Camp, situated right on the river bank, and it’s just a quick 5 minute boat ride down the river from Forest Camp. And we also visited the luxury Bush Lodge, which is on the other side of the reserve. It’s that perfect, private area where you and your partner can relax, unwind and reconnect in the heart of the bush. The rooms are really spacious, and I would say that the lodge is suited to those staying at Sibuya longer than a couple of nights and are looking for more of those ‘homely’ extras, and it has a swimming pool (where the other camps have the river)
The Eco Side of Things
As this is a beautifully Eco-friendly destination, the electricity for the reserve is supplied by means of Solar Power with a gas back-up system. This means there are some limitations to what we call ‘normal’ things at home. There are NO plug points in the rooms for technology or electrical equipment so that means that there are no air-conditioners, hair-dryers, TVs nor any Wifi on the property. BUT you can charge phones and cameras in the common rooms. And there is LIMITED cell-phone coverage – as in, basically nothing until you are on top of the one mountain. SO tell your family as you arrive in Kenton that you’re safe and put that mobile data off. Guests are encouraged to completely switch off and enjoy everything the reserve has to offer. And it’s truly worth it.
Follow Sibuya on Social: Facebook and Instagram. To book your stay at Sibuya Game Reserve. You can book your stay online here or by calling +27 (0) 46 648 1040. To get to Sibuya, I would recommend flying into Port Elizabeth Airport and renting a car to drive up to the Sibuya Reception Offices at 39 Eastbourne Rd, Kenton-on-Sea, where the (pre-organised) boat will pick you up and take you to Sibuya. Kenton-on-Sea is about 1h30 minutes drive from P.E. Airport, so fly in early, as the Sibuya boat needs to leave at 12pm on the dot (don’t be late!)
DISCLAIMER: Although we were hosted on this visit, should you read any other review on this product – they all reflect the same standard of excellence. We were hosted in the same manner of all guests. Regarding this write-up, no review was promised during the visit, nor a positive outcome was discussed should we review this product. So, again, a massive thank you to Sibuya magical team for arranging our visit and hosting our stay – especially Charlene, Chris and Lisette who made our stay absolutely perfect. The Social Needia reserves all rights to the use of these pictures and any of the information in this article.
Stay Golden, travellers x